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Netflix Renews 'Ozark,' A Good, Distracting Show
Netflix has announced that its Jason Bateman/Laura Linney drama/thriller Ozark is coming back for a second 10-episode season. This is good news, because Ozark is a good show that didn't get the critical acclaim it deserved (it wasn't trashed or anything, it's just better than its 65% Rotten Tomatoes score).
Ozark is about a mild-mannered Chicago accountant named Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) who has been secretly laundering money for a Mexican cartel for years. In the first episode, Marty and his wife Wendy (Laura Linney), who has her own stuff going on, are forced to escape town with their tween/teen son and daughter and go to the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri on a Hail Mary mission to prove their loyalty and usefulness to the cartel boss by laundering eight million dollars in just one crazy summer. Here's the trailer, watch it on Netflix, and don't read the spoilers below unless you're a few episodes in:
Now: sure, the show suffers from chronic "There's actually a relatively easy way out of this" syndrome, along with a great deal of stereotyping of rural people that probably doesn't play well in red states (or with a skittish 35% of TV critics?), and an absurd per-episode number of new simultaneous threats to the Byrde family's welfare that rivals a Bugs Bunny cartoon, but it's a zip-through-in-a-few-days kind of show. It's a distracting show, and that is exactly the kind of show that we, or at least I, need right now.
You know what's really great about the first season? Marty Byrde is such a decent guy! Unlike Tony Soprano or Walter White (characters from far superior and, like, deeper shows, don't get me wrong), so far Marty has kept his hands remarkably clean (so to speak, groan) while running a many-million-dollar money laundering scheme for "the second-biggest Mexican drug cartel" on a big lake in the Ozarks (that is real, I Googled). Please correct me if I'm mistaken here, but Marty spends almost as much time trying to save strangers from the collateral damage of his actions as he does trying to launder money! He drives around in that unrealistically old and dumpy station wagon (or the van, same) all day trying to fix all the problems he's brought to town! He manages to sow an unreal amount of chaos without intentionally harming a soul. He turns down free blowjobs from strippers even though his wife cheated on him for years! Marty's fundamental decency (and Laura Linney literally doing anything on screen, that woman is magic) are what make this anti-hero show different. Marty doesn't just care about his family, he seems to genuinely care about the innocent people who get tangled up in his life on the run.
Wait, let's not blow past Laura Linney as Wendy Byrde, though. Unlike your typical TV anti-hero's wife, Wendy has her own vices, and is not only complicit in the scheme, but, as we learn in a very good out-of-order flashback episode, okayed it from the beginning. She's not looking the other way and enjoying the riches like Carmela Soprano, or being the (understandable!) morality police like early-seasons Skyler White. (She's more like the Skyler White who bought the car wash.)
I haven't even gotten into the other characters (but hats off to Julia Garner, showing amazing range if you've only seen her on The Americans), but just personally, as someone with the attention span of a goldfish who can only focus on one form of entertainment these days (listening to political podcasts, while doing other things, sad face) and hasn't finished most Netflix shows, Ozark is a good way to make the world go away for 10 suspenseful hours. And now we get 10 more, which is good, because I have to see how Marty and Wendy (and others) get out of what they got into in that insane final episode of season one. I'm confident that the world will still be messed up enough to require some distraction.