Most British viewers wouldn’t have even heard of the Ozark mountains until Netflix somehow made us started craving its rural delights five years ago.
But now after a far too long wait, the brilliant family crime drama is back for the first half of its grand finale, and there’s not a second to catch your breath.
The Byrde family started off the first season as a middle class Chicago family enjoying suburbia until it was revealed that the dad, Jason Bateman as Marty, had been successfully laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel for years.
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When his business partner is executed for ripping off the gang, the fast talking Marty won another chance by revealing a hastily invented masterplan to use the developing tourist spot of the Ozark mountain and lake region in Missouri to wash more money than they’d ever imagined.
Which is how his city wife and teenage kids ended up in the deep south, and engaged with all manner of crime families from mountain dwelling heroin farmer psychopaths to dangerous truckers and even low level thieves who become part of the family.
Jason Bateman’s career rebound since Arrested Development has seen him become one of the best leading men in film and TV and it’s his stoic charm mixed with Laura Linney’s vaulting ambition as wife and mum Wendy that carries the series.
As the first chunk of the two part season four launches, the action hots up instantly.
The third series saw Wendy have to sanction the execution of her unstable and dangerous brother Ben, while the cartel’s lawyer go-between Helen was shot dead at point blank range by the boss, leaving the Byrdes now in charge of the US operation.
The new episodes start from that moment, and they’re given a bloody ultimatum from the Mexicans – make the entire drug operation and its boss Navarro clean and legal, or face a grisly end at the hand of their enforcers.
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What makes this show so special is the dark humour and charm from the central family as the stakes and the threats escalate at every turn. Every time Marty and Wendy use their quick wits to solve a problem, it just gets worse and worse.
And the dangers and the crises have never been more present. Troubled teen Jonah has inherited all his dad’s smarts for the dark arts of tech and money, but enraged by the loss of role models like family friend Buddy and his uncle Ben, he seems to be turning against the family. Older sister Charlotte seems to be following in the family business safely enough, but there’s trouble waiting there with a pal whose mum has just disappeared.
While two new arrivals from Chicago and Mexico, and some shocking twists and turns, throw the whole family into chaos again.
The obvious comparisons are to shows like Breaking Bad and The Sopranos. But while Tony was the king of New Jersey and loved it and Walter White chose to get deeper and deeper – Ozark is all about getting out. And like a number crunching Doctor Who, Marty's always about trying to think his way through crises rather than fight. But things keep getting worse.
And while we’ve empathised with his attempts to get out of the business up till now, season four is about watching the shades of right and wrong getting greyer and greyer.
WATCH: Ozark season 4 trailer