Ozark isn’t ‘the poor man’s Breaking Bad’ – it’s better

Jason Bateman has been breaking bad since 2017. That was the year the genial b-lister, known for unhinged comedies such as Arrested Development, revealed to the world a different side to his acting talents as lead in Netflix’s Ozark. His character, Marty Byrde, is an everyman accountant who, together with wife Wendy (Laura Linney), is sucked into a life of crime in the Lake of the Ozarks resort town in Western Missouri. 

Bateman has been consistently watchable in the years since as the star of a gripping small screen thriller which, though widely enjoyed, garlanded in Emmy nominations and trouncing the likes of Tiger King in the ratings, has never quite received the acclaim it deserves. 

With Ozark returning for its fourth and final season, it’s easy to see why it has never got its due. That reason can be summed up in two words: Walter White. Just as Gary Numan could never entirely shake off the idea he was a bargain bin David Bowie, so Ozark has been dismissed from the outset as a none-too-subtle Breaking Bad pastiche. 

At a hugely simplistic level, the comparison makes sense. Marty Byrde is a financial wizard who uses his expertise to launder money for the mob. Walter White is a chemistry teacher who channels his expertise into crystal meth manufacture. Marty is mild-mannered on the outside, a raging inferno within. So is Walter. 

Both characters are, moreover, marooned in a marginalised part of America: the Lake of the Ozarks in the case of Byrde, the bleached New Mexico suburbs for White. And over the course of their lives on screen each grows increasingly obsessive about their criminal empire. And willing to do whatever it takes to stay at the top.

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