A few Fridays back, Netflix released the first half of the fourth and final season of Ozark, their award-winning crime drama starring Jason Bateman and Laura Linney — less than two weeks after the streaming platform gave us the hotly anticipated Season 2 of their hit-docuseries Cheer.
Ozark, which follows Marty and Wendy Byrde (Bateman and Linney) along with their two children, on their journey from Chicago suburbanites to Ozark-dwelling money launderers for the cartel, stands on the opposite end of the algorithmic spectrum from Cheer: the athletic docuseries chronicling the ups and downs (literally) of life on and off the mat for junior college cheerleaders in Texas. While Ozark can point to a three and a half season-sized Mentos ball of plot that will soon get dropped in the Coke bottle — the greatest achievement Cheer creators should claim, beyond the series’ widespread success, is the completion of a second season forced to shift its focus entirely after filming began; first due to pandemic re-scheduling and second when one of the series’ biggest and most public stars was indicted on shockingly heinous charges.
It’s safe to say not much binds these two series. Even as I watched them in tandem, I noticed my Netflix account would throw The Great British Baking Show or Arrested Development in between them, as if they might get uncomfortable sitting next to one another. Ozark’s brightest scene barely eclipses Cheer’s darkest, and vice versa. Still, as I mindlessly oscillated between the two shows like a drunk at a tennis match — I couldn’t escape a common name emanating from my TV.
First as the ruthless Navarro drug cartel in Ozark, and then again as Navarro College, the school most prominently featured in Cheer — the name was constant. The explanation is likely as simple as geographical proximity or some other incidental reason, but still, it led to an interesting thought experiment — which characters would fare best in the event of a Jamie Lee Curtis/ Lindsay Lohan Freaky Friday type swap, where we drop characters from one series into the other and see how they’d handle it? A Navarro exchange program, if you will.
To grade how well these characters might manage their new situations, we’ll judge everyone on four key categories: survivability, temperament, athleticism, and intangibles (the catchall), all on a 10-point scale.
Without further ado, here are our candidates:
Ruth Langmore (Ozark)
Ruth is hot-headed and impetuous so it’s difficult to imagine a world where three men throw her in the air for a cheer stunt and return with six testicles. Also, when considering athletic prowess, I’m fairly certain the banner atop the Langmore family trailer reads “run drugs, not sprints.”
For all the attention surrounding junior college cheerleading in small-town Texas, there’s a surprising lack of gambling on the sport. Maybe Ruth can parlay her experience managing a casino into addressing this absence and in turn, spare us all from hearing her Midwestern accent yell “Navarro” repeatedly.
Overall Grade: C
La’Darius Marshall (Cheer)
Could one of Cheer’s most beloved characters go from killing his mat routine to murdering… OK moving on.
Adapting to the cartel lifestyle would be difficult — as shocking as it is for a group of criminals who kill law enforcement and their own family members with relative whimsy, I’m not particularly confident the monsters in Ozark would be in the business of doling out second chances once La’Darius exposes them via Instagram Live.
Still, think of the amount of money the Navarro’s would save on electricity if instead of throwing people like Jason Bateman’s character Marty into a cell and torturing him with loud music, they just send in La’Darius for a marathon roast where he picks apart Marty’s tucked in shirt, khaki wearing, loveless marriage having ass.
Overall Grade: B
Jonah Byrde (Ozark)
Stupid little not-so-little-anymore Jonah.
I root for the Byrdes, and that’s why I struggle with this 14 (but could pass for 26) year-old son of Marty and Wendy who seems hell-bent on ruining everything for the first family of heroin.
In Jonah’s defense, he’s been through a lot, and considering the kid’s emotions towards his mother have been straddling the line of hatred and matricide, maybe a team sport and a new role model would be a smart change of pace.
Overall Grade: D
Monica Aldama (Cheer)
Fine, I’ll say it — the cartel needs better female representation atop their ranks.
The Byrde’s are constantly searching for new avenues to launder money, and what better way than to get Monica entrenched in the local high school where she can milk the teet of local government while simultaneously doing what she loves?
She’ll be washing money for the cartel and coaching cheerleading — literally a perfect pyramid scheme.
Overall Grade: C
Darlene Snell (Ozark)
We could dance around all the ways she would be incorporated into the Navarro Cheer squad — holding the judges loved one’s hostage during competitions or seducing the barely legal boys on the competing teams and poisoning them, but I think we know her role on the team would be different.
She would be the coach, because she would kill Monica in less time than it takes you to finish this sentence.
Overall Grade: F
Jada Wooten (Cheer)
Jada’s a bit too comfortable telling people around her they aren’t doing a good job for her to thrive in an environment full of people who are objectively bad at their jobs — who get killed and replaced more frequently than you wash your bedding.
She seems tough enough to hold her own at times, but in the world of Ozark you have to be prepared to withstand threats against your closest family, and I’m 90% sure someone gesturing broadly towards this girl’s beloved hamster gets whatever information they want.
Overall Grade: B-
Omar Navarro (Ozark)
We had to make sure there was at least one actual Navarro on the list.
Cheer practices would take much longer due to Omar’s compulsive need to remind anyone who speaks to him that they work for him — not the other way around — but that can be worked through.
By far the biggest hurdle is going to be what happens when the head of the cartel inevitably doesn’t make mat (the starting team). The two most likely outcomes would be:
1) Monica and whatever poor soul takes his place don’t show up to practice the next day (or ever again) or —
2) A murderous rampage the likes of which even Tarantino would object to.
Overall Grade: C-
The Winners: Ruth Langmore & La’Darius Marshall
Congratulations to our winners. Transitions are difficult and new homes can be scary, but it’s important to remember, whether it's Corsicana, Texas, or the backwoods of the Ozarks — it could always be worse.
You could be on Paramount Plus.