Stars: Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, Sofia Hublitz
Netflix allows you to control not only what you watch, but also how fast you watch it. You can stream your shows 1.25 or 1.5 times faster than their creators intended them to be seen; a one hour show turns into 45 minutes. It was only by watching the new batch of “Ozark 2022” episodes, the first half of the drama’s final season, with a final set to come to a date to be named later. that I understood why someone might use them.
That’s not to say that watching “Ozark 2022-” is a pittance to speed up: The series, a perennial hit of the zeitgeist and Emmy presence, is all about providing pleasure. It’s just that those pleasures only exist in the realm of plot development or, perhaps, plot escalation. This show began in a place of empty amorality and, in this fourth outing, reaffirms o-nce again that the people in the center of the frame are very, very bad. And very, very bad things happen to them and around them, at a distracting pace that allows this show to realize that, deep in her career, she’s struggling to be just about anything.
The show’s central Byrde family initially came to the Ozarks to get out of a bind, when it was discovered that Marty (Jason Bateman) was stealing money from the cartel for whom he laundered money. He set out to resolve their problems in the most aggressively extralegal manner possible. Now he and his wife, Wendy (Laura Linney), are wealthy casino owners with even more enemies; As the season begins, they must overcome emotional and pragmatic setbacks, including the death of a family member and a lawyer leaving loose ends.
All this generates incident. But little has the heat of true drama. A revealing moment comes in the first episode, when Marty and Wendy, over glasses of wine, exchange a list of what they need to accomplish to get out of their latest predicament. “We need huge amounts of money, and then we need to buy all the people,” says Marty. Other goals, a bit more specific than making big bucks and bribing people, are swapped: Marty points out that they need to convince a local drug dealer to stop selling heroin. “Of course I do,” Wendy says, sarcastically and without joy.
This moment speaks to the ways in which Linney’s Wendy is among the few genuinely intriguing inventions of “Ozark”: in the guise of an unassuming mother and wife accompanying Marty’s wacky journey, Wendy deals with the acquisition and exercise the power of the underworld as a to-do list. to complete it with a cool head and a glass of red at the end of the day. But it also suggests the show’s willingness to let go, to comment sarcastically on the outlandishness of its story instead of trying to make it on a human scale, or to find the people inside the wiles of Marty and Wendy. The show itself is ticking boxes as you go through Marty and Wendy’s gauntlet upside down and evade before moving on to the next one.
Julia Garner’s performance as an ambitious young local girl involved in the Byrdes’ business stands out all the more because her surroundings lean heavily on outsized desolation. “Ozark” can feel like watching “Breaking Bad” on NFL RedZone, the viewing option that offers every single touchdown on Sundays during the season. It’s chaos and gunfire with nothing more than a nod to a moral reckoning; it’s everything people enjoy about expensive, high-brightness TVs, minus the parts that act as ballast.
The show nods here and there to what Marty and Wendy want further in order to survive, and that’s where things really get better. Wendy, especially, wants to gain real power so she can “give back” in the nonprofit space, laundering her reputation with laundered money, a vain and misleading goal, but also as old as America.- And both she and Marty pretended to be concerned about the well-being of her children (Sofia Hublitz and Skylar Gaertner). These parents cannot completely shake the image of themselves as “typical” that their actions belie in the 23 hours of the day that are not family dinner time. At times, one sees the version of “Ozark” that has a sense of these people, beyond their ability to withstand extreme stress. But they are too fleeting to stop. Maybe it’s better to embrace the journey, hurry to the next kill.