TV drama’s last great amoral anti-hero finally bites the dust

Jason Bateman is blessed with the unique ability to simultaneously project sincerity and smarm. It’s a talent that has served the actor handsomely in comedy vehicles such as Arrested Development but which reaches its full potential in deliciously amoral Netflix thriller Ozark.

As Ozark returns for a fourth and final season, Bateman continues to excel as slimy everyman criminal Marty Byrde. He’s a mild-mannered accountant who has funnelled his mid-life crisis into a new career as heroin dealer, money launderer and owner of a floating casino in poverty-stricken central Missouri.

Byrde is a classic small screen anti-hero in the tradition of Tony Soprano and Breaking Bad’s Walter White. And the series that Netflix has constructed around him harks back unashamedly to that much-mourned era of TV in which the moral decline of a outwardly unremarkable individual was cast as Shakespearean tragedy.

What’s different about Ozark is that this clichéd “bad man” has at his side an even more ruthless woman. She is Marty’s wife Wendy and is portrayed by Laura Linney with a sub-zero ruthlessness far creepier than Bateman’s toxic cheer.

Ozark may be approaching the end of the road, but viewers eager to discover if the Byrdes are finally about to flutter into the sunset together will nonetheless have to wait a little longer. As is the current fashion in streaming, the season has been split into two seven-episode chunks. The back half arrives at as yet unannounced date later in 2022.

For now, Marty and Wendy must fight fires on several fronts. The death in series three of mobster lawyer Helen Pierce has brought opportunities. It also threatens chaos. Mexican cartel boss Omar Navarro (Felix Solis) has not gone away and is putting pressure on Marty to broker an immunity deal with FBI agent Maya Miller (Jessica Frances Dukes). Failure, Navarro makes clear, is not an option.

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