What I've Been Watching...

Ozark (TV Series, Netflix)

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There have been many iterations of the Sherlock Holmes character in the now 100 plus years since his inception and one critique often leveled at failed adaptions is that Holmes can only ever be as clever as the person writing him. The writer must first conceive of dire circumstances from which the protagonist must utilize his wits to extricate himself. Secondly, the machinations of our hero must reveal themselves in surprising and clever ways, conducive the entertainment and surprise of the audience. At this, Ozark succeeds spectacularly. Ozark is one of the scripts that I only dream I could one day put to paper. The story, conceived of by Bill Dubuque (The Judge, The Accountant) concerns personal financial manager Marty Byrd, a survivor existing on the fringes of conflicting criminal regimes and the dredges of society who uses his wits to preserve his life and the lives of his wife and children. Constantly confronting mounting challenges (Owing 8 million dollars to the second largest drug cartel in Mexico, being tasked with the laundering of said drug money through failing cash businesses in the lake of the Ozarks, having a brief case of money stolen by local criminal elements of the 'redneck' variety, trending on the toes of entrenched Missouri Heroin dealers, being pursued by the F.B.I., etc.) Byrd manages to outsmart, outwork, and outmaneuver his enemies using only his wits, penchant for money management, and business acumen. There is plenty of thrilling moments and unexpected twists in the show but by far the most enjoyable aspect for me (and I will only focus on this one element in order to keep my review mercifully short) is the sheer joy of watching Marty come up with another plan, another deal, lie, or opportunity to keep himself alive. Jason Bateman is fantastic in the lead role and even took over directing duties for 4 out of the 10 episodes of this first season. Bateman has a fantastically compelling face. He has a way of raising his eyebrows in anticipation during a conversational scene (which has served him well as a straight man in comedy films) which is often employed here when proposing a new idea. If macheavelian scheming that entices you, the themes of the ordinary man adapting to extreme circumstances, mounting dread and suspense, or family disfunction, this show has plenty to offer.