Jason Bateman as a money laundering anti-hero in a Breaking Bad meets Fargo slow-burn thriller shouldn’t have hit written all over it, but after one intense hour, I’m hooked!

The series sees Arrested Development’s Michael Bluth leave the comedy behind and go full on Walter White. His character, Marty Byrde and his family flee Chicago for Missouri’s titular Ozark Lakes after his business partner steals $8 million from the Mexican cartel they were cleaning money for.

THERE’S MONEY IN THAT BANANA STAND!

Writer Bill Dubuque has taken the protagonist from his surprisingly good (and similarly themed) Ben Affleck vehicle, The Accountant and crossed it with Arrested Development’s long-running joke about money hidden in the walls of a building.

I honestly didn’t expect much from Bateman but he, his wife Laura Linney (Wendy Byrde) and Mexican drug lord Esai Morales (Del) reel you in like a hillbilly reels in a catfish. You may not like them much, but boy are they watchable! It’s worth noting that Jason Bateman also directed the pilot and serves as exec producer.

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After setting up the Byrde’s humdrum existence, the story by Dubuque and Mark Williams (Casualty) takes some truly unexpected turns with one moment so shocking it will leave you with your hand over your mouth as you utter “Fuck me!” I did, anyway!

Dubuque’s pilot episode teleplay, Sugarword expertly sets up all the elements needed for a successful series:

  • Three dimensional, torn anti-hero husband and father juggling family loyalty with criminal activities
  • An indebted man needing to atone for his sins
  • Fish-out-of-water as Chicago accountant moves to unfamiliar territory of Missouri
  • Believable opponents; scary, unpredictable big bad and the FBI on Marty’s tail

We need some more opponents, and I’m sure we’ll get those in the form of some hillbilly locals but so far, so good for a pilot. I’m in for the long haul. The only problem is, a little like Scorsese’s Casino would be held in much higher regard if Goodfellas never existed, we’ve been spoilt by Breaking Bad. No matter how good a crime drama of this ilk is, I don’t think the dizzy heights of Vince Gilligan’s show will evr be reached again.

Ozark’s first season run of ten episodes is available on Netflix and I’m a-going in for episode two right now.