Ozark returns for a second season, August 31st on Netflix.
By Matthew Stanford
Ozark stars Jason Bateman and Laura Linney as Marty and Wendy Byrde – a couple with have two children with whom they have relocated to the Ozarks to launder money for a drug cartel. If you have not seen season one, spoilers follow. Catch up!
As a refresher, the first season ended with Pastor Mason Young’s pregnant wife murdered by the Snells, the baby lived and is with Mason now. Buddy who lives with the Byrdes saved their lives by killing drug cartel enforcer Garcia. The Snells also murdered Del because he dared to call them rednecks. The cartel and the Snell’s all wanted Marty and his family to be dead until he came up with the idea of a riverboat casino to help launder everyone’s money. A partnership formed between the Byrde’s, the Cartel and the Snells. The rest of the Bryde clan was on the run to a new home with new identities, but Charlotte convinces Mom that they can’t walk away as they are all part of it now. The Bryde clan is reunited in the Ozarks and ready to face the horrors upcoming.
Season 2 picks up pretty much right away. The dominant driving force this year is the Byrde’s have six months to build a casino in the Ozarks. Like all of Marty’s other businesses, this will be used to launder money. There are many balls in the air to make this happen including but not limited to: The Snells, The Langmores, The FBI, The Cartel, existing businesses, a baby, angry preacher, local government, dead bodies and a whiny teenage daughter. In other words, a lot is going on that could lead anyone to the breaking point.
Both Bateman and Linney continue to be fantastic in their roles. I find them both to be believable characters that are continually lying and maneuvering to keep themselves and their family afloat. Their son Jonah is also a standout. He is clearly the stronger actor of the two children, and they give him a lot to chew on. Janet McTeer plays an enforcer/lawyer for the cartel, and she is menacing in this role!
The biggest standout, however, is Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner) who is trying to escape the curse of the Langmore name at the same time trying to take care of everyone around her. In a show about questionable morality, I find her character to be the most likable character. There are so many layers to Garner’s performance, and I suspect she will be receiving a nomination when Emmy season comes around.
The pacing is better than the first season. There is always a lot going on, but most plot lines are not dragged out. It is great to see growth in characters as the season goes on as well. The majority of their actions and feelings are grounded in the reality of how someone may act in that situation.
The character of Charlotte, unfortunately, fell into the stereotypical teenage daughter plotline. Sometimes shows can make this work and be an excellent driving force for the action (The Americans), but most time it is incredibly grating (Homeland). Charlotte’s characters actions throughout the season make no sense given her statements about family in the season 1 finale.
I also am not fond of the direction of Darlene Snell. She comes across as too over the top and cartoonish. The show tries to establish that she has always been a little crazy, but it is hard to believe that a person in her situation would make the decisions that she does.
The second season of a well-received drama is a difficult task. Occasionally shows take a considerable step forward in the second season (Leftovers, Breaking Bad, Halt and Catch Fire), but more frequently they are a disappointment (True Detective, Bloodline, Heroes). Ozark somehow defies both of these occurrences. It is neither better or worse than the first season. It felt like a true sequel and continuation of the story. If you disliked season 1, there would not be anything here to change your mind. If you loved season 1, you will love this as well. This is an incredibly dark show, but there are some moments of levity here and there. One significant disadvantage is the title of the show. A lot of the story and action is around the Bryde’s trying to escape the Ozarks, but given the title of the show, we can all assume they are there to stay. I continue to be a fan of this series and hope that it extends beyond the second season.
I give Ozark Season 2 a B.