Laura Linney steals the show as Wendy Byrde as she nears full Heisenberg mode in Ozark’s bloody, tense and treacherous series three. Beware, spoilers abound…
The debut series reeled us in and the sequel made us sigh. The third series has waterboarded us, demanding our loyalty to Byrde Enterprises – and we are only too happy to oblige.
Although Ozark mirrors Breaking Bad pretty explicitly in that the Byrdes are middle-class-gone-bad, it doesn’t feel like a rip off at any point, more of a reimagining.
If anything, this is a much more plausible proposition – after all, in suburban America there are more financial industry types liable to stumble into the white collar aspects of the drug trade than there are elite chemists prepared to become the foremost meth manufacturer on the continent.
Ozark succeeds in selling us Wendy Byrde’s dreams of power, politics, casinos and philanthropy in one moment, then forces us to accept its recklessness in the next.
It’s like one friend insisting you have one last drink while the other reminds you there’s work early in the morning… and you work for a sociopathic Mexican drug lord.
Linney’s fearsome plate-spinning for the first two-thirds of the season is made all the more impressive by her portrayal of the moments when they begin to fly out of control, eventually crashing to earth in a violent crescendo that sees her weeping alone in the kitchen.
Marty (Jason Bateman) on the other hand cuts a pathetic figure for the most part – things just happen to him. He spends most of the series putting out fires and begging for time.
This is fine, though, because this is truly Wendy’s series – watching her frenemies relationship blossom with Helen is tantalising in the same way the Cuban Missile Crisis must have been.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the series is Wendy’s brother, Ben. He appears in the Ozarks unannounced via a bizarrely violent sketch. We learn he’s bipolar and it feels as if this particular spanner was thrown into the works a tad clumsily.
However, this shouldn’t detract from how expertly the writers manage to drag your heart with his mood swings. You find yourself rolling your eyes at his ridiculous moves that jeopardise OUR empire, only to want to hold him and tell him it’s ok when he begins drowning in tears and consequences.
The tactfulness of the portrayal of bipolar disorder is up for debate but it’s important to remember these events aren’t taking place in real time.
Ozark is perfectly poised as its enters its fourth series, giving viewers enough to debate and guess at while delivering a satisfying mic-drop finale in Mexico. If it stays the right side of ludicrous and continues to discipline the Byrdes’ ascent in the public eye, this show can only get better and better.
All series of Ozark are available to stream on Netflix.