It was nearly a year ago that I posted one of my first reviews for the site as I took a chance on the severely under marketed crime drama series Ozark. Thankfully, I was not disappointed and you can read my review of its first season here. With the impending release of its second season, this show has again been terribly under marketed by Netflix which is a travesty because it deserves much better than this. That doesn’t mean that this show can’t thrive thanks to the best form of marketing: word of mouth.
The main story of season two revolves around the Byrde family as they devise a plan to appease the cartel while secretly fleeing the country in the aftermath of Del’s untimely death. Marty decides the best option is to build a casino on Jacob and Darlene Snell’s land as a joint venture with the cartel to settle their differences and create a bigger empire. Unfortunately, the government has roadblocks in place that prove difficult for this expansion prompting Wendy to befriend local benefactor Charles Wilkes who helps her schmooze with the Missouri elite. While the Byrdes are content with their plan, they are constantly forced to maneuver through a mountain of obstacles as faces old and new pose problems that could jeopardize their family.
Ozark’s first season drew parallels to the highly successful series Breaking Bad in that it followed a father in a fish out of water situation as he works with criminals and cartels to build an enterprise and gets deeper and deeper in over his head. The unique difference between these two shows was that Marty’s wife Wendy was also in on the scheme unlike in Breaking Bad where the main character opted to keep family and business separate. This left the series open to two options going into season two: follow to the beat of the Breaking Bad drum or carve its own path. Thankfully these Byrdes decide to fly and they soar.
At the center of this season is yet again the dynamic performances and chemistry of the two leads Jason Bateman and Laura Linney. The partnership between these two is so complex and yet they know what roles they need to fill in order to get things done. This dynamic was most recently seen on Netflix’s other highly successful show House of Cards so hopefully fans of that show and those characters can find something to like with the Byrdes. Another aspect of their relationship that became more prominent was the parallels between the Byrdes and the Snells as the season went on. It appeared as if Marty and Wendy could see bits of themselves in Jacob and Darlene more and more as the season wore on.
Aside from the two Byrde parents, a few other characters stand out in this season. Jacob and Darlene go through their own subplot as they try to come to terms with working alongside the cartel which gives us a better look into their relationship and the power dynamic that resides there. Other returning characters and their storylines that continued to impress were the narcissistic housemate Buddy, Pastor Mason and his search for his wife, Jonah’s own business ventures, and Wyatt’s search for the truth about his father. Again Julia Garner steals the show as Ruth Langmore as she is given a lot more to do in this season that helps build the world that these people reside in.
There are a few new characters who end up being incredibly important and create a new level of tension for the show. Cade Langmore is released from prison and tries to coerce his daughter into helping him with various criminal ventures. Charles Wilkes develops a professional and personal relationship with the Byrdes as they try to keep his hands as clean as they can. Finally, Helen Pierce (Janet McTeer), the new cartel attorney sent to oversee the deal with the Snells makes an instant impact with her devilish charm. Each of these characters are great supports to the storylines they inhabit. Unfortunately, some of the characters digressed from last season and found themselves terribly uninteresting. Agent Petty and Rachel are two characters from the previous season that fit very awkwardly into the direction the story hopes to take. The biggest disappointment is definitely Charlotte Byrde who appeared to be developing into quite the layered character, but becomes a very one-dimensional complainer.
A lot of shows live or die in their acting, but Ozark has so much more than that. The story is a great examination of the criminal network of the Southern United States and its relationship with cartels and the government. While some parts of the story are slightly foreshadowed, it is by no means predictable as each episode has at least one jaw dropping moment. The well written story is rivaled by the astute attention to detail shown in the direction and cinematography. Jason Bateman directs a couple of episodes this season and proves he has a knack for dramatic storytelling as the dark, chilling and hostile atmosphere of the Ozarks creeps right out of the screen. This is helped by some surreal cinematography that looks like part of a Roger Deakins film. (I will note that there was one continuity error in the final episode to do with a text conversation where two phones show different messages, sorry I’m a stickler for good continuity).
This season of Ozark proves the strength of the series as it doubles down on the dark, crime atmosphere it established. The smartly written script, gripping characters and captivating performances are equally rivaled by strong direction and cinematography that all culminate in a chilling, thrilling story. From its strong emotional moments to its jaw dropping ones, this season shows that these Byrdes can soar so it’s worth the watch.
*Season 2 of Ozark will be available on Netflix starting Friday, August 31st*
What did you think of Ozark? Was it better than last season? Let me know in the comments!
On top of writing reviews for this site, I also post video reviews on my YouTube channel The Film Fanatic where we post other content like countdown videos, movie recommendations, script analyses and more.