By John Ruberry
After a nearly two-year gap, the Netflix series Ozark is back with Season Four. Actually, this is Part One of Season Four, which consists of seven episodes. Part Two of this season, also consisting of seven episodes, will be released later this year and then Ozark will conclude.
The series, if you haven’t heard of it, is centered on the Byrde family from the Chicago suburb of Naperville. Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) is a financial planner whose firm launders money for a Mexican drug cartel. As I mentioned in my first Ozark review, this is not a wise idea. As he is about to be murdered after the cartel discovers money is being skimmed, Bryde convinces his assassins that the Lake of the Ozarks area of Missouri is an ideal place to launder even more money for the drug fiends. Byrde quickly departs for the Ozarks with his family, which is comprised of his wife Wendy (Laura Linney), their teen daughter Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz), and their younger son Jonah (Skylar Gaertner).
The Lake of the Ozarks area is hardly crime free paradise, and they quickly encounter two other criminal families, the Snells and the trailer dwelling Langmores.
Skipping way ahead to season four, the interactions, alliances, and betrayals among these three families continues. The FBI, here shown as an underhanded and conflicted agency, you know, kind of like the real FBI of the 21st century, is trying to break the cartel–through the Byrdes. Oh, the Kansas City mob has a presence here too. As does a big pharmaceutical firm.
By the time viewers reach the current season, the plots and subplots of Ozark are quite complicated. So if you want to enjoy Ozark–and I believe you will–you must start with the first season. However, Ozark hasn’t had a new episode in two years and memories, mine for sure, tend to fade. So I found myself, while watching the new episodes, having thoughts like this one: “Hey, whatever happened to that guy, wasn’t he murdered a couple of seasons ago? Who killed him again? And why?” Clearly, Ozark now needs Game of Thrones style recaps.
Bateman, Linney, Hublitz, and Gaertner all deliver captivating performances. However, topping them all is Julia Garner as Ruth Langmore. She’s already received two Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Emmys and I cannot imagine her not getting another nomination at the very least. Also quite good is Lisa Emery as Darlene Snell. Her character is involved in a complex relationship with Ruth’s cousin, Wyatt Langmore (Charlie Tahan).
There’s even a rift in the drug cartel between its head, Omar Navarro (Felix Solis), and his nephew, Javier “Javi” Elzondro (Alfonso Herrera).
While it is set in the Ozarks, most of Ozark is filmed in Georgia. In the latest batch of episodes unlike Season One, the Chicago scenes were filmed in Atlanta. So I found it amusing to see a streetcar in what is supposed to Chicago’s Loop. Chicago hasn’t had streetcar service in decades. A new character, a street-smart Chicago private detective, Mel Sattem (Adam Rothenberg) travels to the Ozarks to investigate a disappearance. He also has a New York accent, not a Chicago one. I mean, hey, if Heath Ledger, an Australian, can do a Chi-CAW-go AXE-cent as the Joker—the Dark Knight was filmed in Chicago–so can others. Here’s a tip: talk through your nose. In an unintentional bit of humor, while discussing a potential move back to Chicago, Marty tells Charlotte that Chicago will be “safe.” Clearly, they haven’t been following the dramatic rise in crime in the city since their move to Missouri, including in Lincoln Park, a neighborhood they are considering.
Wendy was a Democratic Party operative in Illinois. She’s conspiring, as she did in season three, with Republicans to buy respectability for the Byrdes. During that alliance-building the Republicans look really bad. But I have to point out Illinois, which is essentially a one-party state, a Democrat one, is one of the most corrupt states in the country. And let’s not forget Wendy is the matriarch of a money-laundering family. But the Republicans are the villains here. In Season Four, “Republican” is used in the dialogue twice. “Democrat” not once.
All four seasons of Ozark are streaming on Netflix. It is rated TV-MA for graphic violence, drug use, obscene language, and nudity.
John Ruberry regularly blogs from the Chicago area at Marathon Pundit.