The Byrde family is strolling down the road, with Sam Cooke’s “Bring It on Home to Me” playing on the car radio.
“God,” says Wendy Byrde of Laura Linney, “I love her voice.”
She is in the passenger seat while her husband, Jason Bateman’s Marty, drives and teenage children Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz) and Jonah (Skylar Gaertner) sit behind them.
Marty and Wendy are 48 hours away from an important meeting with the FBI. Two days stand between them and the freedom they have long sought from the life of crime they have built for themselves.
“What’s your temperature?” Wendy asks.
“It’s colder?” Marty answers.
Everything seems reasonably fine, but, after some more talking between the four of them…something happens.
We won’t say what, but it’s unexpected.
Thus begins “The Beginning of the End,” the first episode of the fourth and final season of Netflix’s hit drama series “Ozark.” The streaming giant is releasing the first seven episodes of the season this week, with another batch of seven set to debut at a time yet to be announced.
For three seasons, beginning in July 2017, the nerve-wracking series has explored, as Netflix puts it, “capitalism, family dynamics, and survival through the eyes of (anything but) ordinary Americans.”
The Byrdes are certainly not ordinary Americans.
After moving from Chicago to the Ozarks, Missouri, they built an ever-expanding business empire backed by criminal endeavors and political influence, all while under the control of a greater evil, Omar Navarro (Felix Solis), the leader of a Mexican. Drug cartel.
After the aforementioned opening sequence, the Andrew Bernstein-directed episode takes us to the place where we last left Marty and Wendy: Mexico. They’re trying to erase the murder of a former partner, both figuratively and literally, the shocking execution of the woman that happens right next to them and leaves her blood on their clothes, skin and hair, and they go ahead with its constant evolution, always. – dangerous reality.
Omar wants something from them, something that will be very difficult to fulfill. However, if they can achieve the goal, they will be released from their obligations to the cartel. (And of course, if they can’t, they’ll die at the hands of his powerful long-range hands.)
In Mexico, they are introduced to Omar’s nephew, Javi Elizonndro (Alfonso Herrera), a business school-educated, skilled and ambitious cartel lieutenant. It’s clear from the jump that he’s going to be a problem for the Byrdes.
Yeah, bringing the volatile Javi into the mix feels like showrunner Chris Mundi and the other writers went back to last year’s playbook, when they inserted Wendy’s bipolar brother Ben into the Byrdes’ lives to complicate things. things. However, while Ben felt like a plot device popped out of nowhere (the appearance of the previously never-spoken family member is a tired conflict-creating device), Javi’s sudden presence is felt at the same time. least a little more organic.
Speaking of Ben, two characters grapple with their unsavory fates at the end of season three. Understandably, his girlfriend, “Ozark” mainstay Ruth Langmore (the ever-nice Julia Garner from the well-received 2019 drama “The Assistant”), is crushed by it. And then there’s Jonah, who bitterly resents his mother for the hand he had in Ben’s death.
As these seven episodes progress, the relationship between Wendy and her son becomes untenable, especially after Jonah gets involved in high-risk criminal activity outside of the family. (And Wendy certainly isn’t thrilled with Marty’s obvious pride that her son has become a sliver of the old money-laundering bloc.)
On the other hand, Jonah grows a little closer to his sister, but worries that Charlotte is getting too comfortable as she digs into the family business, helping run Byrde’s casino and more. Charlotte obviously loves to impress her mom, but Jonah warns her to prepare for the moment when she disappoints Wendy.
At this point, Wendy has become something akin to the Walter White of this show: she’s broken beyond bad, a character that now makes you wonder what she WON’T do to get what she wants. Linney (“Sully”), as always, is fabulous, the acclaimed actress knows exactly when to level up emotionally.
Then there’s Marty, played so sweetly by Bateman (“Gamenight”) that you almost forget he’s working to put out three fires at any given time. I could criticize the actor for not bringing enough intensity to the role, especially in these episodes as Marty works to achieve his longed-for ending, but Bateman is still exceptionally engaging. Marty is, perhaps, unlike any other criminal we’ve seen on screen.
Although Bateman usually directs the season premiere and a handful of other “Ozark” episodes each season, and has shown a flair for it, he’s not behind the camera in any of these episodes.
The most notable director credited in these episodes is actress Robin Wright, who made an impressive feature directorial debut with the strong 2021 drama “Land.” She does a good job fronting the sixth episode, “Blood Over All,” as well as the eventful midseason finale, “Sanctified.”
As longtime fans know, it takes a viewer to suspend much of their disbelief to enjoy “Ozark” to its fullest. That won’t change now, as even swallowing that the Byrdes are still alive at this point will take a bit of effort on your part.
And, hey, how can you buy the squirm-worthy romantic pairing of ruthless farm girl, heroin purveyor, and shotgun enthusiast Darlene Snell (Lisa Emery) and Ruth’s kind cousin Wyatt Langmore, who is a handful of decades younger? who his best girl?
By the way, Darlene, Wyatt and Ruth form a business partnership that is bound to be rocky, and of course Darlene doesn’t go along with Ruth’s plan to sell her product as “designer heroin” at a huge profit margin. (Cleverly, she pitches it as “farm-to-needle” fare to a Chicago-based celebrity chef.)
Netflix doesn’t want reviewers to reveal any of the upcoming deaths, but this is “Ozark,” so expect some, and we don’t want to reveal much of the overall fun, as eager as that may be. .
Will the Byrdes finally rest in peace with so many others who have crossed their paths in recent years?
“You don’t win until I win, Marty,” Navarro says ominously in the season premiere. “Don’t forget that.”
However, early in that episode, Wendy tells Marty, “I’m not (expletive) losing.”
We wouldn’t bet against her.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism