After Netflix unexpectedly pulled the plug on Bloodline, its applauded yet costly crime-drama, it was reasonable to assume that the streaming giant was done producing premium yet costly crime-dramas.

Nope!

The channel just unveiled Ozark, a brand new premium crime-drama, and put all ten episodes of its first season up online. On the surface the show shares many similarities to it's acclaimed predecessor.

It has big name stars shining in its lead roles, the action takes place in a small holiday town, it revolves around family and it doesn't shy away in its portrayal of grim, violent death.

Advertisement

So far, so good, then. But despite all that I can't help but wonder if Ozark will meet the same inglorious, tax break dependant fate as Bloodline.

This could turn out to be the show's biggest ongoing mystery. Though it's unlikely Ozark's showrunners wouldn't have taken away a very important lesson about keeping the costs under control from Bloodline's sudden demise.

Finances aside, the show is certainly set up to step into the Bloodline void. But I think the ambition behind the series is a lot higher than that. I think Netflix thinks Ozark could be the new Breaking Bad.

The question is, is this wishful thinking or something worth thinking about?

Laura Linney and Jason Bateman star in Ozark
Laura Linney and Jason Bateman star in Ozark

Ozark's scenario is different enough to be interesting, while still being within spitting distance of Breaking Bad. The anti-hero lead is Marty Byrde, an everyman accountant who just happens to specialise in money laundering for a ruthless Mexican drug cartel.

Through some quick-talking and a big business proposition Byrde manages to not get killed when the drug lord discovers Byrde's business partner had been skimming millions off the top.

This leads to Byrde frantically skipping town with his family and taking up residence in the small resort community of Ozark.

Upon arrival he has to figure out a way to make good on his life-saving promise to launder ridiculously huge amounts of cash through the town in a ridiculously short amount of time.

In between this happening you get a great scary drug lord routine, an infidelity exposed, bodies being dissolved in barrels of acid, a couple of out of nowhere executions, pregnant strippers, a lesson on a bank's financial and legal requirements in being able to fulfill cash withdrawals, a pretty good - albeit brief- bar fight, some good old fashioned juvenile crime and even a family of criminal hillbillies.

At this point it's probably worth nothing that I've only just finished watching episode two.

So the show moves at a zippy pace and I, for one, am very pleased about that. Slow burns may be so hot right now but they have to be exceptionally well crafted and clever to retain my interest and investment.

Here, the action is unfolding naturally and believably and, most importantly, quickly. I hope they keep it up as the season progresses.

Much like Breaking Bad made likeable comic actor Bryan Cranston a star, Ozark looks to replicate that by bringing in likeable comic actor Jason Bateman to play Byrde. True, both of these guys had done serious stuff before taking these roles, but both were predominantly known for their sitcom roles.

At this early stage it's hard to imagine Marty Byrde having such a thorough transformation as Walter White, but then you could have said the same thing about White after the first couple of BB eps.

Laura Linney and Jason Bateman star in Ozark
Laura Linney and Jason Bateman star in Ozark

While there's been nothing as memorable as White cooking meth in a campervan dressed only in his tighty-whities, Bateman has still had a couple of opportunities to stretch his range and challenge his nice guy persona.

It'll be interesting to see how far he and the writers push it. But as they've already had him seriously contemplating suicide, verbally attacking his marriage and issuing the odd threat here and there it very much appears he'll be setting off down that track at a brisk pace.

It's far too early to predict which way Byrde, and by extension the show, is going to fall. But these initial episodes, stylishly produced, tightly scripted, well acted and plenty gripping, all suggest that the worse things get for Byrde, the better the show is gonna get for us.