Ozark, Season One (Netflix)

Season One of OZARK is an 10-episode show on Netflix (Season Two is now available, also 10 episodes). If you’re a fan of Jason Bateman, who plays financial advisor Marty Byrde, maybe you’ve checked it out. If you were looking for a little humor, you might have been confused to find yourself in the middle of a dark drama about a money launderer.

I suppose another reason to tune in might be to see a little of scenic Missouri. My husband attended the University of Missouri. He never made it out to the Ozarks, but felt surprised to find it depicted as seedy and backward. The characters call it the “Redneck Riviera”. Since the show’s characters interact with the underbelly of society—drug dealers, strippers, thieves—perhaps we’re only getting a glimpse of what the Ozarks have to offer.

 It sure looks pretty…if only it weren't so dangerous!

It sure looks pretty…if only it weren't so dangerous!

I enjoyed Season One of OZARK. It reminded me of Breaking Bad in some respects. It’s based on the same premise: a straight-laced “good guy” chooses to enter into a serious, violent criminal world for financial gain. But the two shows are different enough to keep my interest. The secondary characters are richly drawn, especially Ruth (played by Julia Garner), who in my mind is the #1 stand-out star of the show. Laura Linney is also engaging as Marty’s wife, Wendy Byrde. Each bad guy is worse than the last, allowing for surprises and plot twists. Overall, the acting is excellent.

I see reviews are mixed for the show, and I feel the same way. One reviewer calls it thrilling, and another calls it bland. It’s a little hard to pinpoint my exact reservations, but overall I’d say the weakness of the show might lie in the fact that at times it feels like a show I’ve seen before. I’ve seen many shows with families that get mixed up with crime or the mob—The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire. Animal Kingdom—that serve up slow-paced, quiet scenes to build suspense and then utilize violence for shock value. Unfortunately, after watching a number of these shows, it all simply becomes much less shocking. I sympathize somewhat with the antihero characters, but it’s not love. It is never love. So I end up feeling a little detached.

Will I tune in for Season Two? Well, not right away. I’m going to let Season One sink in a little bit, and jump from Missouri over to Scotland for Season One of Outlander.

OZARK (Netflix)

Grade: B

Genre: Crime drama

Why watch? Fantastic performances, interesting characters, surprising plot twists.

Concerns? The show depicts a dark view of humanity, where innocence is quickly dashed and pure hearts don’t exist (or come across as laughable and naive). There is no one character I love—no one who, if they died, would cause me to throw a shoe at my TV. I enjoy complex characters, and as an author I write men and women who make a lot of of horrible mistakes, yet I also like to provide readers with scenes of forgiveness, of fun, of joy, of faith. Ozark doesn't serve up moments of redemption, which leaves me a little ambivalent about the outcome. It’s intriguing, but I’m not completely emotionally invested.