As with most Netflix dramas, the mid-season sag starts to set in a bit in this episode of Ozark, the most transitional so far. It’s a slow hour but still contains some significant developments and an introduction of two crucial characters in the arc of this series with an ending that seems kind of casual but really shapes the entire dynamic between Marty and his son Jonah.
It opens with a voice-over in which Marty explains the process of money laundering. They literally have to dirty up the money, throwing it into a washing machine to make it seem more used. They need a cash operation that can have easily manipulated books. You mix the $5 million from the cartel into the deposits from the cash operation, which go to a bank in another country and back into a standard checking account that can be drawn on from around the world. Cut to Del in a foreign land, taking out the money that Marty has laundered. Sometimes, the show hints at its international scope — how money from a tourist at a strip club called Lickety Splitz could be fueling a drug cartel on the other side of the world. Everything is connected.
After the prologue, there’s some transitional chatter. Should they put the Byrde assets in Wendy’s name? Marty doesn’t like this idea and brushes her off. He has no time to think about the future; he’s trying to keep everyone alive today. At the same time, the Jonah-Buddy friendship is beginning in earnest. The youngest Byrde wants to know if Buddy is hurting while he’s dying. “We’re all dying the minute we’re born,” Buddy tells the young man. Don’t waste this life. It’s good advice.
Over at the Blue Cat, there’s a bit of alpha-female play between Rachel and Ruth. However, considering Rachel suspects her new employee of being an accomplice to robbing Blue Cat clients, one could argue that Ms. Langmore is lucky to keep her job.
Marty gets a call from Del, which lights a fire under the rising kingpin of the Ozarks. Marty needs to get his hands on Lickety Splitz, and he wants Ruth to help. He starts by offering her 10 percent of a robbery, and she counters by demanding 80 percent, which is kind of amazing and reveals how hard she plays. They settle, and she goes to interview with Bobby Dean (Adam Boyer), the gross dude who runs the club and encourages his dancers to become sex workers for some extra cash. He also demands she participate in the “audition part of the interview,” and Ruth closes the door. But Ruth is just casing the joint, and so she hurts the sleazeball before heading for the door.
While the vultures will be circling Bobby’s body soon enough, they’re over the corpse of a coyote in the woods for now. Jonah finds it and drags it home. Marty talks to Ruth about the safe when he sees his son disemboweling a dead animal on the dock. Jonah is a bit of a weird one, clearly increasingly fascinated by life and death. That’s what happens when you watch cartel murder videos on YouTube and chat with the old guy in the basement about how he can hear the Grim Reaper’s footsteps.
Ruth and her underage crew go on a field trip to Lickety Splitz! Even Three, who looks like he’s about 12, is in the mix. The cops roll up after a call reporting shots fired, and all hell breaks loose when they see underage clients in the club. The commotion allows for arrests and a distraction so Ruth and Marty can take the safe. When they break it open, they find more documents than cash. Ruth isn’t happy. Marty is.
That happiness will be short-lived, as it always is for Marty. He’s brought down to earth by his daughter Charlotte, who castigates him and Wendy for what they’ve been saying about Jonah. And she does it in front of her brother, who tragically says, “You think I’m weird, don’t you?” While that line is sad, the next one ripples through the series: “Why should I believe anything you say when you’ve been lying to me my entire life?”
After hearing Wendy talk to someone on the phone about their situation — and it’s a bit hard to believe that Marty wouldn’t confront his wife right then and there — Marty goes to see Bobby in jail. He offers him $200,000 for the club, and it becomes clear that he’s trying to steal the operation by getting its owner arrested. At first, Bobby doesn’t bite, but Marty reveals he is in possession of the bearer shares from the safe. Basically, Marty already owns the club; he’s simply offering to purchase it for show. Bobby better act quickly because the price is now $175,000.
With that settled, and after some Blue Cat business, Marty can figure out who Wendy was calling. It turns out that it was Gary! The dead guy! Was she leaving messages on his voice-mail? It inspires Marty to watch the video of his wife and her lover. Will he ever tell her it exists? She marches in and tells Marty about her work with Sam and how that can help the laundering. “What did you do today for our family,” she asks. “Bought a strip club,” Marty answers.
Bobby drives up to the Snell plantation, and the show finally introduces two of its biggest players: Darlene (Lisa Emery) and Jacob Snell (Peter Mullan). It turns out that Lickety Splitz was laundering their money. Bobby tries to assuage Jacob and says that he’ll work it out with Marty. After a bit of villainous monologuing by Jacob, Darlene kills Bobby. It’s an effective introduction to two people who will cause major problems for the Byrdes.
The episode ends with another major development that will have a long-term impact. It turns out that the opening voice-over was Marty talking to Jonah, teaching him the tricks of the trade. It will eventually tear the Byrde family apart.
• Can we talk about Peter Mullan, one of the best character actors of all time? He’s just so consistently perfect for every role he takes and will be starring in Prime Video’s mega-expensive The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power in late 2022. For a great Mullan turn that you may not have seen, check out 2011’s Tyrannosaur, co-starring Olivia Colman.
• There’s a brief scene in which Wendy gets a call from Gary’s son about his father’s death and she suddenly hangs up. Was she playing with fire by calling her ex-lover? Or would he have tracked her down anyway? As it lands here, after Marty discovers the calls, you have to wonder if Marty somehow alerted Gary Jr. to scare Wendy out of her new habit of blabbing to a dead man’s voice-mail.
• Wendy wears a Murphy’s Bleacher’s shirt through some of this episode, which Chicago Cubs fans will love, as it’s one of the most famous bars near Wrigley Field.
• While Wendy wears a tee with the image of her favorite watering hole, Ruth wins the fashion contest with her Tupac shirt. Ruth’s love for hip-hop is eternal.