TV Review: Ozark - Season 2

SYNOPSIS:  In its much-anticipated second season, Ozark continues to follow Marty Bryde and his family as they navigate the murky waters of life within a dangerous drug cartel. With Del out, the crime syndicate sends their ruthless attorney Helen Pierce to town to shake things up just as The Byrdes are finally settling in. Marty and Wendy struggle to balance their family interests amid the escalating dangers presented by their partnerships with the power-hungry Snells, the cartel and their new deputy, Ruth Langmore, whose father Cade has been released from prison. The stakes are even higher than before and The Byrdes soon realize they have to go all in before they can get out.

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REVIEW: A little over a year ago, I was able to review the Netflix series Ozark which I considered a worthy succesor to Breaking Bad and Justified. Set in the titular backwater of Missouri, the series' first season chronicled the Byrde family, led by Marty (Jason Bateman) and Wendy (Laura Linney) as they tried to find a way to repay the Mexican drug cartel they were laundering (and embezzeling) money from. The show introduced a cast of characters ranging from a family of petty criminals led by the ambitious Ruth Langmore (The Americans' Julia Garner), the terminally ill Buddy (Harris Yulin), the vicious Del (Esai Morales), local resort owner Rachel (Jordana Spiro) and the local crime boss Jacob Snell (Westworld's Peter Mullan). The show, created by Bill Dubuque (THE ACCOUNTANT, DC's upcoming NIGHTWING), definitely entertained through a first season that saw twists and turns and plenty of star Jason Bateman with dry wit usally reserved for comedy working beautifully in this dark thriller. With season two, Ozark stays with the same tone and darkness as the first season but expands the scope to include politics, competing crime syndicates, and gives the supporting players even more to do.

Picking up immediately where season one ended, Ozark's first three episodes feel like a natural continuation of the narrative while giving us a lot more depth. The Byrde clan continue to search for a way out of their predicament but now must contend with not only the Mexican cartel's new point person, played by the stellar Janet McTeer, but also a well connected Senator with aspirations of his own. The crux of Marty Byrde's latest plan is a new casino that would be the golden ticket to solving all of the issues forcing his family to remain in Missouri. But, the FBI is still hot on his trail, including the unstable Agent Petty (Jason Butler Harner). Ruth Langmore continues to aspire for better lives for her family which is further convoluted by the release of her father from prison. Everyone on Ozark has at least two problems they are dealing with and it even seems as if there are a few they don't know about yet but must contend with. That doesn't even include the unraveling family dynamic at home which has eldest daughter Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz) doing drugs and son Jonah (Skylar Gaertner) continuing to explore his own criminal aspirations.

From a storytelling perspective, getting both Marty and Wendy united rather than on the verge of divorce as they were in season one goes a long way to making them more intriguing characters. Both Bateman and Linney play beautifully off of one another and are the perfect blend of the machinations of the Underwoods from House of Cards and the relationship of the Whites from Breaking Bad. Bateman and Linney share a chemistry when they share screentime that also allows them to delve further into who their characters are as human beings. Laura Linney gets some stellar solo work in the second and third episodes that makes you question if she is telling the truth or just trying to convince a sucker to do what she wants. Bateman continues to shine at using his comedic timing to punctuate every scene he is in which works both to lighten some scenes while also highlight just how deep his character has gotten into this life of crime. Much like the shift that Bryan Cranston made from Malcolm in the Middle to Breaking Bad, Bateman continues to get more comfortable playing Marty Byrde and giving this character more and more layers hidden beneath a snarky outer layer that belies his true nature.

The supporting cast is top notch as well, led by the great Peter Mullan who makes Jacob Snell into one of the scariest TV villains since Gus Fring. He and his wife, played by Lisa Emery, were just getting started in the first season. Over these first episodes, they represent a second angle to the criminal underworld the Byrdes find themselves involved in that could be just as dangerous as the Mexican cartel and even the Kansas City mob. Ruth and the Langmore clan continue to find themselves involved in all aspects of the Byrde's problems but become even more relatable with the return of patriarch, Cade. Janet McTeer, fresh off a villainous turn on Netflix's Jessica Jones, here plays a cunning attorney whose influence is not fully realized in the first episodes of the season. The strongest new addition to the cast is Darren Goldstein (Showtime's The Affair) who plays a Senator whom the Byrdes involve in their plans for a riverboat casino. Needless to say, he seems helpful but like all TV politicans, he has his own plans that may or may not put him at odds with our protagonists.

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Despite wanting to direct all episodes of the first season, Jason Bateman ended up tackling four entries in the freshman season that truly showed he has the ability to juggle drama on screen and behind the camera. Of the first three chapters of season two, Bateman sets the tone by helming the first two. The dark blues and blacks of the Ozarks after nightfall pervade the series and give it the trademark look seen in all of the trailers. Season two also shifts the action a lot more frequently to cities, capital buildings, and some intense action sequences. The profanity and nudity is all still there and Ozark seems to be aiming to fill the gap soon to be left behind by House of Cards. There is also a great use of music that continues from the first season along with the mysterious glyphs that open each episode, hinting at the events to unfold over the next hour.

Ozark remains a very entertaining series and one that does not deviate much from the formula it developed last year. The episodes of season two start out without missing a beat and pick up as if they all debuted at the same time. Narratively, this season adds a lot more subplots to the mix without increasing the episode count which may cause issues for tying things up by season's end. I did find myself wondering where characters were only for them to reappear an entire episode later. Ozark is not so overly complicated that you will find yourself having to revisit the first season to figure out where you left off, but with how easy it is to fall into the wheelings and dealings of these characters, you may want to. Season two is not a marked improvement over the first but it didn't have to be. It succeeds in being just as good and that is good enough heading into the Fall television season.

Ozark's second season premieres August 31st on Netflix.

Source: JoBlo.com



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