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Latest From Netflix Washes Dirty Drug Money in the Not So Clean Ozark


I just spent my entire weekend binge watching Ozark on Netflix. If you’re nuts for Breaking Bad, Narcos or Bloodline, Ozark will easily be your fave show of the summer. Reacquainting you with the familiar indentations and curves of that well-worn family room couch. It’s a narrative that won’t let you sleep, continuing at full throttle episode after episode, never letting up.

With a potpourri of themes running in and out of each show. There is a little something for everyone: from the inner workings of corporate finance, the dangerous world of drug money, to how the sins of one family member affects the whole group and the challenges of exploring gay relationships in rural America. It’s pillow griping tension, where each new episode has your Spidey sense thrown in a blender and set to a high speed puree.

Money-centric and grounded in reality, the story revolves around the Byrde family and their sudden relocation from the suburbs of Chicago to a summer resort community in the Missouri Ozarks. It is here where Marty Byrde sets up a new drug operation in Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks tourist region to earn money to pay off a drug lord in exchange for his life.

Jason Bateman, who exec produced and directed four of the 10 episode series, stars as Marty Byrde alongside Academy Award nominee Laura Linney as his wife Wendy. The Byrdes with their teenage kids Charlotte and Jonah — are for all intents and purposes an ordinary family with ordinary lives. Except for the job of Bateman’s character, Marty, the top money launderer for the second largest drug cartel in Mexico.

A stand out performance is given by Julia Gardner who is sure to be a household name in the next few years. She plays a 19-year-old on the show, described by the sheriff as smart and mean, with her criminal potential “mostly untapped.”

For me, the most memorable performance came from Skylar Gaertner (who plays Bateman’s son). When his teacher is trying to get the class to sign an anti-drug pledge, Jonah won’t sign and instead asks to think about it for a moment. The teacher obviously irritated and confused asks what there is to be uncertain about? Drugs and alcohol are addictive. He agrees but goes on to explain that it’s just not that simple to say no, surely she wouldn’t want him to sign something that he didn’t fully believe in.

It’s just not that simple he goes on to explain, drugs prop up the economy. He’d sign it if it said – it’d be great if people didn’t get addicted to drugs, but they are. In order to get those drugs they need to buy them. The drug dealer also needs to feed his family, their innocent, they can’t starve. They need a house and clothes, the family needs a car. He goes further to explain a common theory that the only thing preventing the economic collapse in 2008, when real-estate went bust was drug money.

It was the only cash available to prop up the big banks. That the 350 million Narco dollars paid for bridges and roads, health care and education – possibly even his own school. Economically speaking it’s not easy to hear but…he’d like a minute. Though Jonah needed a minute to consider cementing his personal moral code, Netflix on the flip side is more than happy to sign on the dotted line.

By Melissa Dennie

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