June 15th, 2020

Comfortable Chap

The Cleanest Money

After years of people recommending it to me, I finally started watching Ozark a few days ago. Two episodes in I'd have to give it a resounding, "Not bad."

One of the latest in the long line of shows influenced by Twin Peaks, this one also has a heavy dose of The Sopranos. The basic concept, of a man from the city finding revelations in a small, rural town filled with dangerous and eccentric characters, is more like Twin Peaks, but the focus on his family dynamic and his relationship with organised crime feel more like The Sopranos.

Jason Bateman and Laura Linney play Marty and Wendy Byrde--he's a money launderer for a Mexican cartel and she's his faithless spouse. Together with their two kids, they suddenly move from Chicago to a rural town in Missouri because the cartel has figured out Marty's coworkers have been skimming some of the cartel's funds.

Instead of the mystery of a beloved teenage girl's murderer, the question motivating the drama, at least so far in season one, is how much longer the cartel is going to let Marty live and whether or not the job he's currently doing for them, laundering 8 million, is even doable in such a small town.

Like most Twin Peaks imitators, and Twin Peaks itself when David Lynch wasn't around, it never gets the quirky townsfolk quite right. Lynch has the kind of talent for making people who are bizarre yet feel 100% authentic. The elderly man (Harris Yulin) who, for awkwardly contrived reasons, lives in the basement of the Byrdes' new home, is spotted walking naked to the lake at one point for a punchline.

Maybe it's more like Green Acres, the southern characters feel about that authentic. Everyone on the show is either a genius or a caraciture. But for the former category, it does make for some clever plotting. I was certainly compelled to keep watching as Bateman tried, and sometimes succeded, at swimming faster than the other sharks in the first episode.

Ozark is available on NetFlix.