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Ozark is running out of gas: The fourth and final season feels like a "hostage situation" for its stars

  • "In some ways, Ozark is a modern money-laundering retelling of the 12 labors of Hercules, though if Marty and Wendy have a miraculous ability to get themselves out of jams, those jams are often of their own making," says Mary McNamara. "Marty is a problem-solver who never saw a situation he couldn’t talk himself out of; Wendy is increasingly a proponent of the 'go big or go home' school of empowerment and self-destruction. That is, of course, what fuels the narrative: Their amazing race against an unending series of obstacles and the widening gap between how Marty and Wendy view them. Marty just wants to get out from under his 'debt' to Navarro; Wendy thinks they can create an eventually legitimate, economic and political empire. You know, the old 'in five years, the Corleone family is going to be completely legitimate' trope. Cue bullet spray of bloody death. The problem is it’s become difficult to care whose worldview triumphs or how the Byrdes’ story ends, as long as it does. Which Netflix has made even more challenging by splitting up the final season into two chunks, the second of which will drop later this year. Moment by moment, Ozark still captivates; Lisa Emery’s shotgun-totin’ Darlene Snell is the kind of character that personifies exactly what television can do that films can’t, and it’s tough to look away when Linney is taking Wendy from dimples to demonic in half a second or when Garner is doing pretty much anything at all. But when each scene is over, it evaporates in the perpetual churn of increasingly insupportable plot points. The show has always relied on the power of its main performers to pull viewers over the many potholes any story that involves 'ordinary' people becoming entangled with a cartel is bound to have, and (Jason) Bateman, (Laura) Linney and (Julia) Garner have worked wonders, separately and together. But at this point, Ozark feels a bit like a hostage situation — the stars have done their jobs, now it’s time to let them go."


    • The first part of Ozark's final season sets up a thrilling end: "Season four plays out like a clash of the titans between the Byrdes, the Navarros, the Snells, the Langmores, and the Kansas City mob, as each party struggles with their turf and business," says Saloni Gajjar. "Marty and Wendy venture into big pharma in anticipation of the future, and are impacted by the arrivals of Javier and private investigator Mel Sattam (Adam Rothenberg) in town. All of these complicated storylines collide in explosive ways by the time 'Sanctified' rolls around. The first half of the final season is packaged such that it sets up the show’s obviously ill-fated end—it’s hard to see how Marty and Wendy can have a happy ending. But the seven episodes also work well as a shorter season of the show. Ozark returns to prove its worth in the genre by remaining a riveting and satisfying crime drama to its bitter (almost) end."
    • Ozark struggles to be much of anything in its final season: "The series, a perennial zeitgeist hit and Emmys presence, is all about delivering pleasure. It’s just that those pleasures solely exist in the realm of plot development — or, perhaps, plot intensification," says Daniel D'Addario. "This show began in a place of vacuous amorality and, in this fourth outing, restates once more that the people at the center of the frame are very, very bad. And very, very bad things happen to and around them, at a distracting rate that allows this show to hopscotch that — this deep into its run — it’s struggling to be about much of anything."
    • Season 4 is a haunting portrait of what the Byrdes have become: "You ever wonder what a dark-sided version of The Incredibles, following a family of four remarkable individuals who turn horribly, horribly wrong, would look like?" says Brady Langmann. "Well, scout no further than Season Four of Ozark, which dropped the first half of its two-part final season on Netflix on Friday. After three seasons of questionable decision-making, the latest installment of the long-underrated crime drama sees its leading family, the Byrdes, achieve their final form. You have the deceptively calm patriarch of the group, Marty, a character Jason Bateman has elevated into one of the most nuanced protagonists on TV, worming his way out of a marathon of near-death experiences. Laura Linney's Wendy becomes a political player with a reach almost as powerful as any force we've seen on Ozark. (If anyone brings home a trophy for this season of Ozark, it may be Linney, whose 'F*ck you!' has entered the tier where Brian Cox's Succession 'F*ck You!' lives.) We see Sofia Hublitz's Charlotte adopt her mother's mannerisms, clearly studied in the art of gaslighting. Don't forget the youngest, Jonah—played by Skylar Gaertner with a level of skill that makes you think he's been taking tips from Bateman himself—who is now a deft money-launderer. Just like dad."
    • In the Mount Rushmore of television’s male antiheroes, Marty’s amoral trajectory most closely resembles that of Breaking Bad's Heisenberg: "But while Ozark shares plenty of surface-level similarities with Breaking Bad, the show adds its own unique touches," says Miles Surrey. "For starters, Marty’s wife Wendy (Laura Linney) becomes complicit to the money laundering scheme from the jump, and it takes all but three episodes before their kids, Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz) and Jonah (Skylar Gaertner), are let in on the secret. It’s not exactly smooth sailing, but the Byrdes adjust to their new normal. The family that launders money together, stays together. But one other tweak to the formula is what truly separates Ozark from Breaking Bad, and the antihero subgenre as a whole. Even though Marty proves to be resourceful, he’s mostly content to just run the numbers. The Byrde patriarch isn’t anyone’s idea of a good person, but he also isn’t getting his own hands dirty. Instead, the compellingly corrupted soul of Ozark is Wendy, whose Lady Macbeth act becomes more gripping—and reprehensible—with each season."
    • Season 4 proves there's no happy ending in sight
    • Alfonso Herrera on reading his Season 4 script: When I read that, as a fan, I was in shock"

    TOPICS: Ozark, Netflix, Alfonso Herrera