“We’re gonna build normal from here.” Marty Byrde always thinks he can build normal, even if he’s been trying to do so on quicksand since the beginning of Netflix’s Ozark, now back for a highly anticipated second season. The season premiere makes it clear how difficult it’s going to be for the Byrdes to put the pieces back together after nearly separating at the end of last season. It doesn’t help that the Mexican cartel is now looking for one of their VIPs, Del, who was shot in the head by Darlene Snell in the season finale. Marty is still pushing forward with his craziest plan yet — uniting the Mexicans and the Missouri drug scene in a casino scheme that will launder their money and make everyone happy. It will just take about six months. The Byrdes will get their 3 percent of the profits, the operation will be self-sustaining, and then they can move wherever they want in the world, living happily ever after. What do they say about the best-laid plans?
The Byrdes encounter two initial roadblocks to their six-month plan. First, it takes a lot of political capital to open a casino, especially to do so as quickly as they need to. Enter Wendy Byrde, enlivened by the potential to put her campaigning and lobbying skills to work. Marty learns about someone who is basically a kingmaker in the Ozarks, and a mysterious place known only as the Lake House. No, it’s not a reference to the Keanu/Sandy romantic classic but a place where people basically go to kiss the ring of one of the state’s most powerful lobbyists. You see, Missouri has no limit on political donations — the only state where that’s true — which has made it predictably corrupt. Wendy Byrde thinks she knows how to use that corruption to her family’s advantage.
But will she live long enough to do so? The second season of Ozark wastes no time introducing viewers to someone who will clearly be a major player this year, Helen Pearce, played by the excellent British actress Janet McTeer, a two-time Oscar nominee not typically seen in what appears to be a deadly, dangerous role. Pearce is not having any of the Byrde or Snell’s bullshit. You see, they tried to throw the Mexicans off the scent of Del by getting the loyal but doomed Ash (seriously, he should have been wearing a red shirt all episode) to drive to Chicago with Del’s credit cards and phone. Maybe the Mexicans will think Del got lost in the Windy City! Of course not.
Pearce allows the Byrdes and Snells to sell their story about being just as confused about Del’s disappearance as anyone, but she immediately heads to Chicago to verify the story. Let’s just say the Snells and their poor servant Ash aren’t too smart when it comes to modern security footage. After shooting the poor guy making minimum wage at a gas station, Pearce gets the footage that proves it wasn’t Del who used his credit card there. She gives the Byrdes an hour to make it right, which he takes to the Snells, suggesting they offer $5 million for Del’s life. Jacob seems to consider it and understands the gravity of the situation more than the emotional Darlene. Although he then tells the Byrdes to go, just before killing Ash! The idea is that he’s going to handle this the old-fashioned way — one of his most important servants for one of theirs. Does anyone think this would work 100 percent? (A) Is Ash really equal to the clearly more powerful Del? (B) Even if it is equal, the Mexicans never agreed to this trade to start and so they would likely demand more compensation just for the damn inconvenience. Perhaps they will, but I’m a little worried this is the end of the Del arc, which doesn’t completely fly.
While all of the Byrde drama is going down, there’s an arguably more interesting subplot unfolding in the life of the show-stealing Ruth Langmore — Julia Garner gave the best performance in season one by far, don’t @-me. Ruth has to deal with the release of her father Cade back into society. How will she continue to thrive with her violent, sexist dad over her shoulder? First, we see her testify at his parole hearing about how much he’s done for her — when we know full well that Ruth did better because her father was in prison. And then she, disturbingly, pays one of the workers at Lickety Splitz to sleep with her dad before they even get back from the clink. Eek. (More on that development in notes.)
As Ruth probably suspected, Cade knows that his daughter killed his brothers. She admits to it, revealing that her uncles were spying for someone, and she did it to protect everyone. Cade having this information to hold over Ruth is unlikely to end well — he’s already playing mind games later that night with Ruth’s cousins. And that scene is also important to note how differently Cade treats the Langmore men than he does Ruth. He’s going to be a problem.
Another problem is the money that Rachel absconded with at the end of last season, which Marty discovers when he sees the broken walls of the resort in which he had stashed his cash. Don’t miss that Charlotte Byrde also tells her brother that she grabbed $10K when they were hiding it. We hear that Marty and Wendy are going to have count what’s left to determine what Rachel took, but that book isn’t going to balance without that missing $10K. And we all know how someone like Marty Byrde hates an unbalanced account.
• Jason Bateman was behind the director’s chair again for the season premiere, as he was four times last year, resulting in an Emmy nomination. He’s become a very solid director, including a couple feature films, but I’d love to see him helm something like Ozark on the big screen — something dark and violent. He knows how to build tension.
• We need to talk about the relationship between Cade and Ruth Langmore. There are definite hints that Cade has at least physically abused his daughter, and very possibly sexually too. When he comes in at night, Ruth stares at the ceiling like she’s terrified of what’s about to happen — something that has happened before when dad was drunk. And perhaps that’s why she paid a worker to sleep with him so quickly? So dad might be less likely to abuse her? It adds a layer of horror to his request that she get him a blonde next time.
• Speaking of music, it was a clever twist to play the intro to “Summer Wind” twice in the scenes at the charity dinner without the payoff of Ol’ Blue Eyes’ voice and to save that for the closing scenes. It’s sure gonna be windy this summer in the Ozarks.