If there were a subtitle for Season 3 of “Ozark,” it might be “Byrde vs. Byrde.”
No, Marty and Wendy (Jason Bateman, Laura Linney) aren’t getting divorced — at least not in the foreseeable future — but there is an obvious disconnect over whether the couple stay in business with the Navarro cartel as the new season of the Netflix drama gets going Friday.
Wendy, seeing an opportunity to make real money in the casino business and gain some security for her family, wants to expand and buy another casino. But Marty, who just wants to be done with it all once they’re square with the cartel, covertly undermines her efforts at every opportunity. The subterfuge even extends to their marriage, where he pays off their therapist to take his side during marital therapy sessions.
Caught in between the two is cartel attorney Helen Pierce (Janet McTeer), who has relocated to Osage Beach to watch over things for kingpin Omar Navarro (Felix Solis). Though not crazy about her new locale, she’s keen on helping Wendy with the expansion and the two become fast friends.
Meanwhile, Wendy’s troubled brother Ben (Tom Pelphrey, “Banshee”) arrives and learns too much about everything while also taking an interest in Ruth (Julia Garner), now the casino’s manager. And the FBI is also sniffing around for evidence of money laundering.
There are other moving parts in this story but at the center of it are Marty and Wendy and the woman who must navigate between them, Helen. The new season brings McTeer aboard as a series regular and the British actress relished the opportunity to explore the human side of what is otherwise a casually ruthless character.
“The thing is if you’re a lawyer to a drug cartel …,” she said, “there aren’t necessarily many girls you can have a drink of wine and have a heart-to-heart with. So when you meet somebody who is also in the same line of business as you, you can be a little more honest. They get you. And I think Helen thinks that Wendy is a really sharp cookie and good at what she’s doing. She thinks she’s smart and clever and manipulative, all of which are qualities she admires. And of course, they’re both mothers with the same-aged children.”
Playing with the spouse-versus-spouse scenario was great fun for series showrunner Chris Mundy, who says it’s a natural outgrowth of the events of Season 2, in which Wendy killed Ruth’s father, Cade Langmore, and caused Marty to question who his partner really is.
“We just started saying, ‘What do they want?’ ” Mundy said. “Wendy wanted to expand, and Marty’s more naturally conservative. So we were just like, ‘Well, how much fun can we have pushing that to marital extremes?’ (Especially) when you’re dealing in crime and what people are willing to do to get what they want within it. And from there, everything can just spiral quickly.”