“Ozark” (Season 3): Narcos in Missouri
Ozark has set itself apart as one of Netflix’s most popular original series, and this season, in my humble opinion, is the best. (See my reviews of Season 1 -September 2017) and Season 2-October 2018)
In this third season, Ozark has book-ended the journey that began with Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) inventing a plan to launder the Navarro cartel’s drug money in the Ozarks and evolves into the journey of Wendy Byrde (Laura Linney) inventing a plan to create legitimate businesses.
The Byrdes have finally broken bad. In Season One Wendy Byrde is primarily the good Midwestern wife following her husband’s plans, albeit criminal in intent, in order to preserve their marriage and keep their children safe. Now in Season 3 (hinted at in the finale of Season 2) Wendy takes charge. Her previous marginality–the repeated subtle agonies of a woman knowing she could do better–is no more.
So, what happens when the entire family goes from white-collar respectability to all-in involvement in a life of criminal activity? The teenage son and daughter do not push back as they get caught up in their parents’ duplicity. Season 3 is devastating: a witnessing of a nuclear-family-gone-rogue.
Moreover, the Byrde family is not the only one that is cursed no matter what direction they face. The Langmores–particularly Ruth–has fought all her life for agency, for a life that she is in control of. And the Snells, the local Ozark family who has grown poppies and weed for generations, wants their former power back.
The major theme is still hopelessness–even as the main characters struggle with their reality, a denial of how extremely wounded they are. Each Byrde family member gives up a piece of themselves until there is not much remaining to give up. Each dysfunctional family–Byrde, Langmore, and Snell–is viewed under a psychological microscope: revealing tortured souls, in ordeals writhing in a house of pain, truth rattling but not being listened to. Ruth Langmore has few options. And Darlene Snell is viciously cunning. We wait for karma to catch up with her.
Season 3 of Ozark belongs to Laura Linney, who plays the most challenging role: how to evolve from a mother who is besieged by her husband’s wrongheaded decision to a mastermind of money-laundering for a Mexican drug dealer. Jason Bateman is every bit her match, with scenes reminiscent of Ingmar Berman’s classic “Scenes from a Marriage”. Both chilling and close to home for many viewers!