When “Ozark” wrapped up its third season two years ago, the final minute shocked viewers around the world. It left off with the Byrdes, a money-laundering family stationed in the Ozarks, alive at the expense of their lawyer, whose brains were splattered across the faces of family parents Marty (Jason Bateman) and Wendy (Laura Linney).
The first half of the show’s final season, released on Jan. 21, follows the aftermath and plan to create a deal between the man they work for, drug lord Omar Navarro (Felix Solis) and the FBI. Omar tells them if they can make a deal work, they can return to a normal life free of obligation to him.
This premise leads to the best episodes of “Ozark” yet. While this show has continued to get better and better every episode, pacing has been a minor issue in the past. The seasons always build up to a thrilling climax, but it sometimes takes a while to get there.
Not this season, though. From minute one, it is gripping, shocking and does exactly what this show does best — complicate every possible situation.
Just as the Byrdes’ relationship with Omar gets better, we are introduced to his nephew, Javi (Alfonso Herrera), whose bold and brash nature leads him to become a frightening and imposing presence over the family.
The cast is just as good as ever, with the de facto lead character, Bateman’s Marty, being just as calm and calculating as possible despite the scenarios around him becoming more and more dire.
Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner) continues to be one of the best characters. After working for the Byrdes for much of the show, she left last season, and the rivalry between her and the family is a beautiful thing to behold. One particular scene toward the end of this half features some of the best acting work Garner has ever delivered in this show.
In addition, Linney is the best she’s ever been as Wendy, becoming more unhinged and terrifying than ever as she gets what she wants by any means. Her conflict with Darlene Snell (Lisa Emery), one of the most despicable characters on the show, is excellent here as well.
But of course, with a show that relies on twists and narrative climaxes as much as “Ozark” does, it’s hard to praise it without acknowledging its finale. Without going into spoilers, the ending of this half of the final season is shocking, upsetting and leaves the show in a great place leading into the final seven episodes, which will air sometime later this year.
Netflix’s best crime drama is just as binge-able as ever, and the wait for the final seven episodes is sure to be difficult.