TV TATTLE

Jason Bateman deserves to be taken seriously after cementing himself as a great dramatic actor with Ozark and The Outsider

  • "A comedic actor moving to more dramatic work is not entirely unprecedented, particularly in the antihero genre," says Miles Surrey. "Before Breaking Bad, viewers knew Bryan Cranston as Malcolm’s dad, and Bob Odenkirk—now killing it leading the spin-off series Better Call Saul—as one half of a popular ’90s sketch comedy series. This sort of path already has been paved, so while Bateman isn’t exactly a comedy-to-drama trailblazer, his particular, skillful smugness has led to one of the most seamless transitions of its kind. As Marty, Bateman is still a (relatively) reasonable man in a world of eccentric drug lords and petty criminals—characters whose personal exuberances match their lofty ambitions. But just because Marty isn’t prone to violence or emotional outbursts doesn’t make him any less insidious than the people he works with. On other antihero dramas, characters try to justify their amoral behavior or attempt to curb their worst impulses—Walter White repeatedly insisted he became Heisenberg to leave money behind for his family; Tony Soprano went to therapy. The scary thing about Marty is that he doesn’t seem particularly torn about who he is or what he’s doing. From the beginning of the series, Marty seems more than willing to accept that he’s a shitty person, which colors the way he glibly interacts with bosses, subordinates, and his family. Here, Bateman’s resting smug face isn’t played for laughs, but used to portray a kind of baseline apathy toward everything around him that allows Marty to shrug off the nastier sides of the business and emotionally disassociate from his loved ones. I swear he treats an Excel sheet with more warmth than he shows to his own children."

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    • Ozark ditches its sluggish pace in a substantially improved Season 3: "In its first two seasons, I've been fairly critical of Netflix's Emmy-winning drama, with its pervasive somberness, its sluggish pacing, its poorly conceived supporting characters and, in particular, its dogged resistance to shooting in even partially illuminated rooms," says Daniel Fienberg. "A show that should have been an entertainingly pulpy thriller has too frequently played as a laugh-free parody of prestige TV. Imagine my surprise to be writing this, then: The 10-episode third season of Ozark is a substantial improvement over the lugubrious second season, and although it still suffers from many of the show's trademark inconsistencies, this is probably the best Ozark has ever been. At almost every turn, things point to a show that's attempting to make refinements, which I can respect."
    • Ozark Season 3 feels like a rebound after a so-so season: "The show has lost none of its enthusiasm for juicy double-crosses, shocking violence or shifting loyalties — each episode feels like it could end in bloodshed," says Tim Grierson. "And the supporting cast is still a rich array of thorny individuals. Julia Garner remains excellent as Ruth, the tough-talking local who remains Marty’s ally — at least for now — and Lisa Emery continues to be utterly terrifying as Missouri drug kingpin Darlene."
    • Season 3 is Ozark's best season yet: "Like Breaking Bad, Ozark keeps writing its characters into seemingly impossible corners, only to find plausible ways out," says Brian Lowry. "What this season really does, though, is drill down into the relationship between Marty and Wendy, who shows off her steely side in a conversation with her brother, where she discusses how 'fighting for your life' expands the scope of one's capabilities."
    • Ozark kicks things up a notch in Season 3: "Season 1 relied on shock and awe to great effect, throwing audiences into the deep end of the pool while knowing it was a one-way trip," says Ben Travers. "Grounded by the cast’s stellar performances and a fascinating specificity for the illegal trade itself, Ozark blended fear with action, as bodies fell from balconies, heads were blown off in kitchens, and plenty more abrupt bits of violence helped turn the bleak tragedy into a surprising and propulsive thriller. Then Season 2 treaded water. With the Byrde family settled in their new central Missouri home, not enough drama was generated by flat, predictable character additions (let us never speak of Cade again), and all that political lobbying couldn’t compare to Money Laundering 101. Ozark, once built on immediate peril and felt too content to just buy more time. Season 3 finds a happy medium. The fresh set of 10 episodes reengages with the Byrdes’ descent, as Marty and Wendy spend the first five hours battling each other. They both try to do what they think is best for the family, but their opposite instincts are an appreciable mix of selfishness, panic, and fantasy."
    • Ozark can be frustrating to watch, but it's still compelling in Season 3: "Ozark remains a sturdy and gripping series," says Richard Lawson. "I just wish it found more organic ways to keep the twists coming, that it had faith in the strength of its central thread instead of taking a detour like this one, which was always going to end in witless ruin. Plenty of other shows have handled season-long arcs and new characters more seamlessly. Still, season three is a bracing ten or so hours of television, leading to a penultimate episode that’s as sad as it is startling. (The finale has its own bang, too.) All things considered, Ozark is still worth your time, even if it makes some very bad decisions."
    • How Jason Bateman, winner of the Emmy for best directing, became one of TV's best directors

    TOPICS: Jason Bateman, Netflix, Ozark




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