In a world where high profile shows seem to be suspended left and right due to the pandemic, Netflix was lucky enough to have a major show on its schedule in late March. Ozark has won a solid amount of Emmys for the streamer, but did the series lose some of that award-winning shine in Season 3?
That's partly for critics to decide, and takes are spilling in across the internet with overwhelming support for the latest season of Jason Bateman's Netflix original. First up is THR's Daniel Fienberg who, by his own admission, has been pretty hard on Ozark in its first two seasons.
In its first two seasons, I've been fairly critical of Netflix's Emmy-winning drama, with its pervasive somberness, its sluggish pacing, its poorly conceived supporting characters and, in particular, its dogged resistance to shooting in partially illuminated rooms. A show that should have been an entertainingly pulpy thriller has too frequently played as a laugh-free parody of prestige TV. Imagine my surprise to be writing this, then: The 10-episode third season of Ozark is a substantial improvement over the lugubrious second season, and although it still suffers from many of the show's trademark inconsistencies, this is probably the best Ozark has ever been. At almost every turn, things point to a show that's attempting to make refinements, which I can respect.
It's not a glowing statement as far as reviews go, although keep in mind that this is someone who wasn't a big fan of what Ozark had been doing, especially in Season 2. With that said, it's not really a new take, and the points Daniel Fienberg made of how the show has treated its secondary characters in the past has been echoed by others.
That's not to say Season 3 of Ozark is completely faultless. Vanity Fair's Richard Lawson enjoyed Season 3 overall, but had some grievances with how the story took shape as the episodes went on. For him, it seems the season pulled from the same thread too many times, and could've taken a little more risk in finding ways to keep the story moving.
Ozark remains a sturdy and gripping series. I just wish it found more organic ways to keep the twists coming, that it had faith in the strength of its central thread instead of taking a detour like this one, which was always going to end in witless ruin.
Sounds like a fair criticism. After all, it's not like anyone ultimately expects this show to have an overtly optimistic and harmonious relationship between the Byrdes and the drug cartel. They are bad people, and as the series has shown several times in the past, they don't respond to problems with understanding and a tender hand. Remember when Ruth got waterboarded in Season 2? That's probably about one of the more mild punishments that have been doled out in Ozark, which is really saying something.
Which, as Screen Rant's Kevin Yeoman points out, is when Ozark is at its best. The constant tension and threats of the worst villains keeps the series' episodes engaging from start to finish, and Season 3 continues that trend. Even the Byrde family's allies are the worst type of people, so understandably, there's always that air over an episode that even those who can be trusted can only be taken so far.
The presence of ominous outside forces, whether they be the cartel, the FBI, or the villainous Snell family, has always been the show’s bread and butter. As has the reliable implementation of episodic crises that usually wind up resolved (only to inadvertently create a new crisis) by the hour’s end.Season 3 isn’t ready to let that formula fall by the wayside just yet. Many of the early episodes move to the show’s most familiar rhythms, but the series makes it clear that a different kind of storm is brewing on the horizon, one that will leave the series forever changed. And as the Byrde family settles into its newfound role as criminals, Ozark demonstrates a welcome willingness to mess with its own status quo, and like Wendy, not be content with well enough.
Ozark seems to make enough changes in Season 3 that most critics, even those who weren't wholly on board from the start, are willing to admit the series has taken a step up. As someone who has screened the first half of the season and was a big fan of Seasons 1 and 2, I can say that those who liked those seasons will agree Season 3 is one of the best so far.
Janet McTeer’s ruthlessly efficient cartel attorney Helen Pierce becomes a more prominent presence in the new season. (That’s a really good thing, given how McTeer kills in this role.) Another wild card development that doesn’t come across as entirely integral to the overall storyline: the arrival of Wendy’s handsome and charming but erratic younger brother Ben (Tom Pelphrey), who is bipolar and has gone off his meds.
Season 3 of Ozark picks up 6 months after Wendy's decision to push ahead with the casino deal and calling off Marty's plan to flee with the family. Now, the family is running a massive operation in the Ozarks, and the FBI is hot on their trail every step of the way. With tension mounting from all sides, Marty and Wendy must be careful or risk this house of cards they've precariously built collapsing at the slightest misstep.
Ozark Season 3 premieres on Netflix Friday, March 27 at 12:01 a.m. PT. As always, CinemaBlend is the place to be for the latest news happening in television and movies, and for a list of the hottest Netflix originals to watch each month.