Sam Burnham, Curator
Just over a year ago I was near Canton on business when I stumbled across a quaint but vacant roadside/lakefront lodge. As it was the sort of place I regularly photograph for use on our Instagram and/or blog, I stopped and took a few snaps. After posting it, an Instagram follower notified me that the lodge was used as a filming location for a new Netflix series called Ozark. I didn't think much about the show then but roughly a year later I got a little curious and decided to try the show.
What followed was a strange phenomenon. The plot draws you in from the very beginning. But that is tempered with a sense of unease. To say Ozark is gritty is an understatement. Ozark isn't gritty. It's troubling and, at times, downright disturbing. But that discomfort is part of what draws you into the plot. Throughout Season 1 I kept watching, intrigued while still troubled. I think the trick is that the depravity of the characters is not gratuitous. The plots twists and turns on these terrible acts and events. It isn't dark because that is what is trendy, it is the development of complex characters and the story they find themselves caught up in. And it isn't just a slasher flick with just blood and gore. There is a lot of suspense as well intellectual and psychological plot devices. It's a drama but also a true thriller.
The characters are well written and complex. The storytellers give adequate background to build these people, you get to know them, even if you'd rather not. Episode 8 is an out-of-sequence flashback that will have you scratching your head wondering what the purpose of it is before it twists a few times leaving you with deeper understanding of people and plot. I've long been fond of the acting pf both Jason Bateman and Laura Linney. Both are on top of their game in Ozark. Harris Yulin's character, Buddy, is impossible to hate. Esai Morales portrays probably the least scrupulous of all the roles but does so in a manner that still had me liking him on some level.
The cinematography and sound both are refreshing. In almost every episode, there is no intro audio, perhaps just ambient noise like birds maybe a passing car. "Ozark" appears on the screen in a small and simple font. It's perfect. The visuals are dark and cool, even the scenes of bright summer afternoons are still soft on the eyes. The scenery from the lake is mostly not Missouri, but Lake Allatoona, where I learned to ski as a kid. Except for the violent events, the show is quiet, almost as if it is being whispered to us. It mimics the peace of a lake cove. All of this while still giving us a top-notch soundtrack. It's not just the same old songs you hear in shows over and over. If you're older, you might get nostalgic. If you're younger, you might come to love some older tunes.
There are themes that I have been refreshed to see. The city guys expected to find a rural landscape where the locals were naive, ignorant, perhaps even stupid. They found a much more alert and cunning population than they could have expected. Even some of the poorer characters have an intelligence, perhaps a sagacity that keeps them competitive. You see the Chicago types struggling against the people they tried to use. The people of the Ozarks are more than capable of looking out for themselves and cannot be hoodwinked easily. This isn't another liberal take on Middle America in which the wiser city folks win out over the rural buffoons,
It is good to know that this show is filmed in Georgia. It is nice to see scenes in locations that I recognize. It is good to know that Georgians are benefiting from the business generated but the production work.
If you have not watched the first season, you still have time before Season 2 hits Netflix on August 31. A word of caution, it is not a family program and if you are at all squeamish about mature audience programming, I'd say pass on this one.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire