A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
A supportive family with a mom, dad, and two teens is at the center of this drama, which is the only positive message to be gleaned from a drama about unrepentant criminals.
Positive Role Models
Marty Byrde is a criminal despite being an average family man to outside appearances. He supports and loves his children, but puts his whole family in danger with his criminal activities. Wife Wendy is complicit in his criminal activities and deserves some of the blame for her family's difficult situation, yet in many scenes she is loving to her children: caring for them, cooking for them, hugging them.
Almost all characters are White. The cartel that the Byrdes work for is run by Mexicans, and their White competitors talk in racist ways about them. Many characters voice racist and/or classist sentiments too: One character calls the Lake of the Ozarks the "redneck Riviera," and another says that there "camouflage is a primary color." A law enforcement officer says that if "Mexicans, mafia, and Muslims" weren't "dealing drugs and flying planes into buildings, they'd be cleaning toilets." Gay men are depicted both in caring relationships and in exploitative ones. One character has a developmental disability, and is played by an actor with Down Syndrome; he's shown enmeshed in his community.
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Violence & Scariness
Marty deals with gangsters; violence is potentially possible at any time. Characters, including those we've come to know, are suddenly killed on-screen: shot, thrown off a balcony of a skyscraper. We see blood and dead bodies, including some that are wrapped in plastic and placed in a drum for dumping. Marty and his wife and teen children are threatened with death by a ruthless gangster.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Sexual themes and situations: A man covertly watches pornography when he's with clients as well as with his wife. In the porn, a woman performs oral sex on her knees and then has sex bent over a bed; no nudity is seen, but her male partner thrusts and groans. A man vividly imagines picking up a sex worker on the street and getting oral sex; a woman stops a man from "beating off" in his car; a woman is having an affair and her husband finds out. Vulgar reference to masturbation ("rub one out") and to body parts (a man compares a woman's private parts to an animal trap). All the sex depicted in the show is between willing partners, but it's often used to manipulate or blackmail. A strip club, with topless women dancing, becomes a primary setting in the series.
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Cursing: "f--k," "s--t," "bulls--t," "goddamn"; one man calls another a "little bitch" (implying he's whining) and another man calls his wife a "f--king bitch"; a teenager tells her parents that "no f--king way" is she going to do something. Strong and/or insulting language includes "retard," "screw you," "d--kish," "crap."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Main characters work for a drug cartel. Heroin production is shown. A couple characters smoke a lot of marijuana as the show goes on. Many characters drink to excess, and teens drink beer. Oxycontin is used to manipulate a character.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Ozark is a downbeat drama about a man who launders money for a drug cartel who's forced to flee with his family to a small town in Missouri. The family is in league with gangsters; violence is a threat and often erupts on-screen. Characters are suddenly shot or plummet from a skyscraper; we see blood and dead bodies (some prepared to be dumped), and a family including teen children is threatened with violent death. Sexual themes are also common: a man covertly watches pornography with a man and woman having oral sex and intercourse with thrusting and groaning; no nudity is visible. In other scenes, a man is stopped when masturbating in his car, and a woman gives a man oral sex. Cursing includes "f--k," "s--t," and "goddamn," and "bitch" sometimes used to imply a man is a whiner. There are also racist statements, sometimes made by characters who should be admirable.
Is It Any Good?
Alas, this show is a bit of a grim slog, clearly hoping to borrow a little of the shimmer of Breaking Bad, but lacking that show's spark and quirky characters. Bateman, who oozes charm in just about every role he's ever played, is curiously opaque in Ozark, hard to relate to. Unlike Breaking Bad's Walter, a righteously furious man who makes the wrong choices for the right reasons (at least at first), Bateman's Marty already broke bad, a decade ago. This makes him a lot tougher to relate to, which muddies the central conflict: It's not as much fun to watch a creep wiggle through a tough situation as it is to see a good guy caught in the grip of something bad.
Linney's huffy, knowing Wendy is more interesting to watch as the Byrdes settle in to their new home and start questing for the next great money-laundering scheme. Will it be a strip club? A tourist resort? A local evangelical church? And how soon before the local lowlifes come crawling out of the woodwork to start creating their own complications? As the twists start piling up, viewers may find themselves pulled into the drama, despite the script's tendency to have its characters pause to make stentorian speeches about the American work ethic or the criminal activities of immigrants. Fans of Netflix's serious dramas should give this one a try, but the unconverted are unlikely to stick around.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.