A strong crime show can get very dark, very quickly. That’s the case in the new season of “Ozark,” which dives headfirst into the grimy world it has set up. A few weeks ago, DP Ben Kutchins warned that the Byrdes would find themselves in a pressure cooker, fighting for survival. There may not be a more accurate way of looking at the second season of the Netflix crime drama. The result is a strong sophomore season that still suffers some flaws.
The story of Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) and his wife Wendy (Laura Linney) ups the stakes and the Byrdes are forced to continually put out fires. The heroine-dealing family, the Snells (led by Peter Mullan and Lisa Emery), continue to showcase their violent tendencies. The cartels realize something is up with the Byrde’s contact Del (Esai Morales) goes missing despite years of loyalty. FBI Agent Roy Petty (Jason Butler Harner) begins to close in on the Byrdes by using Rachel (Jordana Spiro). Meanwhile, Ruth (Julie Garner) tries to become a full-fledged money launderer. However, when her father Cade (Trevor Long) makes parole, he adds a wildcard to the series.
It goes without saying that if you enjoyed the first season, the second picks up the ball and runs with it. The writers give Linney much more to work with, giving her another standout season. She embraces her political operative nature. Linney very much takes over episodes at a time, giving off Claire Underwood vibes throughout the season. Bateman also shines again, taking in the chaos that surrounds him in stride. He’s a solid dramatic actor and continues to flash those skills. Garner also deserves props, turning in the most emotionally complex performance. She possesses a bright future as a dramatic actress, and brings her all to “Ozark.”
The visual language and the direction remains strong despite some turnover. Kutchins returns as a DP, and splits episodes with Armando Salas this season. The two blend together the dreamlike style of “Ozark” with heightened tension throughout. The dark blue tones give this a unique visual feel from other dramas. The crew of directors, including Bateman, get the most out of their work.
Despite that, the writing presents some issues. The tone dives into a dark mood that feels oppressive at times. The melodrama is turned up a bit, with very few opportunities for humor. It can get a bit oppressive at times. The narrative and writing take on the same feel as “House of Cards,” which can be a turnoff for some viewers. It’s been an issue for Netflix shows and likely becomes an issue in the binge-watch format. In “Ozark” it works better than most, but it still presents a bit of a problem going forward.
Overall, “Ozark” returns for another strong season and Netflix is sure to be happy. The actors bring some top-tier performances and bring an urgency to the events. With a deep bench, even moments with side characters feel exciting and dangerous. The visuals are strong again as well, and the direction helps elevate the material. Still, some of the incessant drama that permeates the show can get tiresome. Like “The Leftovers” and “Breaking Bad” discovered, peppering in humor can elevate a show. When you’re all serious, it can be a bit of a drag. Hopefully, next year they can find a way to bridge that gap. In the meantime, “Ozark” is a very good, but not great show.