In Its Third Season, Ozark Threatens to Become a Good Show


Ozark, a show that started off as a poor man’s Breaking Bad with worse acting and a lot worse writing, has a lot of angles and plot pivots to play in Season Three. None get more mileage than the modern marital fears of Boomers/ Gen X. I include the label because I was surprised how many of the trust issues depicted relate to that of my parents and parents I know. But unfortunately as it always has, Ozark proves there’s no interesting ground it can’t under-develop.

Logline: A man, Marty Byrde (Golden Globe/ Emmy Winner Jason Bateman) finds out his wife Wendy (3x Academy Award nominee Laura Linney) is cheating on him the same day he discovers his now dead partner has been laundering money for a Mexican Drug Cartel. He then uproots his family from Chicago to the Ozarks to take over for his dead partner.

This show has so much potential. Netflix can give it limitless production value, Jason Bateman is talented enough, and Laura Linney makes for an equal sparring partner. Julia Garner is also a real find. And then you have character actors that manage to do a lot with comparatively little: Peter Mullan as Jacob Snell in the early series and now, this season Tom Pelphrey as Ben Davis, Wendy’s brother is an excellent destabilizing force.

What’s disappointing about Ozark is that it’s much too long. Every season is a ten episode series with about 6-8 episodes worth of ideas. Considering their pricing model and structure, Netflix and MRC would be wise to limit the episode order and shave 1 or 2 episodes off, heating up the intensity. This is a show I’ve always watched in the background, but in Season 3, the increased acclaim coming off shocking Emmy wins for both Jason Bateman and Julia Garner and better than ever consensus reviews, bought me initial interest. The series takes a few surprising swerves with characters hurting characters who shouldn’t be hurt, and the even continually surprising nature of who Jason Bateman’s character is willing to bribe in order to try and control his messes. Finally I found myself completely hooked in by episode five for the first time ever in the series. Then, as ever true to its palette, Ozark seems to go out of its way to cool simmering tension, rather than make truly great television. Its unwillingness to blow up everything it has laid down makes for frustrating television and comes down to a central identity crisis. Who are The Byrdes? The show doesn’t know whether they are Anti-Heroes, as it continually meets them with gruesomely evil hopeless characters who remain undeveloped or presently unthreatening. Or are they the devil themselves? Just the parents though because the kids can’t be bothered to have a plot line. It’s the same issue Dexter failed to deal with which ultimately crumbled it. But true to character Ozark manages to beat low expectations and at least buy itself a little time.

Tidbit:

  • If you like this show, see if you can manage to check out Jason Bateman’s more impressive directing work on The Outsider
  • I suspect Ozark will manage to live another day for a fourth and final season, similar to Stranger Things.
  • List of directors who should direct an episode of this show: Gavin O’Connor (The Accountant), Jodie Foster (Money Monster), David Slade (Black Mirror/ Hannibal), Johan Renck (Chernobyl); although he states he only does TV if he could do all the episodes in a season. The latter half of this season was directed by TV veteran Alik Sakharov.

    Ozark (2017)

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