Marty Byrde (played by Jason Bateman), his wife Wendy (Laura Linney), teenage daughter Charlotte and son Jacob continue as criminal minds laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel with roots in Chicago. The introduction of Helen Pierce ( the stunning Janet McTeer) as the attorney for the drug cartel ratchets up the ruthless and cunning subplots that made Season 1 of “Ozark” (see September 20, 2017 review) so addictive to watch.
The Byrdes are finally settling in to the Ozarks, compartmentalizing their illegal activities which they excel at with their determination to instill family values in their children which they fail at.
Dangers are everywhere–within their family, obviously from the cartel, but also from an Ozark family “cursed” to a life of crime–the Langmores– and from another Ozark family–the Snells– who are heavily involved with both local politics and maintaining their own hold on distributing illegal drugs from their “poppy” farm.
Ironically, Ruth Langmore (talented newcomer Julia Garner), yearns for a way out of the “curse” blocking her attempts to find the family and values she wants.
All three deformed families conjure up writhing snakes in a pit in which survival is ugly, bloody, and momentary advantage is the key stratagem.
The Byrdes find that every transaction involves betrayal, violence, and passive witnessing of atrocity. In the process, each member of the family gives up a piece of themselves until there is not much remaining of themselves to give up.
Marty’s mantra is that we all make our own choices and are responsible for how our lives turn out. But “Ozark” demonstrates–like “Breaking Bad” and “Dexter”–that circumstances can limit our options, until we become so flawed that we feel cornered and trapped with no options.
In Ozark season 2 we wonder how it will end: Will the Byrdes – and their children – ever be able to feel safe, secure, and content?
This season is even better than the first in tackling the corrupting power of wealth and greed, human nature, and the ties that bind a family and define it.
Note: Ozark is a Netflix Original series.