Sometimes I feel like a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, all smiley and everything nice most of the time, but I allow myself to go to the dark side when I get absorbed by characters on the screen and on the page. Cathartically and vicariously, I get to be a crazy rich Asian with beautiful women hanging by my coattails or a hardboiled detective solving a baffling crime or, my personal favourite, a wannabe crime lord with a burgeoning crime empire and lots of dead bodies in my wake. Netflix’s Ozark is my guilty pleasure of the third kind.
The second season finds Marty (Jason Bateman) and Wendy Byrde (Laura Linney) juggling family life and dealing with the cartel’s attorney Helen Pierce (Janet McTeer), as well as the Snells and Langmore Ruth (Julia Garner).
If Season 1 has heavy shades of Breaking Bad, Season 2 forges a slightly different path with Wendy Byrde (Laura Linney) taking more of the limelight, but there is still no mistaking the hues and narrative tracks of Breaking Bad. Being compared to the seminal masterpiece of an ordinary family man evolving to become a crime lord is not necessarily a bad thing, but I would think the writers would use Season 2 to breakaway and forge a new direction.
The first half lacks invention and the sickening euphoria of discovery. By that I mean the narrative strategy is simply to pile up problems and more problems for the Byrdes to solve, because they are in the unique position to keep the fraught balance between the cartel and the Snells in place. For most of the first 5 episodes I find myself drifting in and out the laboured situations. Marty and Wendy have become reactive characters, not proactive and I found myself plotting out how all the narrative threads will play out. That’s not a good thing.
Then the second half started to lay on the surprises because endings that I had predicted reached their crescendos in mid-season. This season also sees Wendy coming into the foreground and her new found purpose in herself is compelling. If Marty’s character feels like he is regressing to a safe spot, especially after a traumatising event, Wendy muscled up to hold the fort and the family together. Her character arc was particularly revelatory and absolutely satisfying.
Season 2 remains edgy and engrossing, and I must say I was surprised by the demise of quite a few major players. Don’t worry, I will not reveal who they are, and I must say the dispatching of most of them hits the spot for me. The narrative structures of a couple of episodes are truly inspired, especially the one that begins with a lengthy flashback on a couple (not the one you are thinking about) and the ending sent a cold chill down my spine. The acting continues to be top tier and the introduction of a new character, the cold hard bitch of a lawyer Helen Pierce, adds steel to the story and she has some of the best lines…
“Don’t f*ck with me. Don’t f*ck with my client. He’ll kill your children. He’ll gut your wife. Do you want to know what he will do to you?”
“I am a lawyer. I move words around.”
“This is the first law of power. Those who can, shit on others. Those who can’t, clean it up.”
Onwards to extreme negotiations and cockamamie schemes of S3…