After an above average first season and an uneven second season, Ozark has finally found its footing and become the layered and nuanced character driven drama it has always strived to be. Gone are the days of gratuitous violence, ramped up drama, and unnecessary character deaths. Those days have been replaced with flashbacks, family history and character vulnerability – and the Netflix viewing public is better for it.
Tensions abound almost immediately as we find Marty (Jason Bateman) and Wendy Byrde (Laura Linney) deep in the throes of marriage counseling. It appears that laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel, partnering with the Kansas City Mafia and running a Casino, all while trying to hold their family together has taken a toll on their marriage. That makes sense, I suppose.
To complicate matters, Wendy’s estranged brother Ben (Tom Pelphry) has decided (much to Marty’s chagrin) to move to the Ozarks and rekindle his relationship with his sister. When Ben is introduced, it’s clear he’s a loose cannon and that his move to Missouri won’t make the Bryde family’s life any easier.
As the season progresses, Marty becomes marginalized and although his money laundering talents are still an integral piece of the operation’s successT, they AND he may not be essential. As the cartel, mafia and familial walls close in on Marty, he’s feeling the pressure. Wendy wants to expand operations, cartel attorney Helen Pierce (Janet McTeer) needs to bring in more cash and surrogate daughter/protégé Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner) is focused on skimming the casino more efficiently.
To complicate matters for Bryde Enterprises, the FBI has placed forensic accounting agent Maya Miller (Jessica Frances Duke) inside of the Bryde’s casino to monitor operations and to arrest and/or flip Marty. Maya, who is pregnant and incorruptible, seems to be the only person in Missouri without skeletons in her closet and is the most morally pure character in all three seasons of the Ozark universe.
Ozark remains dark, in both literal and figurative tone, and nowhere is this more relevant than in the romantic relationship involving manipulative Missouri crime patriarch Darlene Snell (Lisa Emery) and emotionally vulnerable teenager Wyatt Langmore (Charlie Tahan), who is forty years her junior. Cleary, in season three, women are in charge and male leadership, is not as revered, or even as necessary, as it was in seasons past. This theme reaches a crescendo in the final moments of the last episode where male middle management is castrated, via shotgun, by a dominant female figure.
Season three of Ozark is so spectacular that it almost seems to be a different show than the previous seasons. In fact, I would go so far as to recommend watching season three if you haven’t watch the first two seasons. It’s just that good.
GROCERY STORE VODKA & BETRAYALS
- Bateman, Linney, and Garner are their superb usual selves, but the season belongs to Tom Pelphry. The former Guiding Light star is nothing short of phenomenal, has to have the early lead for the Best Supporting Actor Emmy, and portrays those who battle Bipolar Disorder with grace, dignity and depth. I am sure a leading role, in either movies or television, isn’t far away.
- The act that proceeds Wendy’s grocery store Vodka binge is difficult to watch and Linney, in typical fashion, delivers in clutch time.
- Jessica Frances Duke is a welcome addition to the cast in her role as current season FBI antagonist, but I still miss Agent Petty. This character should have been in the series for the long run, and his death at the end of last season was rushed, sloppy and unnecessary.
- For all of the ‘Girl Power’ exhibited in season three, there was a shocking amount of dearth in the characters of Byrde children Jonah (Skylar Gaertner) and Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz).
- Bateman has directed a total of eight episodes. Between Ozark and The Outsider, he is quietly becoming one of the best television directors in the business.