Beating the heat with 'Ozark'
Hot. Humid. Muggy.
Whatever term you use to describe the weather when it’s unbearably hot outside, that’s what my past summer was like in Washington, D.C. Interning on Capitol Hill, I spent my days schlepping across the scorching city twice a day. My days began and ended with cramped, overheated bus rides across K Street, a commute which usually clocked in at 45 minutes. That sweaty daily trip left me exhausted by the time I returned home to my cozy Georgetown abode. I needed something to cool off. I needed Netflix’s “Ozark.”
Initially, I was hesitant to wade into the waters of “Ozark.” Despite all of its acclaim, I couldn’t get over my fears about having first-time director Jason Bateman (“Horrible Bosses”) at the helm of the series. I couldn’t shake the image of Bateman as the hilarious Michael Bluth in “Arrested Development,” and I refused to believe that he could produce any sort-of competent drama. Well, I’m not afraid to say it now: I was totally and utterly wrong.
My love affair with Netflix’s “Ozark” started after a typical Monday of shuttling back and forth between Capitol Hill and Georgetown. Since I’d missed my bus that day, I was forced to wait another half-hour for the next one to arrive, meaning I only got home around 8 o’clock that night. Utterly exhausted, I did what most Michigan students do — I ordered Domino’s and settled into bed as I eagerly waited for my piping hot pizza. As I scrolled through Netflix’s recommendations and new releases, I got a text from my brother instructing me to “watch Ozark right fucking now.” His blunt endorsement, coupled with my need to kill time, finally got me over my mental hump, and I switched on “Ozark.”
With the lights dimmed and my personal home theater set up, my eyes remained comfortably glued to the gorgeous, blue-filtered Missouri vistas of “Ozark.” Although I was dazzled by its visuals, I didn’t enjoy the show itself. I couldn’t figure out exactly what Bateman’s character, Marty Byrde, did, and the entire plotline of Byrde laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel just seemed too “out-there” and unrealistic.
As confused as I was by Marty, I didn’t have any issue understanding his wife’s character, Wendy (Laura Linney, “The Truman Show”). Playing the role of a mere jaded housewife on the surface, Linney excels at providing depth to her character and showing that this label is deceiving. Linney stars in the series, but her ruthless nature makes me glad I’m not one of her kids Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz, “Louie”) or Jonah (Skylar Gaertner, “Daredevil”).
Maybe it was because I was a bit hangry, or maybe I just didn’t understand “Ozark”’s pilot, but once armed with my Domino’s and the series’ second episode, I quickly started to like the show. Over the course of that second episode, “Blue Cat,” I turned from being one of Marty’s biggest critics to one of his most loyal supporters. I couldn’t help but love the way Marty managed to garner universal respect for his investment acumen, almost like a young, criminal version of Warren Buffett.
With his savvy business maneuvers, I started to see Marty less as a wannabe Walter White (Bryan Cranston, "Breaking Bad"), as I initially viewed him, and closer to the real deal. Both brilliant money launderers with a penchant for talking their way out of near-death situations, I noticed shades of White in Marty, though, to Cranston’s credit, his performance was incredible enough that Anthony Hopkins (“Silence of the Lambs”) — of all people — called it “the best acting I have seen - ever.”
Following that brilliant second installment in the series, I had to use all of my willpower to compel myself to go to bed, rather than screen the next episode. Still, I would get to episode three, “My Dripping Sleep,” soon enough, as I found myself with a few spare minutes at lunch the next day at the office. Once I noticed the extra time I had, there was about a half-second delay before I pulled up the Netflix app on my phone and started “My Dripping Sleep.”
And so began a weekday tradition. Each morning, I’d watch a few minutes of “Ozark” before I boarded the bus into Capitol Hill, then screen more of the episode at lunch. Later, I’d finish the episode from the friendly walls of my Georgetown red-brick, before repeating the cycle all over again the next day. It may have been 90 degrees outside, but I didn’t care — in my mind I was constantly cooling off in the shimmering waters of Lake “Ozark.”
Unfortunately, like a good house party, my tradition ended far too soon. Due to my daily binge-watching, I finished the entire season in four days — I was done by the time Friday rolled around. Without “Ozark” to sate my appetite for stellar television, my workdays lost a bit of their luster. I had returned to the muggy confines of Washington, D.C., but, for some reason, it didn’t feel quite as hot anymore.