If you liked Breaking Bad, Netflix is betting that you'll enjoy the 10-episode first season of Ozark, its latest original series. The show focuses on an anti-hero whose life is snatched out from under him, but unlike Walter White, Ozark's Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) is already on the wrong side of the law.
Reviewers are praising the series for its supporting cast, stylized look and dark sense of humor, though they find it lacks the spark of the successful morally gray dramas it imitates. Here's what the critics are saying about Netflix's latest bingeable show.
The New York Times
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In his review for The New York Times, Mike Hale explains that Ozark doesn't provide the thrills that made Breaking Bad a success. As much as he disliked Bateman's performance, though, Hale found Laura Linney to be the show's saving grace.
"Ms. Linney, with her gift for high-comic indignation, makes Wendy at once hilarious and sympathetic. If there's a Season 2, maybe she can take over the business."
"Your comfort level will be enhanced by the arty, muted cinematography. (The mesmerizing lake-and-forest landscapes were shot on Georgia locations.)"
"Byrde [is] a Chicago financial planner played by Jason Bateman with the aggressive blandness of an airline gate agent."
"The show isn't a tragedy — most of the time, it's a satirical (though quite violent) culture-clash caper with pretensions."
"And while it's unfair to put the onus on Netflix, the real difference between 'Breaking Bad' and 'Ozark' feels institutional, or generational. 'Breaking Bad' had propulsive, straightforward stories that dragged you from season to season. In 'Ozark,' a lot happens, but not much is going on."
The AV Club
The AV Club's Erik Adams didn't care for Ozark, rating it a C-. The show reminded Adams of Netflix's algorithmic recommendation engines, leading him to note that it "plays like a computer program's idealized hybrid of Breaking Bad, Narcos and Justified.
"It's refreshing to see Ozark conduct its business so openly, not depending on the stringing along of various Byrds for dramatic effect."
"Even the source of the show's one good joke is grounded in misery: Sleep-deprived Marty hallucinates that he's being dressed down by a televised image of Sarah McLachlan, in a parody of the musician's tear-jerking American Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals PSAs."
"Netflix is trotting out a Jason Bateman-Laura Linney show where the least interesting parts are Jason Bateman and Laura Linney."
"The show is also unrelentingly dour, which you could chalk up to the humorlessness of 1s and 0s, or more accurately pin to showrunner Chris Mundy, who, when he was in charge of AMC's Low Winter Sun, took a dirty-cop drama set in a scuzzy corner of the U.K. underworld and managed to make it grayer and drearier."
"For Marty, Wendy, Ruth, and others, there's no escaping the past; the same goes for a show as derivative and lethargic as Ozark."
EW's Jeff Jensen awarded Ozark an A- rating, praising Bateman's acting and directing work. He enjoyed it so much, he didn't mention any complaints about the series.
"The 10-episode binge … is masterstroke for Jason Bateman, who stars and directed much of the season."
"Bateman's commanding performance powers a gripping, twisty, sometimes spotty yarn that plays like Breaking Bad in reverse, a darkly comic deconstruction of anti-hero fantasy about a man flailing to rediscover the value of human life."
None, Jensen's review is rather short.
The Hollywood Reporter
Daniel Fienberg, writing for The Hollywood Reporter, didn't enjoy Ozark, either. The sole highlight of the series for him was the performance of Julia Garner, who plays a potential threat or ally to Bateman's Marty.
"The best reason to watch Ozark is the rather spectacular [Julia] Garner, [whose] performance makes Ruth the only character in Ozark you haven't seen somewhere before, a mixture of misapplied cunning, amoral upbringing, buried vulnerability, accelerated maturity and inconvenient innocence."
"Enough is happening in Ozark that it's never boring, which sets it apart from Netflix's recent misguided stab at prestige programming, Gypsy."
"One can certainly admire Bateman's commitment to Marty's depression and the consistency of vision according to which most of the other actors are similarly gloomy, but there's a distinct lack of emotional and visual variation to a show in which everything is shot in dour shades and there's scarcely any color to be found anywhere."
"The failure to really flesh out Lake of the Ozarks as a location also gets in the way of what should probably be an examination of the American Dream in 2017. Ozark has very little engagement with the way the Missouri resort economy operates or why it's such a good (or bad) place to explore the manipulation of wealth in an increasingly deregulated nation."
USA Today's Kelly Lawler gave Ozark a rating of 2.5 out of 4 stars, docking it for how long it takes to get started and how it doesn't earn the hourlong runtimes in each episode. Lawler agrees with Fienberg about Garner's portrayal of Ruth, saying the show benefits from her character and performance.
"Ozark also benefits from Ruth (Julia Garner), a young aspiring criminal who is both a potential threat and ally to Marty. Garner, too, has a striking confidence, and it's easy to see how a petite teen could intimidate men who loom over her physically but are beneath her in intelligence."
"It takes a long time for Ozark to set up its premise; so much so that the pilot makes it feel like the entire story would have been better suited as a film about Marty and his wife, Wendy (Laura Linney), on the run."
"Episodes feel too long at 60 minutes. It's easy to find places where smart editing could have added momentum and urgency. For a series in which the lead characters are fleeing certain death, it often feels a little lackadaisical and bloated."
Credit: Tom's Guide
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Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.