Now that the season is over, it’s time to look back at the entire second season of Ozark and ask two key questions: What was it really about and was it any good?
As for the first question, the theme of deadly family ties has been a part of both seasons, amplified this year by the presence of Cade Langmore, the worthless sociopath who basically tried to destroy everyone who gave even the smallest damn about him. Death hung heavy this year as Mason Young, Jimmy ‘Buddy’ Small, Jacob Snell, FBI Agent Roy Petty, and Cade Langmore all shuffled off this mortal coil. And here’s something that perhaps no one considered until the end of the season, maybe not even her husband: Was their fatal mistake entering the life of Wendy Byrde?
If the first season of Ozark was about Marty Byrde running from powerful crime figures, the second was about his wife Wendy realizing she wanted to become one herself. When did she know? Did the political capital given her by Charlie Wilkes help her realize how much she could do in the Ozarks? Did she look at Helen Pearce and Darlene Snell and realize women can rule in this world? Whenever it happened, the final scenes of this season make it clear that Wendy Byrde is ready to be Queen. She destroys Marty Byrde’s well-laid plans to leave the same day that the casino operation finally opens, basically telling him that they’re not going anywhere. And as he realizes that she had Cade Langmore gunned down in the street and left for dead like a dog, he knows he’s stuck. He may eventually leave, but he’s not leaving with his family.
As it was last season, the finale of Ozark was about tying up loose ends, including ending the lives of two of its most violent, awful characters. First, Cade Langmore beat Roy Petty to death with his own tackle box. There’s something poignant about the fact that Petty wouldn’t have even been there if not or his connection with Russ last season. But now he’s at the bottom of the river with a few rocks in his pockets. Near the end, the authorities find his car, and they will find his body. Will this come back to Cade or could someone else get in trouble? And will the writers replace Petty with another lunatic lawman next season?
Of course, the other big loose end was Cade himself, who was incredibly close to getting away with his insanity. Sure, his daughter almost shot him and he dragged Charlotte Byrde across the ground, but he got a bag of cash from Wendy Byrde and drove away singing along to “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” before taking a few shots to the chest. Wendy set him up. He was not going to get away at all, much less with her money.
It almost raises the question as to whether or not baby Zeke is better off out of the Byrde household. Yes, Mason Young’s son going to the woman who killed his wife is something we saw coming a few recaps ago, but it was still interesting to watch it play out. Darlene Snell made it clear, especially after shaving Jonah Byrde’s head, that it was the only solution, and so Marty took it. And he did so without telling Wendy. It’s interesting to consider if not being looped in on that decision led to the one Wendy made at the end of the episode when she insisted on staying. She always likes to one-up people.
So, where are we? Ruth Langmore is free — free of the guilt about killing her uncles, free of her father’s horrible influence. Marty gave her all of his trust and all of his cash, but how will she respond when they don’t leave? Will she remain a part of the power structure or get pushed out by Wendy?
Let’s not forget about Frank Cosgrove, the head of the Kansas City mob who is none too happy with Marty right now. He even blows up the offices of Byrde Enterprises. Is he the main villain of season three? Despite seeing her in a tender moment singing “Walk the Line” to her new son, it seems unlikely Darlene Snell is all smiles and kisses next year too. And have we seen the last of Helen Pearce, saying that she’s headed back to Chicago, but maybe she sticks around?
What about the Byrde kids? Marty basically tells Charlotte to run at the end of the season, knowing that emancipation may save her life. And Jonah seems to be falling deeper into the family business.
Most importantly, was this season a good one? Yes and no. Despite a flurry of activity — and remarkable amount of carnage in the supporting cast — the pace sagged sometimes and the writing sometimes felt cheap. There’s a difference between hurried and exciting, and Ozark sometimes felt like it was throwing plot twists in just to feed the machine. The loss of so many characters may actually be good for Ozark, allowing it to focus a bit more next year. They’d be smart to cut back an episode or two and realize that not every episode needs to run 60 minutes or more.
The performances were once again the show’s strongest asset, particularly Jason Bateman, Janet McTeer, Peter Mullan, Jordana Spiro, and the show’s MVP two seasons in a row, Julia Garner. What of Laura Linney? The performance felt a little inconsistent at times, but that’s more a product of writing than acting. If the show fulfills on this year’s set-up and Wendy really becomes the Queen of the criminal empire in the Ozarks, that could be fun to watch the Oscar nominee really sink her teeth into.
Over all, it feels like Ozark is pretty much, more or less, where it was at the end of season one in terms of quality. Both seasons started slow, sagged at certain points, but ended strongly. Is it disappointing that Ozark didn’t build on season one to go from a good show to a great one? Sure. But it didn’t really lose any ground either. Anyone excited to go back to Missouri for a second year will likely be there for the third as well. We’ll talk again then.
• Cade Langmore didn’t serve much of a dramatic purpose other than an annoyance until this episode, when he really did. Not only does he kill Petty, who had really run his course dramatically, but his murder feels like a turning point for Wendy Byrde. She’s willing to kill someone who gets in her way. Marty was not. Will this be the difference that drives them apart?
• Have we seen the last of Wyatt Langmore? He knows that Ruth killed his father. Can he really leave with that information or will he play a vengeful role next year?
• How much do we think Wendy told Helen? Was it just about Cade or about Marty’s plan to leave? I half-expected them to get to the plane only to find the pilot dead. Maybe that’s how season three opens.
• There were so many plotlines left dangling at the end of season one but less this year with the jettisoning of so many supporting characters. What do you think season three is about?
• Thanks for reading all ten of these if you have. See you next year!