Another great, tense episode ends with one of the best scenes in the history of Ozark, as Ruth learns the danger her boss and friend now faces. Even before then, this is a tight hour of TV, complete with the kind of darkly humorous beats that elevates the better episodes of this show. At first, it feels like the start of a turf war as Wendy draws her brother Ben closer to her side and Marty aligns with Ruth. But it ends with Marty Byrde suggesting to a federal agent that he could turn on everyone, leaving it all behind. Will he have the chance or is it too late?
Some of the best episodes of The Sopranos filtered the anxieties of its protagonist Tony Soprano through his dreams. The writers of Ozark do that with Wendy Byrde this episode, opening with a dream in which our heroine sings along to REO Speedwagon’s “Time for Me to Fly” before pulling a dead dog from her trunk and shooting her husband. What does this mean? Time for Wendy to leave the nest and fly without Marty? Taken with the other dream in which she pays him to leave, Wendy’s subconscious is clearly telling her that she can’t succeed with her husband in her life. But can she succeed without him?
Helen sure thinks so. She plays to Wendy’s sizable ego, claiming that she’s eclipsing Marty professionally, and noting that this same dynamic led to the end of Helen’s marriage. Does Wendy Byrde need Marty Byrde anymore? And if she keeps him around will she just end up like Helen or, worse, accidentally knocked down a hill to her death like the woman whom she’s bullied into selling a business she spent her life building?
While Wendy tries to get the “legit” business up and running, Agent Maya Miller (Jessica Francis Dukes) comes to share an office with Marty Byrde. She’s very good at more than just naming bands with three letters in their name (REM, ELO, NWA, etc.), and it’s going to be very difficult to move cartel money under her watch. So Marty suggests to Ruth that they’re going to have to move it through the new casino, but that’s not an option either. Wendy and Helen have closed it down, and they want it to be a legit business when it opens anyway. Again, Marty is looking for solutions while Wendy is looking for an empire.
That empire involves Frank Cosgrove, the head of the Kansas City mob, who was promised a cut of the new casino, which is now closed. So he comes to Wendy, revealing what Marty did to try to squash the deal. Uh oh.
This adds to the tension at dinner, and that’s before Navarro calls Wendy. Is he threatening or almost flirting? Or maybe both? He’s talking about her skills in the connection and mentioning his virility in relation to his new child being born. He’s still trying to figure her out, but the key piece of advice he gives her is simple: “If you can’t get what you want with reason, you have to get it with force.”
While Wendy is putting the final touches on her push to remove the owners of the hotel/casino she’s buying, Helen is feeling out Ruth’s role in the operation. She wonders if Ruth could run the Missouri Belle while Marty takes lead on the new business, which definitely plays to Ruth’s need for a greater role to meet her skill set. But Marty realizes the darker undercurrent — Helen isn’t trying to find out if he could work at the other operation, she’s trying to find out if he’s still needed at all. She doesn’t really know Ruth, though. If this really blows up into a turf war, it’s almost certain that Ruth will side with Marty over Wendy and Helen.
Wendy finds out that the last holdout in her new plan just fell down a hill, and she barely pauses before taking on a new deadly project. She really is a shark, always needing something to keep her moving. The new project is getting Zeke back from Darlene, which leads to Wendy picking a fight and getting punched by the “hillbilly.” She later acts funny about it around Marty — she not only needs a new plan, she needs a new secret from her husband.
Meanwhile, Marty realizes that the REO Speedwagon concert for the dental convention could be a solid target for money laundering. Hysterically, so does REO Speedwagon’s manager, knowing what Marty is doing when he offers an extra $100K.
Another offer hits the table when Agent Miller tells Marty that she could use his skill set. Go to prison for 18 months, Navarro will think you didn’t talk, and then be a contractor for the federal government. It’s not a bad way out. And Marty appears to take it, just before he’s picked up by Navarro’s men and thrown in the back of a car. Navarro realized that Wendy’s phone line was compromised, and probably figured out that Marty was the man on the surveillance. What is he going to do about it?
• I love that Ruth sits in her car singing along to “C.R.E.A.M.” Wu-Tang Forever!
• Speaking of music, “Time for Me to Fly” in the first dream is obvious because the Wagon has been a part of the plot, but there’s a much deeper cut in the second dream: “The Fundamentals” by Arthur Ahbez. I thought there might be value in the lyrics: “Journey to the center of my mind and you’ll find … Journey to the center of my soul and you’ll know … Journey to the center of my heart and you’ll hear … Nothin’.” Has Wendy become soulless and heartless?
• Do you think Erin knows her mother ordered the assault on her father? She seems to be way less in the know than Charlotte Byrde, but kids often sense more about their parents than the grown-ups think they do.
• Speaking of Erin, it seems like Jonah has a crush on her? Him asking silly questions on the boat and then being crestfallen when she goes with the older boys along with her sister was pretty sad.
• This was a funny episode even amidst the darkness. The three-letter band game, the REO rider, most of Ben’s stuff — it’s always nice when the writers weave in dark humor. The shows that inspired this one, like Sopranos and Breaking Bad, did that often. And too many of their imitators often feel like dirges.
• The question now is how can Marty Byrde prove he’s not expendable? By expanding the empire and essentially running it, has Wendy Byrde proven that the cartel no longer needs her husband?