YES, I’m a latecomer but I have just begun to appreciate the joy of Flix.
I’m talking about the TV and movie streaming service Netflix, which has revolutionised my viewing over the last couple of months.
You would think there were enough things to watch with Sky Digital and the Amazon fire stick already installed, but the amount of straight-to-TV drama that Netflix provides is a welcome addition for the whole household.
I love my dramas and the one that has really caught my eye is Ozark, which features Hollywood big-hitter Jason Bateman as financial planner Marty Byrde.
At some stage – needing to improve his personal finances – Marty is persuaded by his partner to launder money for a Colombian drug cartel.
His new role, busy hours and secret life put a strain on his marriage and his wife Wendy, played by Laura Linney, resorts to having an affair.
What Marty doesn’t realise is that his partner Bruce has been surreptitiously stealing from the cartel and when their contact Del turns up there is a showdown in which the gangster murders Bruce, his girlfriend and other members of the family.
Marty has to plead for his life, insisting he knew nothing of the $8million embezzlement, and vows to move out of Chicago to a small area in Missouri called the Ozarks, saying it is ripe for developing his money laundering racket.
The cartel agree to give him a three-month trial provided he pays back the money Bruce stole, so he liquidizes all his assets.
Wendy, meanwhile, is set to leave him and take his children but Del – believing Marty will be more motivated if the family stay with him – kills Wendy’s lover by throwing him from the window of his apartment.
Marty explains to Wendy the danger they are in and they are left without a choice, so reluctantly the family move to the Ozarks. Although the parents wish to keep their two children ignorant of their criminal activities this proves impossible and in the end they all have to work together to keep the cartel happy.
The thing that makes Ozark is the characterisation. Marty is a brilliant creation, possibly made better because Bateman himself directs the first two episodes.
Somewhere along the line this upright, loyal citizen has lost his moral compass and in order to protect his family he comes up with a number of devious schemes designed to make money, no matter who he has to entrap in the conspiracy.
Wendy, brilliantly portrayed by Linney, is a former political campaigner and is creative and devious in equal measure in coming up with new schemes to help Marty pay off his debts.
There are a number of equally ugly but terrific characters like Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner) the teenage troublemaker from a local criminal family who sets out to kill Marty and steal his money but ends up as his right-hand girl after he shows faith in her and rewards her with the job of running a local strip joint he has ‘acquired’ for laundering purposes. Along the way Marty’s exploits put him in direct confrontation with Jacob and Darlene Snell, who own a local farm which turns out to be the main heroin producer for the area.
As Marty and Wendy constantly find ways to wriggle out of the most fraught and dangerous situations, Ozark just keeps getting better and better.
Well worth a watch.