Season 2 of Ozark is a great improvement of the first and it is all thanks to the women, sans Charlotte and Rachel, of the show.
|Creator||Bill Dubuque, Mark Williams|
|Frank||John Bedford Lloyd|
|Roy||Jason Butler Harner|
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Days have passed since the end of season 1 and Marty’s primary task is, within 6 months, getting a casino up and running and then high tailing it out of the Ozarks. Problem is, there are multiple organizations and stakeholders who complicate that process. First and foremost there are the Snells, Darlene and Jacob, who don’t appreciate the Navaro cartel’s lawyer, Helen, and her lack of respect. But, being that Jacob is the head of the family, not the impetuous Darlene, he tries to be as malleable as possible to damn near every whim she presents.
However, when it comes to working with Buddy’s old friend Frank, who is head of a Teamsters union and Kansas City Mob, he presents a serious issue. On top of that, there is the FBI, thanks to certain people slipping up, getting probable cause to swoop in on Marty’s businesses and a man named Charles Wilkes who is needed to get through Missouri’s varied obstacles to increase the cap on the amount of casinos there are and to get the gaming commission to approve the Bryde’s specific casino.
Making Marty quite lucky that Wendy is well versed in participating in politics and that Wilkes takes a liking to her. In fact, Helen and Darlene do as well. But, of course, when drugs, money, and corruption are in circulation, friendships fail and sometimes the only thing tying two people together is business.
But it’s not all about the casino and FBI. For the youth of the show, there is a strong focus on family and trying to craft what their future will be like. Charlotte, for example, seeks emancipation since she can’t deal with what her family is into and accepts. And by family, I include Jonah who starts to show a gift for cleaning money like his father. And though not a blood relation, there is also a need to mention Buddy whose relationship to Jonah becomes like a grandfather and maybe even like a father in law to Wendy as well. For with Marty constantly trying to pull rank on her, or berate her for not communicating about a decision she made, Buddy seems to be the only neutral party she can talk to who isn’t a child.
Which is a privilege on this show, someone to talk to. For when it comes to Ruth, she doesn’t really have that. Wyatt and Three she is trying to keep from the life she and Cade chose as much as possible. A rather trying task for with Cade out of prison, he is ready to go right back to his old ways and between Charlotte’s influence, Wyatt thinking Marty killed his dad, and a fight which gets him in trouble, Ruth has her hands full. Yet, being the badass she is, and being heavily reliant on Marty, she starts making plans. The kind which will benefit her family greatly, lift them out of poverty, and maybe undo this idea there is a curse on their family.
An idea which gets challenged, again and again, by Cade. Someone who seemingly can’t deal with Ruth doing what many men in the Langmore family could never do. Who wants to continue to perpetuate the idea the Langmore family are but trash and petty thieves, and he gets physical with Ruth about it. Which, for a 19-year-old young woman, is a bit much. Add in the cartel questioning her and the damage that does, to not see Ruth as one tough son of a gun, desperate to see the next generation of Langmores succeed, should be difficult.
Episodes & Synopses
The Highs, Lows, and Development of Ruth
Like in season 1, in season 2 Ruth, played by Julia Garner, remains the highlight of the show. Seeing her become the matriarch of the family and deal with Cade threaten her authority, at home and at work, brought about us getting a diverse mix of emotions from Garner and so many layers to Ruth. For example, in this season she outgrows what has traditionally been the family business. Petty theft, robbery, things like that? Ruth is beyond that. She is running a strip club, running money for Marty, and even making angel investments on his behalf. Which he doesn’t fully appreciate, but leading up to episode 4, one could argue Marty has become a paternal figure to her.
Granted, one she has a very complicated relationship with, but he probably spends more time talking to her than his own kids – depending on the episode. Something which, her closeness to Marty that is, gets Cade jealous. Leading him to assert, over and over, how she is a Langmore, how he is her father, and showing why Ruth is screwed up as she is. For one second he can be envious of Marty and saying all this, and the next he is ready to snitch on her because he isn’t getting what he wants. This is on top of the abuse he deals out mentally, emotionally, and he even physically assaults her twice. Once by pressing her head against the dashboard of his truck and the second time during a failed robbery.
Thus helping you understand why she is so invested in Wyatt. Marty is the money man and that is all he is reliant for. He isn’t really going to protect you, as Helen waterboarding Ruth showed, and as much as he might try to make things right, there remains the question of why he messed up in the first place? Then with Cade, as said, it is all about him and how the relationship benefits him. Wyatt, on the other hand? While she does have to get on his ass, that is her cousin. He is her only real friend. Yet, she took his dad from him and that may have made it where he may never speak to her again.
Leading to one of the handful of moments you may cry this season. In fact, the majority of the really emotional moments involve Ruth. For while the original hook was her being the little blonde girl with a filthy mouth and chip on her soldier, all at the age of 19, this season showed us something different. With what happens in episode 5, and how that changes her, Garner gets to show a more vulnerable Ruth. One which knows trauma, is a bit isolated and alone, and has no one to turn to so she cries in the shower, takes a deep breath, and suppresses all that before facing the world.
Wendy – Front & Center
Wendy has quite a season. Really making her only second to Ruth in personal ranking order. For if it isn’t her diving into her past, when she was a wild child, getting abortions, doing drugs, and all that, it is showing that she is not only Marty’s equal but arguably could be his superior. Especially since Marty’s big thing is how he can negotiate deals that make most people content, maybe happy depending on the situation.
Take her handling Charles, even Darlene, and Jacob to a small degree. While Marty talks numbers and asks for faith, he is often pensive. However, with advice from Buddy, Wendy asserts herself more and never minds Marty talking about being undermined and unilateral decisions. He can’t save the family alone and the little he does delegate is not enough. Especially because Wendy wants more than the minimum of keeping the family alive. She wants her husband, she wants her kids to have a father, and sex every now and then would be nice as well. Versus him being on call and as soon as that phone going off, that’s it. Whatever conversation was going on is over.
Leading to us really seeing her step up. For a while, since Darlene came to like Wendy, she was the one who could be seen as an ally when it comes to handling Darlene’s temper. Then, like how Ruth learned immensely from Marty, Wendy learned from Charles. Well, maybe more so brushed up on what she already knew, but she did learn more about where her line truly is when it comes to politics and manipulation. Thus allowing Marty, in ways he may never fully appreciate, make strides to that casino within the matter of maybe one or two months which should have taken far more.
While by no means a huge part of the show, what Helen did push was that, whether they were on the level of Wendy and Ruth, her and Darlene, or an annoyance like Charlotte and Rachel, women were the catalyst for everything this season. Also, she was perhaps one of the first to push the idea that women on this show can be badasses, seriously hardcore, but still have soft spots. I think in the same episode, or right before, she had Ruth waterboarded, she was talking about missing her kids – in a genuine way. Which feels sort of off since, when you think badass women, kids usually aren’t a factor. Yet, as seen with Darlene, the idea of raising and molding someone isn’t just a maternal thing, but instinct. Also, taking note of Ruth, it brings about a loyalty which can’t be bought and will take a whole lot of screw ups to become fickle.
That is, unless your kid is Charlotte.
It Being Shown How Difficult & Time Consuming It Is To Keep Things Going
When it comes to media I’ve watched, especially dealing with crime, you don’t see the full web which supports criminal activity. It’s usually limited to our lead, some kind of law enforcement agent, a nosey friend or neighbor, and whoever the crime contact is. In this season, we see all the players required to pull off something as big as creating a casino and it really helps you appreciate each role everyone plays. For if it isn’t Ruth handling the small stuff like collecting money, or buying the boat, it is Wendy using her charm and know how to manipulate, eventually blackmail, with the help of Jonah, Charles, to get him to handle local politicians.
And while sometimes exhausting to watch, it does feel like this show isn’t trying to show the usual route of crime being dangerous, but lucrative, but crime being time-consuming, requires mastery level communication skills, and when it comes to the lucrative part? You’ll barely get to enjoy it because of what you have to do to keep it and not get arrested, if not killed, because of it.
Jonah & Buddy
While the criminal element, and how people handle it, consumes most of the highlights, we also have to talk about the heart. That comes in the form of Buddy and Jonah. Not to downplay Jonah’s role in putting Charles on a leash or Buddy’s in helping Marty get Frank on board with the casino. But, like how Helen cracked things open for the women being more than badasses, Jonah and Buddy made it so the men got cracked open a bit too.
For Jonah, being that he isn’t like Charlotte and has a life of his own, his interactions with Buddy helped set you up for Buddy’s death and showed how much he wanted to be validated. Especially since, as Jonah notes during the funeral, he doesn’t have friends. So when someone lets him be around them, he latches on. We even see that with the way he handles Mason’s baby. There is no complaining. He takes care of that kid like it was his actual little brother and enjoys it while it lasts.
But the real kick in the tear ducts comes from Buddy becoming more than the eccentric owner who lives in the basement. As noted, he becomes a confidant for Wendy and even helps her with her Darlene issue. However, one of his grandest acts is his scenes with Marty. Not just the Frank thing, but how he gets Marty to talk about his dad, when he helps Buddy shave, and make it so we see the human side to a man who is often cold, calculated, or expressing fear.
Which doesn’t lead to a teary-eyed moment, but considering how much Wendy divulges about herself, seeing Marty open up a bit really speaks to how well-crafted Buddy was. Making his sendoff matter all that much more.
Charlotte truly is the epitome of a character whose main purpose is to create internal drama. That is, being that road bump when the criminal protagonist is seemingly getting a lot of their business together and smoothing things out. For while it would have been fine if she just hanged out with Wyatt, in some weird situationship, then she decides she wants to be emancipated. Following that, she wants to get a lawyer and tells them something which sets off a red flag for them. What exactly? Who knows?
But I will say this, and maybe the actor should take this as a compliment, she is definitely one of the top 10 characters I ever wanted to see have an onscreen death. For I don’t even love to hate her, like a King Joffrey from Game of Thrones. I just hate her for her character has little to no value and even if you throw in the argument of her wanting normalcy and not wanting to be sucked in, the way she is designed and performed doesn’t push you to have empathy for her. It just makes you wanna see her get whacked to put Marty and Wendy on notice.
The main issue with Frank is that he got hyped up to be this badass who is not to be messed with and the only thing he does is put a bomb in Marty’s office. Now, it should be noted, his relationship with Buddy was heavily used to keep him from going further. However, with Frank never getting the speech on messing with Marty equals messing with the Navarro cartel, was it wrong to expect more before the season finale?
The Disappearance of Janet Ryner – News Reporter
There was a reported looking into Charles Wilkes, and his role into the casino limit increasing, among other things. The fact she brought in the idea of media scrutiny, which was going to gravitate towards Marty’s family but then disappeared, seemed suspicious. Leading to the biggest issue with this season.
Taking The Easy Way Out
When watching a crime show, there is this consistent need to question: Will this be it? Taking note of the Mason, Roy, and Rachel topics below, those are but a few situations where you are left wondering how did Marty and co., get out of those situations? But there is also the need to question how did Jacob and Darlene survive the hit the cartel set up for them? How did Charlotte talking to a lawyer not get picked up by the Cartel or FBI? Considering Marty’s interactions with Ruth, and the cartel swooping in on her, why did Roy not follow up to get her flipped?
There is a lot not done which makes you scratch your head. Not even in a, “But if it was me” kind of way but really taking note of the characters, the fact some hold back so the story can continue is a tad frustrating.
On The Fence
Did Mason ultimately have a purpose? Yes. He broke Marty and coerced him to be emotional and vulnerable with Wendy. Yet, what he did to set up that situation, kidnapping Wendy, even if it led to perhaps some of the best dialog this show has had between two characters, it was so ridiculous. Why? Well, between the FBI and Navarro cartel, am I truly supposed to believe neither would have seen Wendy get kidnapped, questioned why she was driving into an empty field, or when Charles and Marty rushed a state agency to get a baby, that wouldn’t set off any flags? I mean, come on.
Roy & Rachel
It only makes sense for the FBI to be around and even raid Marty. The problem is, someone inept like Roy handling it, while he presents enough of a threat to make you wonder if something may go down, you’re reminded that we’re in season 2 and Marty has come out relatively unscathed so far. So to believe Roy would take him down, especially with using Rachel? It just wasn’t realistic.
That is, until Ruth said enough to get a search warrant. Following that, you’d think Marty mentioning he’d make sure the cartel would take care of her, if something happened, would mean it is over. However, the show just blows over that. Him saying that out loud, while Rachel is wearing a wire, totally disregarded. Thus making it where Roy went from a real threat to a mosquito. One which got everything he could before he got smashed.
Cade is someone you love to hate. On one hand, he is this habitual offender who represents the past of the Langmore family. The kind which got Ruth a record and inspired her to do better so Wyatt can and Three as well. With that in mind, you do have to slightly feel for him when it becomes clear his daughter has surpassed him, doesn’t need him, and has things where his nephews don’t need him as well. So when he goes to betray her, you can see it is out of hurt. His ego is bruised and he isn’t a patriarch anymore.
Yet, then comes the issue of you seeing he is capable of being a good dad. Him showing he knows how to console Ruth and help her through the trauma she is going through but, between his immaturity and idiocy, keeps reverting to a douche. To the point it goes beyond ego and is simply malice. Making it where you love to hate him and yet kind of hope maybe he could change. Thus putting you in Ruth’s mindset of wanting Cade to be the father she needs yet knowing there is a slim chance in hell that may ever happen.
Darlene & Jacob
With the introduction of Helen, Frank, and Charles, the Snell family almost felt secondary. Those fearsome Midwest thugs from season 1? Well, with Jacob often negotiating away all his family has worked for, and Darlene reeling each time, it made them seem weak. Even comical as Darlene kept bringing up respect and everyone side eyeing them as if they had anything to demand such.
For really, what did the Snells have besides the heroin? From what we saw of their crew, they didn’t have a force to be reckoned with. Hence why Darlene’s way at getting back at the cartel wasn’t trying to kidnap or hurt Helen but poison the heroin. When you don’t have the ability to take a real stand you do petty stuff like that.
Yet, even with them taking a serious tumble in their ability to be threatening, the relationship between Darlene and Jacob remained interesting. Especially as Darlene pushed to have a child and we got a glimpse of their early days in episode 9. Making her killing him a bit of a shock, in the same episode, yet fitting in a way. He loved her because of that spirit and energy she always had and he ended up burnt by the flames. Well, poisoned by cherry pit cyanide but that sounded less poetic.
That Diversity Drop
Though there is a lot of talk about Mexicans and, in episode 8, we met the cartel’s contact in Chicago, there aren’t any non-white people with prominent roles this season. There is no new Del. Helen takes his place and while I don’t see the Ozarks as a place where we should expect a rainbow of faces and cultures, between Darlene and Jacob always mentioning Mexicans and seeing a bunch of Black people in episode 8, it really makes you notice how pale the show is.
Overall: Positive (Watch This)
To say this show greatly improved since season 1 would be an understatement. In season 1, as noted in the first season’s recap, Ruth was the main reason to watch the season. However, in season 2, Wendy stepped up beside her, Helen as well, and between presenting, sans Charlotte and Rachel, complicated and strong women, it also made crime much more complex as well. For unlike many shows, we got more than the wheeling, dealing, and celebrating getting over on someone. We got the stress, the constant fear, and it being more than one or two factors to worry about but every which one that could show up. Including your own daughter!
And while, yes, there are definitely quite a few times this show took the easy way out, be it how it handled Roy, Frank just letting things ride out until the end, and having Darlene’s temper nowhere near the level of season 1, these things can be forgiven in a way. Not completely, for like Helen representing a largely, so it seems, Latinx organization there is a need to raise an eyebrow. Yet, these things can be touched upon and improved.
Hence the positive label for I honestly was kind of dreading this season since I struggled through the first one. But, that is the beauty of a second season. You can learn what didn’t work with the first one, what did, maybe check audience feedback, and continue to push things forward. And as for what’s next? Well, the casino is on its way and Frank seemingly is ready for war. Add on Roy is likely to be replaced, when it comes to investigating Marty, and there are a few things to look forward to. Nothing huge, which makes you clamor for season 3 now, but enough breadcrumbs to get you through till the next binge-worthy show.