Right, so. Quite a lot has happened in Ozark so far. And if you’re tuning in to Ozark for season three, there is a lot to remember about money launderer Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) and his various schemes…
What happened in Ozark season 1?
To start at the beginning: once upon a time there was a man named Marty who lived in Chicago with his wife Wendy Byrde (Laura Linney) and their two young kids, Charlotte and Jonah. He worked as a financial adviser with his business partner, Bruce, and lived a moderately successful life. But all was not exactly well…
Wendy had previously enjoyed a promising career working on election campaigns, but she’d given that up when she had kids – and now she was struggling to get back into politics and was deeply unhappy as a stay-at-home mum. When she got pregnant again, she told Marty she might want an abortion. But the option of another child was taken away from her by a traffic accident that landed her in hospital. After that, she spiralled deeper and deeper into clinical depression.
It was at this point that Marty was contacted by a Mexican called Del (Esai Morales). While Bruce was keen to take Del on as a client, Marty looked at his books and quickly worked out that Del worked for a cartel – and that he and Bruce were being asked to launder the cartel’s money. Also, the books showed that someone had been skimming money off the top. Marty’s initial reaction was to reject Del’s business, but he did take Del up on an offer of a luxury weekend getaway for him and Wendy, and the Byrdes let themselves be sweet-talked into accepting the job.
But immediately after Marty told Del the good news, the cartel demonstrated its ruthlessness by killing their former money launderer right in front of him and ripping out his eyes. Welcome to the team!
Things went pretty well for the Byrde family over the next several years as they enjoyed their new riches. But then they went very wrong. Firstly, Wendy had an affair; Marty’s Private Investigator tracked her lover down and filmed them having sex in a hotel room. Secondly, just after Marty had confirmed this info and seen the video, he received an unwelcome middle-of-the-night summons from Del. It turned out that Bruce had unwisely stolen $8m from the cartel.
Del shot Bruce and his girlfriend to death, and he was going to shoot Marty and then go and kill Wendy too – but Marty talked his way out of it with an intriguing pitch: he would move to the Ozarks in Missouri and set up a brand-new money laundering hub for the cartel.
Del ordered Marty to liquidate his assets into $8m of cash (Bruce’s debt), move to the Ozarks, and wash that money for the cartel by the end of the summer. As the family scrambled to leave Chicago immediately, Wendy went to see her lover, withdrew a bunch of family cash and clearly considered bailing. Unfortunately for her, the Del and co arrived and pushed her lover out of the window to his death. Somehow Marty persuaded Del not to kill Wendy too… and off they went to Missouri! With a struggling marriage, a sulky teenage daughter, a confused son, minimal money and the threat of execution hanging over their heads.
Also heading for Missouri was FBI Agent Roy Petty (Jason Butler Harner). Alongside Agent Trevor Evans (McKinley Belcher III), he had been tracking this whole operation for a while now, even using Bruce as the FBI’s inside man. Now Bruce was mysteriously missing and Marty had fled Chicago.
And upon arrival, things immediately went wrong for Marty. Not knowing that her seemingly straight-laced father was storing millions in cash, Charlotte Byrde (Sofia Hublitz) let herself be distracted while she was meant to be guarding the hostel room. Local troublemaker Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner) stole the cash, and Marty had to track her down with the rest of the criminal Langmore family and blab about the cartel to get (most of) the money back.
Meanwhile, Wendy bought a lovely house with just one catch: the seller, Buddy Dieker (Harris Yulin), was terminally ill and would be living out the rest of his (limited) days in the basement. Also he was fond of skinny-dipping.
Marty immediately started trying to launder the cartel’s money by investing in local businesses, but no one was really biting. Finally he had success in persuading the owner of the Blue Cat Lodge, Rachel (Jordana Spiro), to let him be her ‘angel investor’. Ruth also blackmailed Marty into giving her a job at the Blue Cat washing dishes.
Next up, Marty acquired a strip club called the Lickety Splitz. He worked out that owner Bobby Dean (Adam Boyer) was laundering money for someone, and he wanted that for himself – so he paid Ruth to help him get Bobby arrested and steal the safe from under his desk. Inside the safe, Marty found the paperwork that allowed him to claim ownership of the strip club.
This was bad news for Bobby, because the people he’d been laundering money for were the Snells: Jacob Snell (Peter Mullan) and his wife Darlene Snell (Lisa Emery), well-respected and long-established local farmers whose real business was poppies and heroin. They ruthlessly killed Bobby and dumped him in the water by the Byrdes’ pier, simultaneously sending Marty a message and trying to frame Marty for murder.
Marty then managed to wander even further into the Snells’ territory when he and Wendy came up with another clever way to launder money: constructing a church for local preacher Mason Young (Michael Mosley), who currently spoke to his congregation from the stern of his boat out on the lake and was open to the idea of building something on land.
Construction began – but the Snells kidnapped Martin and informed him that the church must never be completed, and the preacher must go back out on the water, or they would cut his unborn baby out of the womb of his wife Grace Young (Bethany Anne Lind). Why? Because unbeknownst to the preacher, many of the hymn books handed out by the Snells’ lackey Ash (Michael Tourek) during the sermon were hollowed out and filled with bags of heroin. This innovative drug distribution system was the perfect way to evade the law.
Marty tried to stall on construction of the church – but Mason just couldn’t understand why, and even erected a cross over the doorway. In desperation, Marty told him the truth about the Snells. And then Mason went to the Snells, who told him the truth about Marty. A disillusioned Mason burnt the half-built church to the ground and agreed to go back out on the water. Crisis temporarily over!
Wendy was also doing her part. She blagged herself a job with lacklustre estate agent Sam Dermody (Kevin L Johnson) and earned some money, but also saw an opportunity. Could she separate Sam’s annoying mother Eugenia (Sharon Blackwood) from her fortune? Yes! Marty wooed her into allowing him to ‘invest’ (take) all her money, which got the Byrdes a lot closer to $8m. Annoyingly, when Eugenia got run over by a bin lorry and died, Sam wanted the money back for her funeral. But Wendy got around things by offering to pay – and then buying the funeral home as yet another local business to wash cartel money.
Finally, the Byrdes laundered all $8m just in time. But their reward was another $50m in cash to wash, which they hid in a cabin wall at the Blue Cat.
Meanwhile, Ruth was getting increasingly involved with Marty’s business and had been made boss of Lickety Splitz – but her loyalties were still pretty torn. From jail, her felon father Cade Langmore (Trevor Long) was ordering her to kill Marty and take his money, but on the other hand she was enjoying his trust. Finally she decided she would go ahead and kill Marty by wiring his dock and electrocuting him to death – but when Marty grabbed hold of the metal, nothing happened. Someone had undone the wiring.
That person was Agent Petty. The FBI agent had been targeting Ruth’s uncle Russ Langmore (Marc Menchaca), seducing him and beginning a secret relationship and waiting for him to say something incriminating. He heard about Ruth’s upcoming assassination attempt from Russ, stopped it from being successful, then got audio of Russ confessing to conspiracy to murder. Now a heartbroken Russ was forced to be an informant and try and get Ruth, so she could be used in turn against her boss.
Russ wasn’t very good at the whole informant business, and Ruth began to suspect he was a rat, and Russ knew he was busted. So along with his brother Boyd Langmore (Christopher James Baker), he hatched a plan to kidnap Marty himself, steal the money and flee with Russ’s kids Wyatt and Three. Guessing their plan, Ruth again wired the dock; this time it worked, and she killed both her uncles.
At this point, the Navarro cartel got really antsy about the whole operation. Fearing the worst, Marty told his wife and kids to go – and had his PI give them new passports and identities. But as they prepared to run for their lives, the cartel thug who’d been watching their house arrived inside with his gun. Teenage Jonah (Skylar Gaertner) burst in with his own gun and, on his mum’s subtle nod, tried to shoot the guy – but his bullet was a blank. Luckily, Buddy arrived just in time to shoot this guy dead. Wendy took her children and left.
Also fleeing town was Rachel, owner of the Blue Cat. She’d seen her business thrive and she’d come to admire Marty, but after finding out about his money laundering and meeting his cartel boss she decided to take some wads of money from the cabin walls and run.
At this point, everything seemed to be crumbling – but Marty had one risky idea to try and save his skin. When Del visited, he took him up to see the Snells and suggested a mutually beneficial deal: the Snells could use the cartel to distribute, if the cartel could build a casino on Snell land. By flooding a field, they could join the Missouri River and have a riverboat casino! And earn so much money they could buy back land and take out the power company they hated so much for forcing the Snells to move from their ancestral home many years ago! The deal was ultimately done, but then Del called the Snells rednecks – and Darlene blew his head off.
The Snells agreed to cover up the murder. But that wasn’t the only blood on their hands; Mason found himself unable to carry on preaching on the water, so Darlene literally cut the baby out of heavily-pregnant Grace and left Mason a single father of a newborn.
What happened in Ozark season 2?
Introducing Marty’s new cartel boss, Helen Pierce (Janet McTeer)! She’s a crisp, no-nonsense lawyer from Chicago. She quickly worked out that the Snells killed Dell, and she wants reparations – which were delivered when Jacob killed his loyal lieutenant Ash. Darlene was distraught, but the debt was considered paid.
Now the Byrdes had to make the casino happen, which first meant persuading the state legislature to raise the “cap” from 13 casinos to 14. Accordingly, Wendy leaned into her political skills and won the support of the influential Charles Wilkes (Darren Goldstein). Together they lobbied hard, even blackmailing one senator with footage of her husband with a sex worker. Charles blackmailed another by threatening to reveal details of his struggle with mental illness – a strategy which got the bill through. Unfortunately, the senator then shot himself in the head on camera. Only Wendy’s sweet-talking of the widow and massive charity donation stopped that from being a PR nightmare.
Next up: a battle to get approval from the gambling commission.
Then there was another complication: the Kansas City Mob started interfering. To get them to back off, Marty enlisted the help of Buddy (a former Detroit gangster) and took him to visit Frank Cosgrove (John Bedford Lloyd); based on that goodwill, they struck a deal that made the soon-to-be casino a union shop – i.e. to only employ Cosgrove’s men.
Meanwhile, Ruth’s “daddy” Cade was back from jail. He was nice to her for about five seconds, then began trying to drag her back into a life of crime (along with her cousins Wyatt and Three). He was also obsessed with getting Marty’s money. While he was violent and cruel to her, Ruth still longed for his approval and found her loyalties torn. Problematically, Cade also immediately worked out Ruth’s big secret, one she’d kept from Wyatt and Three; she was the one who killed their dad Russ.
Marty had lots to worry about (as ever), because the FBI was really messing with his life. The FBI had secretly pulled some strings and had all his businesses shut down on spurious grounds, because Petty had a new plan to get to Marty. To get the Blue Cat up and running again, Marty needed Rachel back to sign the paperwork and be the face of the business. Conveniently, Petty was able to deliver Rachel straight to him – because he’d found her in jail and forced her to become his latest informant. Poor Rachel had gone off the rails after running away and ended up addicted to pain meds, and now she was facing serious charges for a car accident unless she could get something incriminating on Marty.
Thanks to Rachel’s wire and her chats with Marty and Ruth, the FBI decided they had enough to raid Marty’s house. They didn’t find much, except Charlotte’s secret stash of stolen money, but Petty took Marty in for questioning. He also took Charles in for questioning and tried to threaten him with criminal charges for his dodgy finances (stealing from his own charitable fund), but Charles was wise enough to have done some digging on Petty himself and could fight back with his own revelations about Petty’s behaviour (shooting a gun in a public bar, etc).
Petty then tried to make Ruth look like a rat, partly in revenge for her killing his boyfriend/informant Russ and partly to persuade her to talk. Marty vouched for her to the cartel (despite having just found out that Ruth previously tried to kill him), but they waterboarded her just to be sure she hadn’t spilled any secrets. Thankfully, after the torture session, they decided she was telling them the truth.
Next up, the FBI was obviously gearing up to raid the Snell farm, despite the best efforts of Snell-friendly Sheriff Nix (Robert C Treveiler). The Byrdes tried to persuade them to destroy their poppy fields or the whole casino bid would go under – but they simply refused. Exasperated, Wendy took matters into her own hands and drove Buddy up to the farm to secretly burn the fields while she chatted with Darlene about how to adopt the baby boy she’d just decided she desperately needed to carry on the family legacy. However, the poppy-burning proved to be Buddy’s final act; he died quietly in the passenger seat on the way home, a devastating blow for Jonah.
When she realised what Wendy had done, Darlene was absolutely furious – but then again, it was a good thing the poppies were gone when the FBI turned up the next day. Unfortunately, the FBI did find something even more suspicious: human bones buried in the ex-poppy fields. While the feds thought these were probably the remains of cartel boss Del, others (Mason and Marty and Wendy) realised they were more likely to belong to Mason’s ‘missing’ wife Grace. Either way, the Byrdes needed the problem to disappear – so they dug up some of the Snells’ ancestors from the family burial ground and pulled some strings to have them swapped out. To Petty’s fury, the bones were identified as being more than 100 years old. Foiled again!
Meanwhile, preacher Mason was going off the rails. After Grace’s disappearance and Baby Zeke’s sudden arrival and the revelation of evil all around him, he spent all his time street preaching. He also hated Marty and Wendy with a passion. After hearing about human remains on Snell land, he was determined to get Zeke’s DNA sampled to see if they belonged to Grace – and when Wendy swung by to warn him not to go through with it and risk antagonising the Snells, he took it as a threat. Wendy’s evil seemed to be confirmed when social services did turn up and take his baby into the state’s care (even though it was more likely Darlene’s doing).
A desperate Mason kidnapped Wendy and demanded she get his son back immediately. So after a phone call from Mason setting out his demands, Marty teamed up with Charles Wilkes (now desperately wishing he’d never got himself involved with the Byrdes) and persuaded social services to let him immediately foster the baby. But when he turned up as instructed to complete the swap, Mason wouldn’t let Wendy go. In the scuffle, Marty shot Mason to death. Now the Byrdes were left with a foster baby whose father had just mysteriously disappeared!
Meanwhile, Ruth was getting a lot of grief from her dad Cade. Her loyalties were split between the boss who had believed in her and trained her up, but also got her into a dangerous business; and a father who veered between affection, violence, vitriol and crime. She took over a business for him, helped him steal a boat, and broke into the funeral home with him to try and find Marty’s money. But Cade also crossed a line – holding up the Lickety Splitz and making teenagers Wyatt and Three his criminal accomplices and making her lie to the police and putting Sam Dermody in hospital. (Remember Sam? Former estate agent, now motivational speaker and temporary manager?)
Back to the Snell/Navarro deal! While things were progressing nicely, Darlene took the executive decision to spike the Snell heroin with fentanyl. The cartel distributed it, and a ton of people overdosed (including Rachel), and the cartel was distinctly Not Happy. In retaliation, they riddled the Snells’ car with bullets and shot Jacob in the chest – an attack he just about survived. To solve the problem, Marty also had a brainwave; via an archaic law, he was able to prove that the land they were using didn’t belong to the Snells any more, but to the government. Jacob was defeated, and his wife Darlene killed him. (She probably counts as a serial killer by this point.)
Meanwhile, Petty was still using Rachel as his informant, but she was getting increasingly distraught about the whole arrangement and increasingly (romantically) close to Marty. After they kissed, she outed herself as wearing a wire. Despite this, Marty decided to try and help her; he ultimately found a way to get her out by exploiting Petty’s weak point and threatening Petty’s own drug addicted mother. Marty gave Rachel one final kiss and packed her off to rehab in Miami.
Home life wasn’t getting any easier, because Charlotte had just announced her intention to legally emancipate herself from her parents. Wendy was furious and upset, and Charlotte left to stay in the trailer park with her friend Wyatt – though she came back quite sharpish when Cade physically attacked her. But she had a lawyer and she was still determined to have her way.
At this point, Marty hatched a getaway plan. As soon as the casino got the official go-ahead, he’d solve everything by taking Charlotte and Wendy and Jonah, jumping on several planes, switching identities, leaving Ruth to deal with the business, and just running as fast as he could. That also solved the problem that he’d agreed with the gambling commission that the casino would not be a union shop, despite his prior deal with the Kansas City Mob.
But the getaway plan could not include their foster child, Zeke – so Marty had to find the baby a home immediately. Darlene had also been making her demands clear by kidnapping Jonah and shaving his head. So without telling Wendy, Marty made the executive decision to give little Zeke to the murderous Darlene.
Now the casino was set to go ahead, it provided new opportunities for FBI surveillance. But Petty realised he was done with the Ozarks, and decided to return to Chicago to be with his drug-addicted mother. Unfortunately for him, he never quite made it; Cade caught him on the way out of town when he stopped to fish, and killed him in a fit of rage.
That led to a major scene between Ruth and her “daddy” as she declined to give him an alibi or money for his getaway. The money, she said, was for Wyatt’s college fund; he’d just got into Mizzou, the University of Missouri. Cade tried to blackmail his daughter by threatening to reveal her big secret to Wyatt – so Ruth decided to pull off the plaster and tell him herself. Naturally, when she told Wyatt that she’d killed his father, he was distraught.
As the date of Marty’s getaway plan neared, cartel boss Helen paid Wendy a visit and gave her a veiled warning not to flee. Fed up of Marty’s executive decisions, Wendy decided that the family would be staying put. She also decided to get Cade away from Ruth for good – giving him a sack of money if he agreed to leave town. He took the deal without a second thought, but it wasn’t a happy ending for him; on his way out of town he was shot to death, most likely on Wendy’s behalf.
And that brings us to season three, six months later… *phew*