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This article contains spoilers for previous seasons of "Ozark."
The Byrdes are back and better than ever. Following an almost two year long hiatus, everyone’s favorite money-laundering family has returned for Part One of “Ozark” season four, which came to Netflix on Jan. 21. Luckily for fans, these new episodes maintain the show’s tradition of delivering complex character studies, riveting dialogue, unpredictable plot twists, and excellent cinematography. The result is a show that is impossible not to binge.
Season four picks up right where the previous season left off, with Marty and Wendy Byrde (Jason Bateman and Laura Linney) cleaning up the blood and guts of Helen, the cartel lawyer who was shockingly murdered in the season three finale. This gory scene serves as the perfect introduction to the new season, foreshadowing the unprecedented high levels of violence that characterize these episodes. However, “Ozark” is careful never to slip into the realm of a cheesy Michael Bay action film, with even the most dramatic moments of destruction justifiably advancing the plot.
Having been tasked with obtaining immunity for their ruthless drug cartel boss Omar Navarro, the Byrdes turn to FBI Agent Maya Miller (Jessica Frances Dukes). While she had a smaller recurring role in season three, Dukes is dominant in season four, brilliantly portraying her character’s struggle to maintain her safety and morality as she becomes further enmeshed in the Byrdes’ treacherous world. Her chemistry with Marty, a man whom she both deeply respects and greatly fears, sets the foundation for one of the show’s most interesting relationships.
Bateman, the freshly minted Hasty Pudding Man of the Year, delivers yet another great performance as the show’s logical, unflappable anchor. In fact, Marty’s cool, problem-solving attitude has become such a character trademark that some of season four’s best moments come when this stoic facade is compromised by the irrational behavior of cartel personnel. Considering Bateman’s past comedic roles, especially his iconic turn as Michael Bluth in “Arrested Development,” certainly makes this dramatic performance all the more impressive and enticing.
However, as with every season of “Ozark,” Bateman cannot help but be bested by Laura Linney, whose performance as Wendy Byrde is easily one of the strongest on television today.
Since season one, viewers have watched Wendy gradually transform from collateral damage of Marty’s questionable life choices into a far greater agent of calculated chaos. This metamorphosis reaches its climax in season four, as Wendy takes the Byrde family future into her own hands with bone-chilling ferocity. One particular scene with Darlene Snell at the end of episode five will leave viewers with no doubt about the death of Wendy’s morality.
If one is to buy into the comparisons between “Ozark” and “Breaking Bad,” Wendy Byrde is undoubtedly this show’s Walter White. Anything short of an Emmy win would be criminal.
This season’s few weaknesses lie primarily in unconvincing performances from the Byrde children and the rather confusing logistics of episode seven. After three seasons of being firmly positioned in the realm of supporting actors, Jonah and Charlotte Byrde have more outsized roles in season four. Unfortunately, the delivery of their respective lines often feels forced and unexpressive, a rare miss for the show. As for the end of episode seven, Omar Navarro’s situation and the future of the show seems difficult to decipher, a situation which will hopefully be remedied in Part Two of season four.
Minor shortcomings aside, this first slate of episodes in season four is an extremely promising start to the final season of “Ozark.” Few shows on television now (and possibly ever) have managed to improve exponentially over time, offering viewers consistently shocking and truly thrilling entertainment — “Ozark” is one such show. And if that isn’t convincing enough, tune in to see Julia Garner’s masterful performance as Ruth Langmore crescendo to an emotional explosion at the end of the final episode which is truly unlike anything viewers have seen before.
—Staff writer Brady M. Connolly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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