Arts

TV Critic’s Corner

‘Ozark’ should be better, but still isn’t

Laura Linney and Jason Bateman in “Ozark.”
Jessica Miglio/Netflix
Laura Linney and Jason Bateman in “Ozark.”

I admired a lot about the first season of Netflix’s “Ozark.” Jason Bateman and Laura Linney were excellent as Marty and Wendy Byrde, a couple in a shaky marriage who, with their two kids, reluctantly move to Missouri to launder money for a drug cartel. They get mixed up with all kinds of locals, notably a family of crooks. But I felt that the series needed to up its writing game; the moral themes were muddy and some of the side characters were half-baked or stereotyped.

What can I say? I’ve seen the entire second season, which is available on Friday, and I still feel that the show needs work. My hope that “Ozark” would get its sea legs in season two was for naught. Most of what was good in season one remains good, most importantly Linney. She is a lot of fun to watch as a woman realizing that she is a lot shrewder than all the male crooks she works with and for. Her story lines is aces, as she comes to appreciate her own potential. She’s no longer “the wife.” Also, watching Julia Garner as a younger woman discovering the very same thing is a treat.

But then there are a few excruciating characters and subplots this time around, most notably that of the FBI agent who is obsessed — emotionally and sexually — by the Byrdes. It’s over-the-top and silly. I found myself pitying actor Jason Butler Harner a number of times, as the script turns him into an absurd monster. Also off this season: daughter Charlotte Byrde, who is suddenly little more than a rebellious brat whose plot is pointless. The show still has so much potential, though; it’s frustrating. Perhaps “Ozark” will finally rise to its potential in season three.

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Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.