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Ozark returns with a darker, stronger second season.

This is an advanced SPOILER-FREE review of Ozark Season 2. You can stream all 10 episodes on Netflix on August 31. 

Netflix’s gritty Missouri-based crime drama, Ozark, is back with a darker, and much stronger, second season, which pushes the money-laundering Byrde family to the brink of collapse, as they struggle to not only survive, but also thrive in a criminal underworld filled with drug cartels, crooked government agents, and rapacious politicians.

When Ozark first premiered in 2017, comparisons were made to AMC’s seminal Breaking Bad, and rightly so. Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) and Walter White (Bryan Cranston) are both hardworking, law-abiding individuals, who after suffering extreme circumstances, decide that a life of crime is their only way out. While those similarities are difficult to ignore, Ozark Season 2 does a solid job of distinguishing itself from other series within the same genre.

One of the key differences from a series like Breaking Bad is the fact that the entire Byrde family is in on the dealings with the Mexican cartels and the money laundering scheme. This narrative element opens up some interesting plotlines for the kids, as they try to figure out what their roles will be. Jonah (Skylar Gartner), the youngest of the Byrdes, has the better child arc this season, finding interesting ways to get his father’s attention and respect. Unfortunately, his sister Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz) is shortchanged with a more traditional teenage-rebel story, which gets repetitive fast.

Their parents, Marty and Wendy (Laura Linney), continue their love/hate marital relationship from Season 1. However, with a more formidable threat in the form of the cartel’s top lawyer, Helen Pierce (Janet McTeer) watching their every move, the couple is forced to work together in order keep their family safe. You’re never sure which version of Marty and Wendy you’re going to get on a given day, but when they work together, like outmaneuvering political figures to further their criminal empire, for example, it’s easy to root for them. Unlike Walter, the Byrdes, while admittedly doing some awful things to get what they want, never fully “break bad.” They may not be superheroes, but they’re definitely not the worst people on the show.

With the likes of Linney, Bateman, and McTeer batting in Ozark’s lineup, it’s difficult for supporting players to stand out among so many all-stars. Julia Garner (The Americans), who portrays Ruth Langmore, somehow finds a way and is deserving of the MVP award for Season 2. Her character arguably goes through the biggest transformation after her father, Cade (Trevor Long), returns from prison to terrorize her and her cousins this season.

For one so young, Ruth has a lot on her plate, between managing a strip club and keeping track of Marty’s illegal finances, among other things. Add an abusive, alcoholic father to the mix and you have some serious dramatic obstacles to contend with. Garner’s ability to bring the viewer into her character’s emotional mindset is impressive. Ruth is dragged through the mud more than anyone this season, yet she never gives up – and unlike Marty and the rest of the Byrde family, she doesn’t have the advantages that come with wealth and a good education.

While it may be tough to escape the shadow of similar crime dramas like Breaking Bad, Ozark charts its own course in Season 2 by making every single character a vital part of the story. The Byrde family, along with countless other colorful characters that inhabit this world, are worth paying attention to and even though a third season is a possibility, this outing stands on its own by telling a completely captivating story from start to finish.

The Verdict

Ozark Season 2 avoids the sophomore slump by sticking to what made its first outing so memorable. The Byrde family has never felt more compelling, and with the added threat of Janet McTeer’s ruthless Helen Pierce, and Julie Garner’s emotionally devastating portrayal of Ruth Langmore, every second of Ozark begs to watched.


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