In 2017, Netflix brought us the premiere of Ozark, the blue-toned thriller that surprised us (almost always) pleasantly. Created by Bill Dubuque and Mark Williams, this drama tells the story of a family that is forced to move to the Ozarks to launder the money of the second-largest Mexican cartel. Let’s nose-dive into what this show has to offer and what’s out there for you.
Sometimes, a confinement situation like the one we are living in has its good things. Don’t get me wrong: this period we have been through is a ______________ (fill in the adjective you like best).
Nevertheless, it allows many of us to do supernatural things, rather than the typical audiovisual behaviors. In our case, we weren’t sure about the third season of Ozark on its opening day; as a result, we didn’t watch just a few chapters, most of us finished the whole show.
And after seeing the entire installment, we appreciated even more having so much time for ourselves, because it ended up being a fantastic experience.
The three seasons in general, which include episodes of approximately one hour each, the team of scriptwriters has conceived the plot as “a film divided into parts”, in the words of Jason Bateman himself, who not only stars in the show but also produces it, and has been involved in the project as the director of the pilot episode.
But life is not a big high, so we’re also going to tackle the slightly less exciting sides of Ozark (spoiler-free, we promise) and recommend shows, which we think, will get you’re head up in the clouds.
Sex, drugs, and tons of money
Another show that fulfills the subgenres necessities. With lots of it
For some time now, drug trafficking and money laundering have been two of the most popular themes in the audiovisual fiction that we have received.
The Wire was the show that brought out the subgenre and was later joined by other shows and films with similar points of view: Breaking Bad, Sicario, The Counselor, Savages, Narcos, Snowfall, El Chapo, American Made… I mean, drugs are pouring out of our ears.
But the originality, or at least the hallmark of Ozark, is that it doesn’t show us the point of view of a drug dealer as such but of his accountant. A family dad with a gift for numbers and a life that is at first anodyne.
In case you’re tempted to think about it, it has absolutely nothing to do with Breaking Bad: neither the main character has the same strength nor the technical make-up manages to give him a personality of his own as strong as that of Vince Gilligan’s show.
There is an effort in Ozark to turn the photography to cold tones that generate bewilderment and insecurity in the viewer or, in other words, an intriguing and dangerous atmosphere. As Bateman explains:
“When it comes to capturing the audience you have to find the balance in many departments to create a specific atmosphere. For me that is the challenge as a director. It’s difficult and I like it”.
It works against him the way in which Netflix products are consumed, something that he recognizes as a problem of the platform:
“You don’t have a guarantee that people will watch the show in a dark environment. People see it on their devices at the beach, for example.“
The Byrdes, an invasive species
Interesting parasites dressed as civilians
Ozark tells us about the Byrde family, made up of the married couple Marty (Jason Bateman) and Wendy (Laura Linney) and their two teenage children, Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz) and Jonah (Skylar Gaertner).
They have a completely normal life until they move in extremis to a totally different place: they move from residing in the Chicago suburbs to a small summer community in Ozarks, Missouri, where they must integrate in order to launder in record time a huge amount of money coming from a Mexican drug cartel.
Clearly the behavior of the Byrde’s when they arrive at this site is the same as that of an invasive species, especially considering that Marty’s main objective is to gobble up ruinous businesses in which to invest indecent amounts of money to launder it for the mafia.
Along the way he will encounter numerous obstacles: a proprietary drug distribution network, an undercover FBI investigation that will try to stop him, and business models loaded with their own problems like a strip club.
Implausible characters and unexpected twists
Not everything is greener where the money grows
I don’t know if we’ve encouraged you to watch it so far because the truth is that the length of the episodes seems a bit excessive for what the show wants to tell.
In fact (not spoiling here anything), the last episode of the first season, for example, lasts almost twice as long as a normal one, a habit that many of us find a little annoying… why do you want to tell everything at once at the last minute?
In any case, if you go to the halfway point of Ozark you will want to finish watching it because the best turns of the script (and some more tricks too) follow each other in the last third of the series.
Other plots seem to lead nowhere, especially those related to the two youngest children who escape a little from the main subject: money.
“What’s money?” Ozark begins with a dissertation by Marty Byrde about this question and it will be the thread that will guide the actions of all the characters. It’s not synonymous with peace of mind. It is not synonymous with happiness. Money is, in essence, the result of our choices.
Bateman makes it even clearer:
“Money is just another character in the sense that it is the motivation for all actions. People react to it, it moves people to do things, it is a temptation.”
Another weak point is that some characters are highly exaggerated: this is the case of Roy, Ruth and Russ, in that particular order. The cast’s interpretations are suitable, but the way the characters are conceived makes them very hard to believe: neither the histrionic FBI agent nor the enfant terrible, much less the big loser, manage to make us feel concerned about their problems or understand their personal motivations.
Something that does work to capture the viewer are those four drawings that appear at the beginning of each episode and give us clues about what will happen throughout the episode. It’s a detail that may seem superfluous but it works well to create a microclimate of suspense.
Let’s walk through Ozark’s narcotic brothers and see if they fit your taste. With so much success over the last twenty years, there are some truly worthwhile jewels to be seen, no matter how long they are (we’re looking at you The Wire)
Yes, we know. We’ve started with the obvious. But that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.
The critics recognized the quality of Breaking Bad from the first season, and the rest of the seasons just confirmed it. The American Film Institute named it one of the ten best television series in history in 2010 and 2011, and writer Stephen King called it: “the best television series in history“.
In September 2013 Breaking Bad also earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the highest-rated show in history. In Metacritic, its 5th season has a score of 99 out of 100.
The first chapter introduced us to the boring life of good old Walter (Bryan Cranston), who besides being a chemistry teacher worked at a car wash and strove to be kind to everyone, even if it meant enduring humiliation.
On his 50th birthday, he sees a DEA raid on TV, where his brother-in-law Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) works, inviting Walter to the next one. When he learns he has inoperable lung cancer, he agrees to go to Hank’s raid and sees his student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) escape.
Although Walter uses his family and his terminal illness as pretexts to justify his decision to become a drug producer, the reality is that we later discovered that it was a way to be recognized and feel good about something, after a lifetime of submission and humiliation.
The show has five seasons broadcast between 2008 and 2013 which won numerous awards including 16 Emmys in the categories of Best Lead Actor in a Dramatic Series (Cranston), Best Supporting Actor in a Dramatic Series (Paul), and Best Dramatic Series, among others. Check out our list of best Shows like Breaking Bad worth watching.
Bow down to Baltimore’s queen of suspense
In the summer of 2002, the American cable network HBO premiered a crime show. For many, it was just another detective and police series, but for those who managed to get hooked on it after a couple of somewhat dense first episodes, it would be a key cultural product for these viewers’ relationship with television fiction.
The Wire was set in Baltimore, which was (and is) a city with a high crime rate and slums. David Simon portrayed with an almost surgical pulse the day-to-day life in one of those neighborhoods, controlled by a smuggler and his associates.
If the criminal plot seduced the viewer, Simon introduced a novelty with the show, and that was to see the plot of the police preparation.
From how the group of investigators is formed – almost all of whom have been discarded or punished in other police departments – to the setting up of a device to spy on and capture the criminals.
Although The Wire was not a social phenomenon like other shows because its niche market was more explicit at the time, it gained ground over the years as a cult show, being considered by many editors such as Time, The New York Times, The Guardian, Philadelphia Daily News, Entertainment Weekly, The Telegraph, San Francisco Chronicle, Complex, Vulture or Slate as the mother of all shows in the history of television.
In the words of Gabriel García Márquez: “I’m not rich, I’m a poor man with money”
According to a study by the previously mentioned streaming company Netflix, Narcos is one of the shows that the public “tastes”. That is to say, it’s a product that is consumed slowly in order to appreciate every last detail.
This doesn’t come as a surprise, since the magic of the plot does not lie in the end, but in how each of the charismatic characters poses their strategies to achieve their goals.
Narcos is based on real facts, which could have played against it. Although it started with a certain historical value, it was only necessary to type the name of the protagonists on the Internet to know what their end would be.
Consequently, Netflix chose to balance it with fictional situations that could surprise its followers, in such a way that it is difficult to discern between what’s true and what’s made up.
Also, as it usually happens in this type of productions, most of the scenes are dramatized to create more tension. Even so, the show manages to capture in a remarkable way the problem of drug trafficking in Colombia during the nineties.
Netflix respected much of the personality and history of Pablo Escobar, who would be the protagonist of the first two seasons of the production. Although Escobar was defined as someone more eccentric and wealthy than the character in the show, the latter maintains the determination and cunning that characterized the drug dealer.
Wagner Moura, the actor who brought him to life in the production, was very well received by the public and was nominated for a Golden Globe in 2016 for his brilliant performance. To become more like Escobar, the artist even lived in Colombia for a year and gained 20 kg of weight.
The horror of human nature disguised as one of the best shows of the year
This last entry isn’t about narcotics, but it’s sure one hell of a ride through suspense, drama and sheer terror. If you think that nothing surprises you anymore – get ready.
“Our power lies in the perception of our power,” says USSR leader Mikhail Gorbachev at one of the meetings we see in Chernobyl. The international press has just learned of the accident that one of its nuclear plants has suffered, and the image of the empire as the first power in that field is being called into question.
In a moment of absolute confusion about what is happening, the government chooses to retain power through lies, but what will be the cost of those lies?
This is what scientist Valeri Alekseyevich Legasov (Jared Harris) asks himself in the first scene of the HBO show, which recreates the events following the Chernobyl disaster of 1986. “The danger is,” he continues, “to hear so many lies that we no longer recognize the truth.”
From the patriotic blindness of leaders to danger, to ignore the opinions of experts with the shield of personal opinion and putting political wars before the welfare of citizens goes this new show, which quickly became this year’s phenomenon.
Written by Craig Mazin (whose career includes surprisingly two installments of Scary Movie III & IV and The Hangover II & III), Chernobyl composes in five chapters the chronicle of a tragedy announced.
Although more than 30 years have passed, it’s still a clear turning point in our perception of nuclear energy, originating a post-apocalyptic imaginary that arts such as literature or cinema have absorbed in the form of dystopias and premonitions of humanity condemned to self-destruction.
But the show does not want to deal with the long shadow left by the disaster, but rather with themes that go from the concrete to the abstract, which never fails to have an eye on our contemporaneity.
The Ozarks, also known as the Ozark Mountains, is a region in the States of Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and the extreme southeastern corner of Kansas.
The fourth and final season of the Netflix drama, ‘Ozark’ will begin production next November according to the show’s star and producer, Jason Bateman.
The production staff built a set in Georgia after extensive study of the Alhonna complex. Some scenes are filmed in Chicago. Only a few shots of the pilot episode were shot in the real Ozark Lake (in Missouri).
Ozark is definitely a good old crime and suspense show.
The third season of Ozark has 10 episodes and was released in March. Why 10? Because laundering money is a long and dangerous business.
All right, look, we admit that we got the big names out of the crime and suspense shows right away. Ozark even sounds tiny compared to the legends that have previously walked across our screens, with their endless array of awards and prizes. Still, Ozark is perfect to get into that world if you are looking for something modern, current, and with a memorable lineup of actors.
We assure you that after watching the show you will be ready to face both Walter White and Pablo Escobar. Not only will you enjoy these shows all the more, but you’ll have the arsenal ready to take you on a journey through years of award-winning performances.
But who knows which will be the next show in our beloved subgenre of crime and terror. Maybe the new drug kingpins will emerge. Or maybe, just maybe, you’re now planning to immerse yourself in the terrifying story of Chernobyl.
Just be careful and… good luck!