'Ozark' Season 4 Review
We are free now but are the Byrdes? That really is the question that has been looming over Ozark, which is now ending its money-laundering run with a final fourth season, picking up right after the mind-blowing season three finale. Writers room guided by showrunner Chris Mundy also created a mid-season cliffhanger with the earlier released Part 1, where Ruth (Julia Garner) discovered his cousin Wyatt's (Charlie Tahan) dead body and swore vengeance on cartel figure Javi (Alfonso Herrera). Second part of the season finds Marty and Wendy (Jason Bateman and Laura Linney, respectively, both actors also directing this season) trying to finalise their escape from the criminal world unharmed with their kids Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz) and Jonah (Skylar Gaertner). They face pressure from prisoned cartel boss Omar Navarro (Felix Solis), a private investigator Mel Sattem (Adam Rothenberg) looking into Wendy's brother's disappearance and Wendy's father Nathan (Richard Thomas) challenging the custody of Charlotte and Jonah.
It's not really a surprise that once again the show's strongest showing comes from the cast whether those are the stars or multiple character actors in supporting roles, impeccably cast by Alexa L. Fogel. Maybe a smaller surprise is that fourth season's most nuanced performance comes from Bateman who's been more or less solid whilst Linney and Garner have taken bigger swings in previous seasons. This season Bateman's physical presence especially shows how tired Marty is of everything, and how he ultimately gives up on trying to seize control at the end. Garner fades away a bit in the second part but she owns first seven episodes as Ruth realises that she will never have control either as long as the Byrdes are in town. Where the season is slightly weaker than the third is that there isn't a supporting turn that matches Tom Pelphrey or Lisa Emery's, though Herrera brings some sleazy charm with him.
In terms of the craft on display, Ozark continues to soar through the dark green landscapes of Missouri. While you still wish that the musical score would've been more exciting, the show's cinematography (contributions from Shawn Kim and Eric Koretz) more than makes up for it. Perfectly timed push-ins and compositions that enhance characters' search of power create a mood that is just as suffocating as it is unpredictable. Similarly uncertain but more in an unsure way is the series' eventual conclusion; decision to increase the episode count and break the story in half comes at cost. There's a breather from episodes eight to twelve which takes away much of the momentum that the frankly brilliant beginning built up, this makes the last showdown between Byrde family members and an adversary rather shaky. There's a circle of violence that won't get broken without honest remorse but for a story all about making plans for worst outcomes, the lack of backup plans feels like the writers took a small shortcut.
Smileys: Jason Bateman, Julia Garner, cinematography
Frowneys: Structure, pacing
Early Byrde catches the worms, late Byrde gets eaten by them six feet under.