Ozark: Season 2 Review
Netflix’s family crime drama the Ozark is back for a second season, continuing right where it left off and injecting new life into the series. It progresses characters well, takes actions to both excite and shock, while still keeping the main elements alive that made it so captivating in the first place. While the first season concentrated on money laundering and Marty (Jason Bateman) convincing the cartel that he can clean their money efficiently, the second tackles the emotional, physical and financial abuse the actions of the Byrde family has had on the popular holiday destination.
Episode one immediately reintroduces the Byrde family and shows a new dynamic of openness, with the kids being just as clued in to the “family business”. The breakfast table conversation is both hilarious and terrifying, instantly gripping your attention. Although it doesn’t take too long to be reminded of what happened last season, a refresher or previously section would have been welcomed. Regardless, the main families are reintroduced in quick succession, reminding you of the past and giving insight onto where they’re likely to be heading.
Jacob and Darlene Snell, the local drug kingpins, are dealing with the situation after killing Del (the Mexican drug boss). The Langmore’s, Ruth, Wyatt, Three and Cade, deal with life in general and the loss of Wyatt’s father Russ last season. FBI agent Petty deals with the repercussions of his previous actions, Rachel (Owner of Blue Cat Bar) remains on the run with cartel money and Mason (the preacher) is now on the streets with his new-born son. Additionally, this season has incorporated a plethora of new characters. Some fall by the wayside as at times can be quite overcrowded, but a few shine through to stand out from the crowd. Most notable is Helen Pierce (Janet McTeer), the attorney of the Mexican Navarro cartel, who is simply outstanding; she has very little to do in terms of performance but her impact steals scenes and is easily the most memorable.
The main story-arc focuses on the build of a new casino, subsequently getting the law changed to allow another casino in the region and land in which to build it on. This introduces political corruption which, at times, was quite convoluted and messy. Also bringing in new and dishonest characters made the atmosphere feel congested; understandably this is imitating real life but with every character we come into contact with being deceptive and dishonest, it simply makes you yearn for something different. Mason offered that in the first season but there is nothing to match that this time around.
The characters are really well thought out and individual storylines executed well. The dysfunctional marital relationship Marty and Wendy (Laura Linney) develops beautifully, the storyline forces them to work together to overcome a more formidable threat, yet this rips them further apart. Additional character development, like the Snells relationship breakdown, takes time to come to fruition when the outcome is quite obvious; thankfully, the end result is so gratifying nothing else matters.
Last season, the mystery surrounding Buddy was rage inducing in the best possible way. This season, although not treating him like an open book, it certainly provides enough for your imagination to run wild. He is like a modern day Yoda from Star Wars, mysterious yet satisfying. Buddy uniquely brought people’s emotions to the surface but throughout two seasons Marty has been the least emotional; he cares for his family but rarely shows feelings, yet every time these two are on screen, Marty would show his human side, quite beautiful really.
Hands down the shining star was Julia Garner, who portrays Ruth Langmore; arguably, her character has made the biggest transformation and has the most interesting arc. She deals with her abusive and alcoholic father coming out of prison, a sketchy relationship with her two cousins, learning the tricks of the trade from Marty and running businesses. Episode six onwards is where she really has to overcome some emotional obstacles, giving so much depth to her character. On the flipside, the most pointless and overused character was Cade Langmore (Ruth’s father). His addition allows Ruth to develop but last season suggested that he would be more of a threat and make more of an impact, yet simply he is a petty drunk thief.
It’s always going to be difficult for Ozark to get out of the shadows of other successful crime dramas, like Breaking Bad, but this season has certainly taken steps in the right direction to remove all others from the conversation. The characters all have individual personalities, the script is superb, even in filler episodes the writing draws your attention as you wait eagerly for the next step. Quite often in TV shows situations become mundane, obvious and lazy, but in this case the story mixes the clichéd with the unexpected, keeping the audience on their proverbial toes.
Similar to last season, the episodes do not end with any major cliff-hangers, instead they interlink with little time lapses between them. Unlike last season, however, this is far more binge-worthy, the investment into the story and, more importantly the characters, is stronger. Once again, this season climaxes open-ended with a third not necessary but certainly warranted.