OK, while I don’t know for certain if it was done on purpose, casting Richard Thomas as Wendy’s father is a stroke of genius for a show like Ozark.
I mean, Thomas is best known for John-Boy Walton, and while I have never seen The Waltons, I do know it by its reputation as, basically, the anti-Ozark. The Waltons were a tight-knit family in a more rural area that ended every episode by wishing each other good night. They were poor, but they took care of each other. Meanwhile, we have the Byrdes, and while their best hope for survival is working together, but the stresses of doing what they do, to say nothing about the family’s various estrangements going on, seems more intent to tear them apart more than anything else. And while not much screen time is given to Wendy’s father Nathan to flesh out what sort of relationship he has with either of his children, what little he does say to P.I. Mel suggests that Wendy didn’t, to use a term from another TV series, somewhat recently “break bad”. She has more or less always been this way.
It’s gotten to the point where I am actually hoping Wendy pays for her crimes. I don’t necessarily want her dead, but of the two Byrde parents, she is easily the more blatantly corrupt. Marty is hardly a saint, but he is much better at keep his head down and avoiding more egregious behavior. Wendy, at the start of this episode, tells a crowd at a press conference that her desire to open drug treatment centers has to do with how her brother Ben had a drug problem before he disappeared. While I do not expect Wendy to admit that Ben is dead, the drug angle is new, something that catches the attention of Mel, Jonah, and Ruth, and none of them for good reasons. That’s why Mel goes to talk to Wendy’s father, and that gets her an angry phone call from the old man later, often laced with talk like he isn’t all that surprised that Wendy would make up something like that, but where is Ben anyway?
Marty, for his part, just quietly asks if her saying Ben was a drug addict was a good idea. At episode’s end, when he and Ruth are maybe somewhat patching things up, he even admits somewhat that Wendy’s actions are bothering him.
So, why do I want Wendy punished? I don’t want her dead, but she is somehow both engaging in criminal activity and self-righteousness, saying she won’t mind too much if Jonah got arrested should Ruth get caught. By contrast, Darlene is violent, even killing a man for attempting blackmail in this episode in less time than it takes to draw a breath. Javi is getting increasingly suspicious of the Byrdes (for good reason), and pretty much any member of the Navarro crime family is not to be trusted. These are bad people, and whatever happens to them is probably something they deserve. But there’s something about the way Wendy does what she does that bothers me. I don’t think Marty is blameless, but Wendy is insinuating herself into the world of big business and politics in a way that seems far more corrupt. With Darlene and the Navarros, they don’t pretend to be something they aren’t when they are alone. These are violent drug dealers selling heroin. These are not good people.
But they don’t pretend, for a moment, that what they are doing is for the greater good of…well, someone. They have ambitions, but not public ones. Marty, he’s crooked, but he’s quiet and keeps his head down. Wendy, she’s public, and I think it is her self-righteous hypocrisy that bothers me the most. She’s bad, but she doesn’t seem to see it in herself, and she does it all in public.
Maybe next episode, I’ll give Marty the same consideration. Because, really, he’s been enabling his wife for quite some time now…