Netflix’s best show is back and better than ever(?).
If you read my list of top ten anticipated TV shows of 2020, you’ll know Ozark was sitting humbly at the top of that list. The perfect blend of drama and thriller, taken with the right amount of seriousness, a dash of realist violence and a collective of sublime performances across the board has meant that Ozark is one of, if not my favourite ongoing television series. While I never had any doubts about the most recent season, Ozark still managed to delightfully surprise me as I became even further enamoured by the situation the Byrd family found themselves in – a situation that finds itself becoming all the more complicated, and undoubtedly more dangerous.
Power is at the forefront as usual, but now more than ever, power’s shifting nature brings an evolving spin to the show. The ominous and all-seeing Navarro Cartel become somewhat conspicuous, and the threats stem from within as Marty and Wendy butt heads over their level of commitment to their higher ups. Some of the sparkle of Ozark comes from the audience’s devotion to the Byrd’s, as a family that are nervously walking the fine line between protagonists and antagonists. The longer they play their game, the more they become like them, and the cracks are beginning to show.
As Marty and the gang hurtle themselves further down the rabbit hole of cartels, FBI, and internal conflicts, the stakes feel viscerally real, and at times the surrounding and mounting pressure can almost be too much. Yet it is that never-ending snowball effect that Ozark masterfully maintains, that separates it from the rest. It continues to progressively crank up the pressure, and season three is where the show’s bigger picture becomes apparent. This is a show with direction. A show that knows where it is going. Where other series have individual season, Ozark’s are pieces in the larger, Byrd shaped puzzle, and it’s exciting to think of its eventual conclusion bringing it all to a natural and evolving arc akin to the likes of Breaking Bad.
For some it may be disconcerting to know that the quality has plateaued in a way, as season three isn’t exactly a better season than the previous two. However, Ozark is playing the long game, and we all know that slow and steady wins the race. Yet the latest run of ten episodes does manage to leave anyone watching particularly eager for a following season (and if you are one of those people you know exactly why). The narrative foundations that have been laid are anxiety-inducing as you can practically feel the noose tightening; and I have an inkling that feeling will only get word (or let’s be real here, better!).
A small merit of congratulation is in order for this stellar cast. Jason Bateman proves once again he has more than comedic acting chops; Laura Linney perfectly flits between powerful and demeaning to vulnerable and broken. However, the real standout of the season comes from Tom Pelphrey, who plays a particular familial character. Playing Ben, Pelphrey is intimidating, approachable, maniacal, and emotionally distraught., all within a single episode, and he was entirely enchanting to watch. I could type up another few thousand words just on each of the performances, but just know that everyone involved brings their A-Game.
It is soul-destroying to know that we will likely have to wait even longer before we travel back to the land of lakes, speedboats, heroin and drug money due to the ongoing issues across the globe, but there is some reassurance, knowing that Ozark has proven itself to be in some truly safe hands. This show alone is reason enough for a Netflix subscription, with its dread-dripped tone, its haunting and disturbing use of cinematography and powerhouse performances from almost everyone involved. Yet its striking of gold for a third time in a row, proves that the show has staying power, and should be considered one of the best, albeit underrated, shows in recent memory.