TV & Film

Netflix’s New Drama ‘Ozark’ is just like Breaking Bad

What if “Breaking Bad” started in the middle of its run? When Walter White is half-way Heisenberg, but there’s still some humanity left.Imagine if we never got to see White as a chemistry teacher: We just casually see him at work, having dinner with his family. Then suddenly, he pleads for his life with the leader of a Mexican drug cartel.

Bateman plays Marty Byrde, whose outwardly idyllic existence belies plenty of trouble. Not only is he caught up in shady dealings with a ruthless cartel leader (Esai Morales), but his wife (Laura Linney) has been unfaithful.

Marty’s impeccably furnished house of cards comes crashing down in the premiere, forcing the fast-talking money man to hatch a scheme to save his life. Unfortunately, the plan involves loading up the truck (OK, mini-van) and the Byrdes flying the coop from Chicago to the Ozarks with their two understandably confused teens (Sofia Hublitz, Skylar Gaertner) in tow.

There, he must find a way to launder millions in cartel cash, working against a formidable deadline while keeping the suspicious feds at bay. Marty’s efforts run into multiple hurdles, starting with the fact that the locals aren’t necessarily eager to hand over their money.

There’s also a shady element that his actions bring out — from a family of grifters to a more Southern-fried brand of dealer — that repeatedly puts him in potentially over-his-head jeopardy. While the fish-out-of-water concept is one of TV’s oldest, “Ozark” carves out its own path with clever twists — including a late-in-the-run flashback explaining how the cartel came into his life — and the sheer strength of the performances.

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