‘Ozark’ is a thrilling but unsatisfying look at a criminal family


Writing a review of a television series when you’re not fully sure whether it is a good one is a strange thing to do.

image via netflix

In any case, here I am, deconstructing Netflix’s Ozark, which today releases its last seven episodes.

As soon as the first episode aired in 2017 with Jason Bateman’s fascinating and powerful depiction of a guy under tremendous stress, I was hooked. To avoid the wrath of their boss, Marty Byrde, a Mexican drug cartel’s finance manager and hidden money launderer, has to leave his family behind in the Ozarks.


Because of this, Ozark is more likely to be remembered as an entertaining thrill ride than a well-thought-out series with an overarching morality, given that it’s nearing its conclusion.

Therein lies one of the series’ greatest flaws: it has evolved from an engaging character study into a series of rising and more absurd threats against the family that is sliding further and deeper into crime. It’s like “Breaking Bad: The Family Edition,” except better.

Prior to joining the cartel, Marty set out on a five-year quest to launder $500 million to demonstrate his value and independence from his partner’s skimming. While his children had no idea what their father worked for a career, his wife Wendy (a strong and sarcastic Laura Linney) was largely concerned with keeping the family together when the programme initially started.


What a difference a year can make. ‘Tis the season!

A family that has been involved in criminal activity for generations.

The Byrde family is currently involved in a complex scheme to free cartel leader Omar Navarro from federal custody, neutralise his cunning and ruthless nephew Javier, establish themselves as major philanthropists (wholly legitimately), and mend a rift with the kids caused by Wendy’s decision to engineer Ben’s murder last season. The final episodes of the show will be released on Sunday.


Ruth Langmore is played by Julia Garner.

There is more: Because of Javier’s murder of her cousin Wyatt and the Byrdes’ betrayal of her, Julia Garner’s tough-as-nails Ruth Langmore — a character who began as Marty’s assistant before falling in love with Ben and ending up estranged from the family as a result of his death — is enraged and vows vengeance against Javier and his family.

On a programme notorious for lavishly doling out information, it’s a lot.


As a result, I’ve already watched the series finale, which was made available to reviewers ahead of time through Netflix’s last set of episodes. To be quite honest, I wasn’t all that impressed. When a show has as many storylines in motion as Ozark does, the closing episodes might seem hurried as the characters hurry past the obstacles in their path.

A large part of Ozark’s popularity stems from the fast-paced nature of the perilous hurdles the Byrdes face. When Wendy and Marty clean up their hair after being shot by Navarro’s attorney (and getting her brains and blood out of it), they meet Javier, who goes to the Ozarks and kills their local sheriff just as a private investigator arrives looking for Navarro’s now-missing attorney. This happens in just one episode from earlier in the season.

An anticlimactic finale may be hard to swallow when the series’ forwards momentum is so crucial to its appeal.


The frantic pace of Ozark also prevents you from thinking too much about how absurd the plotlines have gotten. For example, take a look at this narrative from the last several episodes: Wendy admits herself into a psychiatric institution to prevent her children from moving home with her father.

Even though the family is only days away from a lavish dinner designed to create their charity foundation, she has already emphasised that they cannot afford to frighten major contributors with any kind of controversy. As a result, why is she ready to put the foundation’s organiser in a psychiatric institution just before a major event?

When Marty threatens to tell a cartel bigwig anything about Ruth that might result in her death unless she intervenes to save their children from going to Wendy’s father, it is a spoiler. Despite the fact that Ruth still partly blames her cousin’s murder on the Byrdes and Wendy for her father’s death, Marty visits her again and the two enjoy a chuckle over their unusual past.


That’s why Ozark may be so difficult to swallow at times. Characters often behave in illogical ways in order to advance the story or bring two characters together in a memorable sequence.

As a byproduct of storytelling on Netflix, where producers want viewers to watch numerous episodes in a row, it necessitates a continual stream of discoveries and twists over a lengthy period of time.

The tale of ‘Ozark’ tells a lot.


A number of significant characters are killed off in the show’s conclusion (again, saying who would be a spoiler). While Ozark’s high death toll does make watching the show a guessing game about who gets killed next, it’s also true that the show’s high number of deaths has made the show more exciting to watch since viewers can’t wait to see what happens next.

However, the deaths of the characters also help to focus the show’s attention on the family. One area where Ozark and Breaking Bad differ is in the effect of crime on a family. Before he was forced to accept that his actions atomized his family and he did it all to legitimise himself, Bryan Cranston’s Walter White justified his transformation from a high school science teacher to methamphetamine kingpin by saying he was doing it to protect his family.

According to Ozark, things aren’t as they seem. There’s a message here about how certain individuals may prosper in the midst of widespread evil that seems depressingly true to our times, and you’ll see how it unifies the Byrdes when you watch the last episode.


Javier is played by Alfonso Herrera.

As a result of the show’s handling of minorities, I’m likewise concerned. Alfonso Herrera’s charismatic portrayal of a gorgeous, smooth-talking psychopath is the star of the show, despite the fact that all of the Latinx characters are cartel members. While watching Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul, I saw a similar growing character stereotype in Javier’s portrayal of psychopath cartel head Lalo Salamanca, played by Tony Dalton. There aren’t many Black characters left in the programme, and they’ve been marginalised in the previous few episodes.

I was invested in these individuals until the very last moment, which, to be honest, reminded me a lot of the climax of The Sopranos. Despite my scepticism about what was going on, I was nevertheless curious about who had survived and who had perished and how their tales ended.


Those performers, especially Linney as the most cruel Byrde family member and Garner, who has shown the emotional core underneath Ruth’s spitfire façade, are to be commended for their performances. “Wendy’s hypocritical and covertly violent father, played by Richard Thomas, who played idyllic John-Boy Walton in the ’70s-era family drama The Waltons, shines here.”

Those great actors who lost their characters in this process, from Esai Morales’ Del Rio, to Janet McTer’s doomed Helen Pierce, and to Tom Pelphrey’s tragically underrated turn as Ben, should also be recognised for their performances. Ben, a character with bipolar disorder, saw the true horror of the Byrde family business better than anyone else.

Even though the programme didn’t exactly fulfil my notion of outstanding television, these performers and the delectable situations they were placed in had me watching every episode of Ozark.


Because of this, I’ll miss the series, which somehow found a way to make a family’s decline into cruelty both amusing, fascinating, and revealing all at once.

Leave a Comment