This time around, the story is reined in. Ozark season 3 isn’t just about the dangers outside the family. The threat is much closer to home.
Ozark season 3 continues to see the Byrde family struggle to maintain the average suburban family image, while simultaneously running a money laundering scheme for a drug cartel. It’s less action packed than season 1, but more dramatic than season 2, offering a steady pace of conflict and resolution to keep you hooked episode to episode.
Season 3 of Ozark picks up soon after the end of season 2. The Byrde family, led by Jason Bateman and Laura Linney, seem to be in a more comfortable, stable situation than they have been thus far.
The riverboat casino is up and running, with Ruth Langmore (played by Emmy Award winner, Julia Garner) in charge of the day-to-day operations, and a truce has been made with the Kansas City mob. Everything appears to be going smoothly, but of course, we wouldn’t be here if that were true.
The first half of Ozark season 3 is largely carried by Marty and Wendy’s inability to agree on anything with the business and their family.
On Marty’s side of things, he believes there could be a mole on the casino floor, and is reluctant to begin laundering money until he’s sure he has safety measures in place. Wendy, on the other hand, is not only raring to go, but is actively going behind Marty’s back making new plans to grow the business.
Meanwhile, their cartel boss, Omar Narvarro (Felix Solis), is in the middle of a drug war, and insistent that operations begin. Wendy’s ambitions have put her in the good books of their lawyer, Helen Pierce (Janet McTeer), and Navarro, but it also puts her squarely at odds with her husband.
There’s no clear right or wrong party in this disagreement, and that’s how Ozark shines.
The strength of Ozark continues to be the inclusion of the entire family on the illegal activities, allowing for differing conflict from the tired trope of keeping the situation a secret from loved ones to keep them safe.
With both Marty and Wendy (sort of) working together, and their children (mostly) aware of their parents actual do, the family drama is less trite. It’s not about a one-time moment of how the family reacts to the news, rather an overall story of how the family works together.
In season 3, Marty and Wendy work so poorly together, they sign up for marriage counseling at the behest of their children. Of course, in true Byrde fashion, it’s not exactly honest work.
Wendy in particular realizes her penchant for illicit and illegal activities this season, taking the lead of operations against Marty’s wishes, allowing Laura Linney countless moments to dominant a scene, proving exactly why she deserved her Emmy win.
When it comes to the kids, Jonah and Charlotte, they may not have a large contribution to the season, but they’re a welcome addition to the scenes they are in. It helps that Charlotte’s insistence of emancipating the family is long over.
It’s refreshing to see both her and Jonah in on the family business, and helping where they can. Considering the amount of marital and business strife their parents are creating, Jonah and Charlotte’s ability to play the middle and not create unnecessary drama is a relief.
Fortunately, the battle between Marty and Wendy doesn’t last the entire season. Knowing the audience’s tolerance for the back and forth would likely wane, eventually external troubles force the two to, if not see eye-to-eye, at least work together.
Some of those troubles are brought upon by some new faces in season 3: Wendy’s brother Ben, played by Tom Pelphrey, and FBI agent Maya Miller, played by Jessica Francis Dukes.
Not only do the Byrdes have the cartel breathing down their necks, but opening the casino has caused the FBI to increase their efforts in trying to catch Marty and Wendy. The standout newbie though is easily Wendy’s brother, Ben. Less polished than Wendy on the surface, but with more genuine amiability and a fire that’s unmatched.
Despite all the hits, there are, however, some misses in Ozark season 3. The extra characters and subplots that dragged season 2 are far fewer this time around, though still noticeable.
The Wyatt and Darlene storyline stands out for the wrong reasons, and the peek into cartel business outside the Ozarks doesn’t add to the tension or danger in the way the writers probably intended.
For a show whose premise sounds like something you’ve heard or seen 100 times before, season 3 of Ozark still manages to capture and keep your attention for the next set of binge-able 10 episodes.