Ozark Season 4 Pulls Tension from the Byrdes' Overconfidence

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The first half of Ozark Season 4 drops on Netflix this Friday.

While Ozark has always been over the top and somewhat crazy in its storytelling, the writers managed to imbue Ozark Seasons 1-3 with an emotional throughline that allowed us to connect with the Byrdes even as they got deeper involved with the criminals whose money they launder.

The fourth season, though, loses some of that emotional levity, and it's no longer easy to connect with Marty (Jason Bateman) and Wendy (Laura Linney) in the same way.

The Byrdes on the Lawn

The closest they seem to ordinary people is when it comes to Jonah (Skylar Gaertner) as a teenage money-laundering wunderkind.

Even the emotional gut-punch the family suffered when Wendy allowed her brother to be killed has less meaning in this new season. It stands as a sticking point as Wendy wavers between lashing out about his death and trying to use his "disappearance" to her advantage.

After Helen's death at the end of Ozark Season 3, Marty and Wendy stepped up within the Navarro empire. By the time we catch up with them again, he looks to them as trusted confidantes, putting his future into their hands as they negotiate deals on his behalf.

By this point, and despite the ever-increasing dangers they face, Marty and Wendy are cool as cucumbers, whether amid Navarro's cartel members, the FBI, or the legislators they hope to buy to keep their operation afloat.

Darlene's Got a Gun

Ozark used to thrive on tensions created by what they didn't know and the slip-ups they made that threatened their operation and their existence. But now, they're so sure in how they operate that the tension has to come from elsewhere.

Of course, Darlene Snell (Lisa Emery) is still making noise, having gathered Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner) into the business as her partner, keeping her close and allowing Ruth to have a better relationship with cousin Wyatt (Charlie Tahan).

Ruth's story has remained the same. She still wants and needs connection and is stunned after Ben's death and by how close Wyatt has gotten to Darlene. Everything tells her to stay away from Darlene, but she holds on to maintain that connection to Wyatt.

Garner ensures Ruth maintains her humanity, and she can pluck your heartstrings when it comes to Ruth and Marty. No matter how bad things get between them, there is a deep bond that neither of them can or will break.

Ruth Leads a Group

It's Ruth who recognizes Jonah's mastery of laundering, and the more involved Jonah gets with the loose cannon that is Darlene, the more livid Wendy becomes.

No mother in her right mind would want her son to associate with the likes of Darlene, but when it comes to her kids, Jonah especially, Wendy still has the idea that they can be normal kids.

That ship sailed long ago, and Wendy may never be able to right what's driven away Jonah.

But even Darlene troubles and parenting issues don't create the same feeling of apprehension they once did. Now, it's Wendy and Marty's hyper-confidence that keeps you on your toes.

Jonah the Wunderkind

They've risen so fast and changed so much that you can spot their downfall coming as a result of their overconfidence.

Bateman and Linney have Marty and Wendy down pat, and if it's easier to dislike the pair, it's because of their talent. Whether Marty and Wendy are flying by the seat of their pants or annoyingly smug, they're always infinitely watchable.

What lies on the horizon should give everyone in the cast some very juicy material. Through these seven episodes, we can only surmise what's coming.

But it feels like the calm before the storm for the Byrde family.

Marty Begs for His Life

They've gotten so comfortable with their positions in various organizations and businesses that they even consider taking the family back home to Chicago again.

But can a family so deeply entrenched in the criminal underworld and on the radar of so many escape what they've created for themselves?

A story like theirs doesn't get a happy ending.

As we await the next seven episodes that will end the Byrde family saga, the only question is to what degree their world will fall apart and who will be left standing in the end.


Editor Rating: 4.25 / 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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