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Photo: ‘Ozark’

Honestly, the Byrde family scares me.

After three unpredictable seasons, Ozark’s final season is just around the corner. The Netflix crime drama’s fourth season will be released in two separate parts, as if viewers weren’t already at the edge of their seats following that jaw-dropping moment in season three (Wendy Byrde, I’m looking at you). Fans of the show have already formed their theories on what will happen to the Byrde family and who will prevail in the bizarre world of drug trafficking and money laundering.

It is bittersweet to realize that the fates of the Byrde family who are ruthless and yet, endearing, will finally be revealed. It’s been a long and stressful journey of murder, deceit, and betrayal and viewers loved every minute of it. Now, with the final season fast approaching, here’s what to expect and a recap of the past three seasons to get you ready for what’s coming.

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Yes, the fictional family is terrifying, the matriarch, Wendy Byrde, alone sends chills down my spine. Especially after the third season when we witnessed the lengths she will go to protect her husband and her children. Without sprinkling in any spoilers, I’ll just say I’m going to keep a very close eye on Wendy Byrde and am quietly rooting for Ruth to prevail above all others. She’s long overdue justice despite her violent past. Ruth has been groomed and chipped away by an unforgiving world where a family of convicts and bad eggs taints her image before she has the opportunity to become an adult. She’s learning to thrive among criminals and seemingly enjoys hatching schemes to get her way.

The show does an authentically beautiful job of encapsulating the class divide in America and how desperation leads many down a dark path that is both traumatizing and seemingly impossible to recover from. You become consumed by the shadows cast by poverty and isolation. The eerie tones of the show complement the twist turns of each season.

Season 1 and All its Glory

Season one was an immediate success. The season rarely carried a dull moment and ever so kindly offered episodes with excruciating cliffhangers that left viewers needing to find out what could possibly happen next. Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, and Julia Garner give stellar performances that make these toxic characters feel a little too authentic, like terrifyingly tangible. The opening of season one introduces Bateman as a typical and generic husband who’s slowly unraveling as his side business of money laundering for the Mexican cartel leaves his business partner with a bullet to the head.

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With one of the few normal reactions exhibited by the Byrde family, they flee their upper-class bubble and head toward the obscure landscape of the Ozarks. Thankfully for viewers, their insanely dramatic past catches up with them and they become absorbed by a world riddled with crime and violent interactions. Marty Byrde meets Ruth, a young woman filled with tenacity and serious business potential. She’s an entrepreneur restrained by her family history. So, she has to fight to show what she is capable of and from there, she proves herself to be ruthless and smart enough to become a worthy ally of Marty. By the end of season one, viewers realize that Ruth’s ambition is boundless and will grasp at any opportunity for a chance to make it in a world that hasn’t offered her any favors.

Season 2 Was Everything We Wanted

In season two, we learn of Marty’s plan to invest in a boat casino that will offer enough profits for his family to flee yet again. Have we learned nothing from season one Marty? In true Byrde fashion, Marty is faced with extreme roadblocks that derails said plan. He devises a scheme to use the Navarro cartel’s money to create a profit-producing casino. Wendy, on the other hand, intends to stay in the Ozark and thrive by joining the political ranks to gain power and influence. To Wendy’s defense, it seems very difficult to sustainably hide from the cartel. Somehow, it seems reasonable to make yourself visible and your political prowess. By now, viewers are perfectly aware of Wendy’s thirst for societal power.

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As if the Mexican cartel wasn’t enough for the Byrde family adventures, Marty somehow finds himself working alongside the Kansas City Mafia. The final episodes of season two feature Marty juggling his successful casino boat incepted by cartel money, navigating the complicated web of the cartel, and now in cahoots with the Kansas City Mafia who aren’t shy of violence. Now, we have Wendy impressing the cartel with her political ambitions and their daughter who’s exhausted by all the dangers and is ready to become emancipated from her family. I mean, can we blame her?

Season 3 and Wendy Byrde

This was Wendy’s season. If we learned anything following season three, do not cross anyone remotely similar to Wendy Byrde. She might be more terrifying than the Mexican cartel and the Kansas City Mafia combined. Her insatiable craving for political power and her loyalties to her family are far too extreme to be considered admirable. Audiences are introduced to Wendy’s troubled brother, Ben Davis, who overtly shares Wendy’s anger issues. Again, without spoiling the show’s most intense season yet, Wendy’s merciless nature becomes heartbreakingly exposed.

We suspect Marty is sleeping with one eye open from now on. Ruth is left questioning her loyalties to the Byrde family and joins the oddly paired team of her cousin and the psychopathic Darlene Snell.

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Preparing for Season 4

Will the Byrde ever settle into a life without federal crime and actual murder? If the pattern continues, realistically not. Peace is hard to envision for the Byrde family but never say never. It’s time to brace ourselves for an emotional season that will close the chapter on years of drama, episode-induced anxiety and an unsettling family business that just crawled beneath our skin and terrified us, more than anything but I feel confident enough to speak for many viewers.

Cast: Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, Julia Garner, Sofia Hublitz, Skylar Gaertner, Lisa Emery

Writers: Bill Dubuque, Mark Williams, Chris Mundy, Ning Zhou, and more

By Gina Michele Yaniz

Click here to read The Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Black Lives Matter, in which he tackles more than just police reform, press freedom and more – click here.

An excerpt from the love letter: The Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, “The Hollywood Insider fully supports the much-needed Black Lives Matter movement. We are actively, physically and digitally a part of this global movement. We will continue reporting on this major issue of police brutality and legal murders of Black people to hold the system accountable. We will continue reporting on this major issue with kindness and respect to all Black people, as each and every one of them are seen and heard.

Just a reminder, that the Black Lives Matter movement is about more than just police brutality and extends into banking, housing, education, medical, infrastructure, etc. We have the space and time for all your stories. We believe in peaceful/non-violent protests and I would like to request the rest of media to focus on 95% of the protests that are peaceful and working effectively with positive changes happening daily. Media has a responsibility to better the world and The Hollywood Insider will continue to do so.”

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ozark, ozark, ozark, ozark, ozark, ozark, ozark,

Photo: ‘The 355’

 

 

For some films, there is simultaneously so much and so little to say. ‘The 355’, directed by multiple-time action film producer, second-time film director Simon Kinberg, is a weak effort at a female-led spy thriller with a dazzling main cast and little else. With an opening weekend box office total of roughly 4.8 million, it seems that audiences are responding accordingly.

 

A Clichéd Union of Badass Women: “The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend”

 

From the very beginning, the pacing of ‘The 355’ is confusing. The introductory scene feels drawn from a random generator of climactic sequences, and fails to capitalize on the leading interest. But, after that, we’re introduced to some of the names who are bound to draw much of this film’s domestic audience. Jessica Chastain is a beautiful but tough-as-nails secret agent partnered with Sebastian Stan in basically the only prominent male supporting role. Through heavy-handed exposition, we learn that they have a complicated friend/lover/spy partner relationship.

 

After a field mission to buy a hard drive that can access any system in the world (oh yeah, the bad guy steals it in the intro scene) goes haywire, Chastain has to shift her angle, and inadvertently gathers the headlining ensemble to help her retrieve the stolen drive.

 

Lupita Nyong’o is a genius hacker and professor, always toting a phone with strangely omniscient security camera angles and futuristic offensive capabilities. Penélope Cruz subverts her typical feisty typecast for a more neurotic therapist role who becomes entangled in their undercover mission. Diane Kruger is a stoic German spy in pursuit of similar ends on behalf of her country. Later on, Fan Bingbing comes in as a mysterious neutral.

 

A Result of Artistic Apathy

 

‘The 355’ wants to be part ‘Atomic Blonde’ and part ‘Charlie’s Angels’, but turns out overall indistinguishable through that glossy corporate sheen on the surface. The action sequences, though relatively frequent, are edited with a bland touch and preceded by uninspired ensemble spy navigation scenes. In what feels like underutilization of the format, there are few notable ‘a-ha!’ moments, of which there should be plenty when it concerns even the most mediocre thriller. ‘The 355’ lacks reverence for its characters, and as a result, they are painfully average; this is to say, the story forgoes expanding their personalities through these thrilling sequences – maybe by showcasing their skills, forcing them to make hard choices, or creating personalized obstacles – and chooses to display action scenes akin to Stock footage. The tone, cinematography, and score are all prosaic, despite this being a harrowing international tale of death, secrets, and betrayal. Because of this, these commendable actors are left trying to somehow imbue basic tropes with the appropriate flair despite poor writing, direction, and pacing. For example, lauded Chinese actress Fan Bingbing is basically only as integrated as the film needs her to maintain the attraction of an international audience.

 

With a rotating door of random bald guys to keep the main characters busy before they eventually get to the ultimate Big Bad, the stakes in this film are totally warped. I dare you to recall the details of the overarching conflict of this film 24 hours after viewing: something if evil people get the drive then they can. Take over the internet? Traumatize children? The turning points of the plot lacked poignancy, so much so that the ‘twists’ and ‘turns’ of this supposed thriller melded together (dragging on the two-hour runtime) into a plot that almost made itself become more cliché as it approached the climax and finale, showcasing the lack of narrative direction beyond “badass diverse women fight stuff together”. You’ll never worry about whether the protagonists will save the world because whatever they are fighting about is uninteresting, both to the screenwriters, in turn, to the poor audience.

 

Narratively, there is certainly some effort to integrate the various insubstantial partners and families of the main ensemble, though it is executed through boring phone calls and facetimes, mistaking disconnected scenes of shallow domesticity for character development. This is presumably to illustrate some point about how, whilst these women are engaging in badassery, they must navigate their other priorities: love and family; instead, the film feels bloated with arbitrary characters and neglects to successfully hone in on any of these intimate relationships. What we’re left with is a project of pure Cinematic apathy, squandering impressive performers for a film that could have come from a random generator.

 

Missing the Point… of Making An Interesting Movie

 

I want to preface this by saying maybe my perspective is a little scathing, but I saw this film in an empty theater, and it was reflective of my ultimate conclusion. This film is devoid of a clear audience, or more specifically, devoid of an honored audience. Who is this for? What exactly is this film attempting to give to the audiences who pay to see it? A barely serviceable gesture in the direction of a ‘thriller’? With only a collection of acclaimed actors and over 40 million for production spending, ‘The 355’ thought that it could get away with the bare minimum, and it shows.

 

—-

Cast: Jessica Chastain, Penélope Cruz, Sebastian Stan, Diane Kruger, Lupita Nyong’o, Fan Bingbing

 

Director: Simon Kinberg | Writer: Simon Kinberg & Theresa Rebeck, | Editor: John Gilbert & Lee Smith | Music/Composer: Junkie XL

 

Tags: Jessica Chastain, Penélope Cruz, Sebastian Stan, Diane Kruger, Lupita Nyong’o, Fan Bingbing, Simon Kinberg, action, thriller, blockbuster, Atomic Blonde, Charlie’s Angels, spy, films, Cinema, thriller, cliché, trope, corporate, flop, international

 

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By

Click here to read The Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Black Lives Matter, in which he tackles more than just police reform, press freedom and more – click here.

An excerpt from the love letter: The Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, “The Hollywood Insider fully supports the much-needed Black Lives Matter movement. We are actively, physically and digitally a part of this global movement. We will continue reporting on this major issue of police brutality and legal murders of Black people to hold the system accountable. We will continue reporting on this major issue with kindness and respect to all Black people, as each and every one of them are seen and heard.

Just a reminder, that the Black Lives Matter movement is about more than just police brutality and extends into banking, housing, education, medical, infrastructure, etc. We have the space and time for all your stories. We believe in peaceful/non-violent protests and I would like to request the rest of media to focus on 95% of the protests that are peaceful and working effectively with positive changes happening daily. Media has a responsibility to better the world and The Hollywood Insider will continue to do so.”

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Author

  • Gina Michele Yaniz is a writer and digital media content creator with a deep love for storytelling. Charmed by the notable influence of the entertainment industry, Gina is passionate about uplifting the voices of artists and celebrating powerful material. She likes to embody the philosophy of writing through a non-judgmental and a genuine perspective while expanding the perception of film industry. Along with Hollywood Insider, Gina values the responsibility the media holds and wishes to use her writing to provide meaningful content. During her free time, Gina loves to watch period pieces, stand-up comedy, and indulges on her avid interest for reading articles on self-care.

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