By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – March 27, 2020)
EPISODE 9: FIRE PINK
EPISODE 10: ALL IN
“Today, today is our beginning.”
And that’s how the third season of Ozark comes to a close, with not one, not two, but three bangs. The first effectively castrates (and then some) Frank Cosgrove Jr., the second takes out a giant living room window, and the third eliminates Helen Pierce. There was a scene a few episodes back where Helen asks Nelson if he ever gets tired of his work, which is horrific as we know, and he says he doesn’t. Her reply is, “Good.” And as part of that work, he ends up killing her, which she probably always knew would be the way, but never when.
I kind of wish it had been Jonah Byrde, but at the same time, him having the guilt of murder on his conscience, at his age, even with legitimate reasons, would have been problematic. As soon as we knew they were all flying to Mexico, you could see this coming from a mile away, or a country away. Wendy’s call worked, because what she offered made logical sense, offered Navarro what HE wanted, and in the end, just as she joked with her brother, Helen wasn’t smarter than her. In fact, what we learn in the end is it wasn’t about intelligence, it was about who was more ice cold.
“What do you really want,” Omar Navarro asks Marty Byrde, but it was Marty and Wendy that figured out the way to give him what he wanted, an end to the war. Once his girlfriend was murdered in the baptism bloodbath, he was off kilter and on edge. What they offered was the force of the United States military taking out his rival, and it was Jonah’s drone recording that gave them the evidence to finally sell Maya Miller on doing something big. Well, we don’t know that she’s gone that far yet, but we know she will.
Helen lied to the Byrdes about the casino license, having already gone to Charles Wilkes but not being aware of how close Wendy was to Jim Rettelsdorf. That meeting made it clear she wasn’t just moving against them, she was working to eliminate them from the picture and their ability to breathe. I did come back around to feeling sympathy for Wendy Byrde through the situation with Ben, even with her placing the call. Yes, she should have felt terrible, and it wasn’t cool to try to throw it all on Ruth, but this was someone she loved that was going to get himself and all of them killed. That Tracfone sealed it, even four hours away from Knoxville, and he had to go.
I said a few reviews ago that Ben would make a mistake that I hoped wouldn’t cost him his life, but as penultimate episodes always go, this is where the waterworks come. The music was sad, Ben’s fate was sad, because he wasn’t a bad guy. He was a mentally ill guy who learned information that he couldn’t handle. He might have been his own worst enemy throughout much of his life, but he never meant to cause harm to his family. It wasn’t selfishness. And, in the process of all of it, he fell in love with Ruth and she fell hard right back for him…
…which leads her away from the Byrdes and into the arms of Darlene Snell, plus the open arms of Wyatt. What’s amazing about this season is how weirdly likable Darlene was, even with her brand of “bat—- crazy” I’m finding myself sort of rooting for that business and even for the partnership with Cosgrove. Nobody on this show is doing anything honestly, so her drug business almost seems laudable, especially if she’s going to treat those at her home in such a positive way. It’s odd to be sure, with some sort of nauseating portions, but it’s Ozark, so we can accept it. This world ain’t THE world. We can escape here and then once it’s done, we need to escape FROM here.
The KC mob didn’t end up making a big move as I predicted, but if indeed they partner with Snell, the future is going to lead to quite a bit more, especially if the dope ain’t coming from Navarro, which we all know it isn’t. There is a lot to come there, and with this show, who knows where it heads.
But, back to Ben Davis, a story I thought when he first showed up was going to be dreadfully obnoxious. It wasn’t, and here we need to applaud Tom Pelphrey, who played that role. This is the performance that could be nominated for an Emmy, and may well end up doing just that. It was similar to Ben Mendelsohn in Bloodline, but without the annoying tendencies of how that character was written. Pelphrey had to be fun loving and kind, but also had to play that bipolar, unhinged guy that was sobbing and blubbering one minute and screaming the next. One of the most impressive portions was at the convenience store, when he had to act like someone with something to hide (a phone) but make it obvious he couldn’t hide it from his sister. She hands him beef jerky, and he spins it twice, frantically, and this whole thing was accomplished with almost no words.
Another was a wall of dialogue, with him in the cab going through all that talk, some of it nonsensical, some of it not, and breaking it with thanking the driver for his military service and finishing with almost no idea of what had preceded him saying his day was going well. All of this was impossible to look away from, and it felt so very little like an actor performing, even though that’s what it was.
This performance was absolutely tremendous. I can’t say enough about it. Pelphrey arguably stole the season, and when we saw him with Julia Garner, it was dynamite. He enhanced the drama of virtually every scene he was in, and I waited until the final review to give him his due. He’s the thing we’ll most remember this season for, even amidst all that happened, and the way in which Wendy had the “five years” conversation, reminiscing on their upbringing, and how she left him for Nelson to find at the restaurant… was unbelievable television.
Just as last year ended, with Marty and Wendy closer to one another than they’d been throughout much of the season, it’s the case again, this time less by necessity. When she was a wreck, he was the calming force, reminding her of his love for her and the children’s love for her. She’s done that for him a few times as well, including how worried she was when he was in Mexico. They are never going to have a great marriage, but I do hope we can go forward for a while without seeing them bicker and backstab each other. Let’s write something else and have the Byrdes, at the very least, working as a team that trusts each other. I may be asking way too much.
Felix Solis was excellent as Omar Navarro, who seemed human, except that everything he did lacked humanity. Jessica Francis Dukes played Maya Miller very well, and I look forward to more of her in the future as well. And Madison Thompson’s Erin was believable, both as a brat and once she found out the truth. We have to say goodbye to Janet McTeer, whose performance of Helen Pierce for two seasons was perfect for that cold blooded killer operative that also wanted her children to love her. She played the conflict well in Season 3, after basically being a robot last year. But, that’s what she was supposed to do. She was a character we won’t soon forget.
We don’t even need to discuss Jason and Laura… because we all know. Superb.
This was a heck of a season. I barely touched on Sam Dermody, who was arrested during the course of these episodes, but on scant evidence. In true Ozark fashion, it happened just as he proposed to his girlfriend from the strip club on the casino floor. I want to thank Netflix for getting me the episodes several days in advance and making it possible for me to have this compendium of analysis ready for you guys and gals as you watch through the season. And those that read all this, I hope you enjoyed it and it made the show a little better for you. I have gone from not caring for Ozark when I screened the first season… to really enjoying it, while still maintaining reservations about darkness and the level of content included. It’s entertainment. And by no means does it glorify this life. It accomplishes the opposite.
Nobody wants this life.
Helen’s dead, the Byrdes are paralyzed in the arms of Navarro, both literally and figuratively, and in three seasons, about 734,788 things have gone down. What in the world is next? And when will we have a chance to experience it? One thing’s for certain though… When we do, I’ll be right here with a whole lot more words for you to read.
Until then… my day’s been going good, man. How’s your day been going?