It could be argued that Ozark is about the mundane nature of evil. Martin and Wendy Byrde aren’t really over-the-top cackling villains, but the act of laundering money for the cartel has become their whole lives, corrupting them, their children, and possibly plenty of innocent people around them.
How did those two get started anyway?
That’s more or less what this episode is about. In an episode-long flashback, we see Marty and Wendy, ten years earlier, and how and why the both of them–yes, both of them–started down the path they’re on now. And it’s a testament to the acting skills of Jason Bateman and Laura Linney that the pair seem like two completely different characters. I knew Linney could do it, but Bateman is a bit of a pleasant surprise. Then again, this whole series has been a pleasant surprise when it comes to Jason Bateman, an actor I don’t think I’ve ever seen in anything other than comedy work.
Let’s face it: Ozark is a long way from the likes of The Hogan Family or even Arrested Development.
So, how did the Byrdes get involved in all this? Well, in their younger days, when Wendy worked for various leftwing political campaigns and Marty’s firm was still an up-and-coming company, Dell the Cartel Guy approached Marty and his partner to solicit their business. He’s posing as a legitimate businessman, and Marty, doing a complimentary lookover, finds someone is skimming money and there’s something not quite right going on.
The someone skimming is the current money guy, an informer for Agent Petty. Petty is also a bit more of a good guy fed here, with a steady boyfriend and a supporting mother. Oh, and his mother has a drug habit, so there’s a good reason for Petty to have it in for drug dealers.
So, how the hell did Marty and Wendy fall into all this? Well, Dell tried to convince them there was a lot of money in it. Marty’s partner Bruce is wary, thinking Wendy would talk Marty out of it. She doesn’t. The two figure they’ won’t be selling drugs or anything, so it’s probably far enough removed that they won’t feel there’ll be any blood on their hands.
Then a truck hits their car when they’re out driving. Marty isn’t seriously hurt, but Wendy miscarries what would have been their third child. And Del, being Del, executes the man Marty is replacing right in front of Marty and Bruce.
Yeah, kinda hard to plead ignorance on this one. But what seems like the smallest of decisions to stay relatively hands off has led them to the Ozarks, and the Ozarks are not a nice place for them.