Marty versus Wendy Byrde: In the final season of 'Ozark', women look set to take every seat at the big table

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Over the seasons, the calm and shrewd Marty Byrde’s (Jason Bateman) shoulders stooped a little as he became more and more helpless, unable to match up to his wife Wendy’s (Laura Linney) calculations. (Image: Screen grab/Netflix)

The appeal of Ozark is that of any white-collar crime show. A financial adviser with creative flair for cooking the books, Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) uproots his family from their home in Chicago and transplants them to a resort town called the Ozarks, in the heart of America, so he can launder money for his employers – a Mexican drug cartel. Over time, his wife Wendy (Laura Linney) begins to participate in their delicately executed criminal life, slowly co-opting their teenage children Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz) and Jonah (Skylar Gaertner).

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Laura Linney’s Wendy Byrde is all kinds of calculating, Machiavellian and cold-hearted. There are no limits to her avarice and ambition. Over the seasons, the calm and shrewd Marty’s shoulders stooped a little as he became more and more helpless, unable to match up to his wife’s calculations.

For a family that has stacks of cash hidden away in a tomb, over four seasons, their lifestyle did not change. Marty still drives a beaten up car, the Byrdes live in the same lakeside house throughout and their clothes look like they came from Target or Old Navy. The Byrdes never relax. They don’t go to parent-teacher meetings or get letters about their children’s performance at school. They don’t go on hikes or visit malls. One cannot easily relate to this family that takes crime in its stride and hardly blinks when a body drops dead in front of them.

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In a high-stakes game where violence is all pervasive and even when they seem to be losing control, family remains the core motivator for the Byrdes. But their choices are always questionable, because when you partner with the bad guys, there will be consequences. Through the last couple of seasons, the roadmap has been a return to normalcy, to clean up while achieving respectability. Love, loyalty, fraternity get tested and challenged. Some relationships are controversial and complicated.

Known largely for his comedic roles (Arrested Development, Horrible Bosses, Game Night) the four-season long Ozark, his character of Marty Byrde became a gamechanger for Bateman. Through the ups and down Marty remained consistent, if humourless, looking out for his mentee Ruth (Julia Garner), keeping a check on his kids, cooking the books and delivering to his bosses. Over the last two seasons, Bateman took his character onto slow burn, finally letting Marty implode. When his decision to let his wife take charge becomes too much, it triggers a violent outburst.

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As the guy next door who is tied so closely with crime, but so deeply committed to his family (not unlike Byran Cranston’s Walter White’s narrative), Bateman has equally earned praise for his directing work on the show, including bagging an Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series.

The series that debuted on Netflix in July 2017 concluded this month with a 14-episode final season that continued to tease the question ‘Do the ends justify the means’ without giving a conclusive response.

Bateman, who also served as executive producer, credited showrunner Chris Mundy for the choices, especially in opting not to take what Bateman describes as a “junk food sort of ending”. In an interview to The Hollywood Reporter, Bateman said, “I think he made an incredible choice to not take the junk food sort of ending of like a big huge crescendo, guns blazing… It sort of ends in a way that is, I think, no more hysterical than any other ending of any other episode. It just elegantly comes to the close of symptomatic stuff, story stuff and character stuff.”

The final season was a bit slow to get going, a bit long to get to the finish, but it ties up the ends with a blood-soaked bow. Marty is surrounded by women he trusts, likes and admires – primarily Wendy, Ruth and Charlotte, which is interesting in a white male antihero show that, like Breaking Bad, is masculine in its origins, pitting men against men. Except in the last season of Ozark, when women look set to take every seat at the big table.

Imagine Marty Byrde of Ozark exchanging notes with Walter White – the science teacher turned drug-cooker – of Breaking Bad. Who wouldn’t want to be a fly on the wall at that meeting of two antiheroes! And maybe dilute the masculinity by inviting Nancy Botwin (played by Mary Louise Parker) of Weeds too. There might just be a heady spin-off idea here.

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