Those of you who’ve watched Ozark from the beginning know it’s one of the most unconventional family shows ever produced. Yes, it is a family show or at least a show about a family. Most still place it in the niche of crime drama, but might be closer to The Sopranos, despite the Byrde family not having mob connections.
No, it’s much worse: They’re under the gun of working for a Mexican drug cartel due to economic advisor Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) screwing up a money-laundering scheme. (In reality, his business partner tries to con the cartel while Byrde is none the wiser.) His cheating wife, Wendy (Laura Linney), has to go along with the family, after being forced to move to the Ozarks in Missouri to take on another money-laundering plan as payback.
With a third season in production, it’s looking like Ozark is going to touch on its roots in being about a marriage and a family first.
A family as the new antiheroes
We all know antihero dramas are the big thing now, mostly on streaming, but also in movies/TV. Breaking Bad is more or less the progenitor of a show like Ozark, except the whole family is in on the crime scheme now rather than the morally ambiguous husband as Walter White was.
In the case of the Byrdes, they have no choice in their scheme or risk being killed by drug cartel forcing them into crime. Of course, had Marty Byrde not have started anything, he wouldn’t have dragged his wife into a bigger mess.
Wendy Byrde was merely a public relations consultant for politicians before being embroiled in uprooting the family to living in the sometimes strange environment of the Ozarks. Now she has to help her husband in this new laundering scheme (via running a casino), something requiring them to work together more often as husband and wife.
One could argue this is bringing them closer together, for better and for definitely worse. According to Jason Bateman, who recently won an Emmy for directing some episodes, the intention in season 3 is to focus more on Wendy.
Forced family crimes makes this different from ‘Breaking Bad’
Many critics have pinned Ozark as a bit of a Breaking Bad knockoff, outside of it having its own unique story. The setting of the Ozarks alone makes for plenty of interesting characters and situations.
Also different is having a marriage being in the middle of the criminal scheme, including the kids. Yes, that’s more than a little dark in having Marty teaching his son, Skyler, how to do money laundering. Part of this involves Skyler making money doing the homework for his fellow school students.
At the heart of the show, though, is an examination of a marriage. Season 3 will focus more on the side of Wendy and how she sees herself within this messy situation. It may also be haunting seeing how she keeps her sanity being trapped in a marriage doing the bidding of a drug cartel.
This was foreshadowed in the Season 2 finale. The Byrde family set up the casino and had plans to disappear. With a functioning casino, the cartel would theoretically not care where the Byrdes are so long as there is money flow. But at the last minute, Wendy shows her ambition: She wants to stay in Missouri.
Season 2 showed Wendy finding herself and spotlighted, to the audience, a different side of the character.
The true test of marriage
From a psychological standpoint, one could argue placing the focus on the marriage of Marty and Wendy will bring plenty of revelations about how a marriage endures. Outside of many likely questioning the ethical approach to this show, it does broach big questions about what others would do in a similar marriage and a similar predicament.
Marriage counselors might even say it’s a great showcase to see a husband and wife work together for a common cause in finding their way out of a Hell of their own making. We’ll be seeing this journey as maybe a new fictional guidepost for other marriages going through challenges. Let’s just hope no one is going through the same circumstances as a true marriage of inconvenience.