The first season of ‘Ozark’ had a bloody finale with the consequences of the murder of a cartel crime lord hanging over Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) and his family. The four family members are still in the Ozarks, where Marty and wife Wendy’s (Laura Linney) new plan is to build a casino which will function as a money laundering system for the cartel they are entangled with. Once it is set up, the Brydes will finally be able to fly away, so to speak, and leave their life of crime behind.

However, their partners in the casino operation, Jacob (Peter Mullan) and Darlene (Lisa Emery) Snell, are proving difficult. To make matters worse, Ruth Langmore’s (Julia Garner) father, Cade (Trevor), is out of jail and on parole, making trouble for her strip club business and forcing her to choose between being loyal to him or to Marty.

The first season of ‘Ozark’ had something of a shaky pilot, though the ending of the episode proved intriguing enough for one to want to keep watching. From the first episode of season two on the other hand – and it’s worth noting that the show’s star, Bateman, directed both – the action commences at once and other than the messy time chronology of episode eight, is flawless in its pacing from episodes one through ten.

While season two is certainly more bingeworthy than its predecessor, it lacks the moments of black humour that characterised the first. That isn’t to say that the show loses out in losing its sense of humour, but rather the situations the characters are involved in are becoming more serious. In fact, every time something works out the Brydes’ favour, it is immediately followed by something bad happening. It may be more appropriate to name the show ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events.’ Still, the constant turnover of each storyline into something new and more menacing makes for compelling television.

Considering individual plots, Wendy’s is especially enthralling as she gets a chance to sharpen her political skills, having previously worked as a public relations operative for political campaigns. In acquiring the allies required to establish their casino, she befriends political donor and wealthy businessman Charles Wilkes. While the actor behind the character, Darren Goldstein, is unexceptional, Linney is extraordinary in hermore proactive role. Playing Wendy, Linney brings the goading nature of a Lady Macbeth type, and the smiling, sinister persona that recalls her previous performance as Meryl Burbank in ‘The Truman Show.’

Marty, meanwhile, has to contend with Helen Pierce (played by the terrific Janet McTeer), a Chicago-based lawyer who represents the cartel, and is jaded by the messiness of the operation in the Ozarks. As with season one, Bateman essentially plays the same character he always plays, only this time placed in a very serious situation rather than a comical one, and though his trust often seems misplaced and foolish, he never totally loses the audience’s empathy.

Teenager Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz), on the other hand, is an entirely different case, becoming very annoying indeed in her constant attention-seeking and doing or saying stupid things that endanger her family. Her younger brother, Jonah (Skylar Gaertner), shows increasing maturity, but both Hublitz and Gaertner get the spotlight taken away from them by Julia Garner and Charlie Tahan’s performances as Ruth and Wyatt Langmore. Reviews for the first season praised Garner in particular, and she continues to be sensational in this season. Tahan too is one to watch, while the other major Langmore this season, Cade, is cast well in Trevor Long. Long could’ve easily made his character too obvious but instead he keeps viewers guessing.

There’s no point in watching season two of ‘Ozark’ without having seen the first, but this show is definitely worth investing your TV-viewing time in for the impressive performances and enthralling drama.