Ozark (Season 4) Part 2 – 2022

“I’ve been in the system somewhere since I was three years old crawling around through cat flaps for my daddy.”

Getting out clean has been easier said than done for the Byrde family after Marty (Jason Bateman) and Wendy (Laura Linney) decided to uproot their comfortable lives in Chicago and move to the Ozarks. Not that they had a choice, Marty’s former partner was skimming profits from their employers, the Navarro cartel in which Marty is cleaning the money for. Little did Marty and Wendy know, but every life they come in contact with in the Ozarks is destroyed despite how good of seminarians they project themselves to be. After all the scheming and the fraudulent activity to appear as legitimate business owners, the final seven episodes of season 4 is ready to wrap things up in a not so fluid manner. 

Picking up where part 1 leaves off, starts an explosive back half, much of the same but with unexpected twists and turns coming around every corner. Let’s face it, since season 1 a wrench has been permanently thrown into the mix to further spiral the Byrde’s plans out of control. No different in the final 7 episodes. Leave it till the finale where deals are still up in the air with roughly the last hour of storytelling left and the Byrde family as a whole including Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz) and Jonah (Skylar Gaertner) aren’t safe nor the same page. But in the show’s final moments, the Byrde family has never been closer to one another as their safety is finally guaranteed. 

Directed largely by series regular Amanda Marsalis, the focus remains on the women of the series. No longer does Wendy sit idly by and let Marty make every decision for the family, Wendy’s trajectory over the course of the series has been astronomical compared to Marty. And Laura Linney grabs the bull by the horns and commands the show. Equal parts sinister, unpredictable, compassionate, and ruthless, its Linney’s Wendy that is the comparable character to Walter White or Tony Soprano. Nothing will stand in her way from protecting her family – not even her estranged father Nathan (Richard Thomas) searching for her long-lost brother Ben (Tom Pelphry).

Opposite Wendy is Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner) on a warpath following episode 7. No family has been affected more from the Byrde’s arriving in the Ozarks than the Langmore’s. 4 of the 6 members of the family perish at the hands of Marty and Wendy – directly or indirectly. To be fair, Ruth was under their employ for 3 of the deaths. Once again, its Garner giving everything in her power to Ruth – the frustration, the sadness, the rage, gives Ozark its center of morality, the most prominent source among the shows 4 seasons. From her thick accent to the way she swings her arms while walking off aggressively, Garner continues to hold her own against Linney and Bateman. 

For 6 years and 4 seasons, Ozark has been in the conversation with some of the heavy hitters in the same genre. While featuring the same general theme of family and protecting them at any and all cost, it’s the execution of the earlier seasons that keep the thoughts grounded. Over the course of the time that we are with the Byrde family, what keeps sparking interest to return the series is the atmospheric tension and gloomy tone the show consistently carries over from season to season. Even more so the stakes involved in this life. At any moment, any character could die by either Omar (Felix Solis) confirming it or a random passerby who turns out to play a larger role later on. But it all branches off from Wendy and Marty. From their purchasing decisions to their next deal, none of their actions are without consequence. 

Leave it to the solid writing throughout to narratively weave the storyline through unexpected avenues. In Ozark the past never stays buried even if Marty and Wendy are well beyond thinking about what and who they screwed over – old characters like Rachel (Jordana Spiro) made her way back to her roots and her hatred for Marty and Wendy. Oftentimes predictable with where a character is mentally – they will act as expected. Keeping true to her character Ruth at some point would get her hands dirty if pushed far enough. And it took a lot of pushing for Ruth to go over the edge. 

With crime dramas like Ozark and others that come before it – the characters become morally corrupted over time. They start as the hero since the depiction is of a good family that gets worse season to season but the Byrde’s were corrupted well before meeting them. Both Marty and Wendy agreed to launder money for a drug cartel knowing well what the endgame could be. 

Possibly the most underrated aspects of the series as a whole are the color grading and pacing. Full of blue, dimmable colors that set a somber tone, danger is always meant to be depicted as a black cloud stalking the Byrde family from business to business as they suck its resources dry and move on. Whereas the pacing, thunderous music by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, and editing match the speed of the schemes and deals Wendy and Marty make to stay alive for just one more day. Its where most of the tension is built and when it finally reaches peak volatility, any character is capable of violence. 

Season 4 certainly has its questionable moments of character arc’s and how they fit in overall, mostly when the focus is placed on Marty, but for the most part, the narrative thread is par for the course. The show does however loose momentum during the power struggle between Wendy, Jonah and Nathan. Even more when Sam (Kevin L. Johnson) gets screen time. Not everything is wrapped up perfectly but keeping true to the Byrde family’s narcissistic nature, who cares, as long as they are all alive and free of the Navarro cartel’s burden. One thing is absolute with Ozark, it may not end pretty or happily ever after but its satisfying nonetheless.

Who knew a bottlenecked traffic jam would set Marty off in a spine-chilling sequence in the episode directed by Linney? 

Looking back, there is no doubt that Ozark deserves the praise it received over the course of its 4-year story. One season shorter than Breaking Bad, the conclusion may not sit well with how frantic the finale played out. But in the end, creators Bill Dubuque and Mark Williams along with show runner Chris Mundy told their story their way. Ozark is a breath of fresh air to the crime genre that boats brilliant performances from the ensemble cast (mostly the women) and expertly crafted tension and anxiety induced pacing. Now that all is said and done and it’s assumed the Byrde family is safely back in Chicago, their time and impact in the Ozarks will never be forgotten or overlooked as a powerhouse series.

Created By: Bill Dubuque & Mark Williams

Episodes Directed By: Amanda Marsalis, Melissa Hickey, Laura Linney & Jason Bateman

Music By: Danny Bensi & Saunder Jurriaans

Cinematography: Ben Kutchins & Armando Salas

Starring: Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, Sofia Hublitz, Skylar Gaertner, Julia Garner, Jordana Spiro, Felix Solis, Verónica Falcón, Richard Thomas, Katrina Lenk, Charlie Tahan, Adam Rothenberg, Damian Young

Where to Watch: Netflix

Release Date: April 29, 2022

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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