Ozark Season 2 Review: The Women Take Control

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The Byrde family is still waist-deep in the corrupt life they've created for themselves in the Ozarks.

Ozark Season 2 picks up right where Season 1 left off but something becomes clear as it progresses -- the women are in control now.

Jason Bateman was not only the draw for the first season, but the most compelling character as Marty Byrde struggled to come to terms with his formerly hidden illegal activities taking on a direction as different as the path he was on with his cheating wife, Wendy (Laura Linney).

The Byrdes

The focus of Season 2, though, resets a bit as the Byrde family settles into life on the Lake of the Ozarks.

After the murder of their boss, the Byrdes work fast on their feet to find a way to stay in business. The harder they work, the dirtier they get their hands.

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The cartel wants answers and they aim to get them by sending in a boss quite unlike the former.

A slick attorney played by Janet McTeer arrives in town and is immediately out of place. Driven around in a town car and wearing gorgeous white pantsuits while standing in the dustiest locations, she commands attention. She gets it.

Powerful Women

Whether it's her presence that stifles Marty's creativity and ignites a passion not heretofore seen in Wendy isn't blatant, but it's not hard to imagine Wendy might be impressed by where criminal activity could take her if they keep moving up the ladder.

Marty is still charming and working his angles as always, but his charm isn't as effective on a woman as ruthless she. He's pulling back while Wendy is pushing forward.

It's fascinating seeing Linney play the subtle changes in Wendy because she is so infrequently anything but the good woman in her roles.

When Wendy makes her mind up to do something, there is a mild set of her chin and off she goes as if she's the determined mother on her way to school to talk with the principal. It's all in a day's work. What Wendy sets about achieving this season is hardly child's play, though.

The Ozark Gang

There must be recompense for wronging the cartel, and it must come directly from the Snells.

It doesn't suit Darlene Snell (Lisa Emery) to appease others for her actions at all, and watching her slowly unwind during the season is frightening, but not as much as knowing Jacob (Peter Mullan) is fully aware of it and ready to protect her should she go too far off the deep end.

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Their partnership with the Byrdes is to build a casino, and the deeper look into their history, as a result, makes the decision to partner seem ridiculous. Then again, a lot of Ozark borders on ridiculous, and that makes even it's more miserable moments watchable.

Another standout of the season is the incredibly talented Julia Garner as Ruth.

Julia Garner on Ozark

Ruth has earned her position as Marty's right hand, but when she's tested with the release of her father, Cade (Trevor Long) from prison, she finds it difficult to wallow the straighter life of crime Marty offers vs the world of pettier crime offered by her father.

Papa Langmore drags down Ruth because he can't believe someone like Marty would believe in Ruth. Any dreams of a better life Ruth is getting in her head will never come to fruition because Marty will pull back on his promises.

Ruth dreams big, and most of her dreams are set aside for her cousin, Wyatt, to go to college. She has a mothering instinct in her that supplies most of the fight she has to combat the smothering side of her father.

Garner is so good as Ruth she's the one character whose moral ambiguity is allowed because she has never known differently but wants so badly to be good. A scene between Ruth and Agent Petty (Jason Butler Harner) who is sticking around like a pesky mosquito, makes his entire stay almost palatable.

Jason Bateman on Ozark

Speaking of pests, Rachel's (Jordana Spiro) story continues and it's during those moments the season drags a bit with a leftover sense from Season 1 that would have been better left behind.

There isn't a lot to make anyone happy while watching Ozark Season 2, but it doesn't slow down. The plot moves swiftly and with urgency, and the character growth, especially among the females, was well-earned.

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It feels strange rooting for women to grow more brazen, more duplicitous, and more relentless, but for these to survive, they need a different set of principles.

The season is mesmerizing and merciless. Every episode urged me forward to the next, and that's what you want from a Netflix series created for binge watching. Not an hour went by that made it easy to stop watching until there were no more left see.

It's fascinating that a group of people can be so unfettered with worry when they have become such bad people. Is there a line they won't cross?

There hasn't been so far, but if we see a third season, stress between the Byrdes could eventually topple their confidence in each other and the empire they're building.

Ozark Season 2 premieres Friday, August 31 on Netflix


Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
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Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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