Many series on streaming services benefited from COVID-era lockdown viewing. Viewers became anxious to find distracting content, preferably nothing too taxing on the brain.
Ozark (streams on Netflix from Friday) is one such show. Its fourth and final season arrives into two parts, seven episodes now and the final batch at a later date. Anyone wondering just how many times the Byrde family can be put in jeopardy will get some answers. There is, in fact, no end of trouble and danger. This time, however, there is a more coherent storyline. Marty and Wendy Byrde (Jason Bateman and Laura Linney) are required to arrange a deal between cartel leader Omar Navarro (Felix Solis) and the FBI.
This allows for some relief from the gloomy interiors that the series often occupies. There are few series that have located so much action in murky light and by now we get the message – everything that happens is, in a moral sense, murky. There are really two twin plot lines as the series leads up to what will be an interesting conclusion when the next episodes arrive. While the Byrde family – the parents, anyway – do a high-wire act with a murderous cartel and the FBI, Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner) and her gang, some of them family members, are looking to start making heroin again. This will bring new enemies and fraught circumstances for everybody. Money-laundering in Missouri is one thing, but taking a piece of the action from a cartel is at a different level.
To date, Ozark, with its furious pace and multiple twists, has allowed Julia Garner to stand out and she’s won Emmy awards for that, as a supporting actress. Here the focus appears to shift a little, with Wendy Byrde given more agency with some glorious scenes. Laura Linney embraces this with relish. There is some devilish joy to be found in Linney as Wendy the coolly disciplined wife and mother, uttering threats that make your skin crawl, and unleashing wisdom with calm disdain: “You need to grow up. This is America. People don’t care where your fortune came from.”
As with most prestige TV-era dramas about anti-heroes, the overriding question is whether these characters need to be restored to moral clarity, or whether their wicked ways will simply lead to total self-destruction. That will be answered in the final episodes, one supposes, but in the meantime, Ozark seems a tad less satisfying when Ruth is pushed to the side.
Also airing/streaming this weekend
In Your Face (Friday, the CBC, 9 p.m., then streams on CBC Gem on The Nature of Things) is a new doc from Josh Freed about the advances and dangers in facial-recognition technology. Apparently, we start out with facial-recognition skills within an hour of birth. Also, of course, we tend to see faces everywhere, in inanimate objects or in the clouds. You don’t need a neuroscientist to tell you that. It’s a superpower in a way. But some people, including very famous people, have “face blindness” and can’t identify any faces at all, even their own children. This is discussed here, plus the problem with facial-recognition technology used by police and other authorities. There are significant error rates for women of colour, for instance. Also, it looks at the next phase of the technology and the efforts to discern “emotional recognition.” One message: We are overly blithe about the photos we put on social media.
As We See It (streaming on Amazon Prime Video) is new and an utter gem. Based on an Israeli series, it’s best called a “dramedy” because it’s about three twentysomething roommates who are on the autism spectrum, and are a handful. The three actors identify as being on the spectrum and all three are deft at both the humour and the emotionally wrenching circumstances of their fictional lives here. Sosie Bacon is excellent as their support worker, Mandy, who has a lot to deal with. One big deal is getting Harrison to walk a single block to a local café, something that’s terrifying for him. Uproarious at times and very poignant, it’s a small-scale but don’t-miss new show.
Finally, new episodes of Billions (Sunday, Showtime/Crave, 9 p.m.) arrive. The story shifts away from the tense cat-and-mouse game between Chuck (Paul Giamatti) and Axe (Damian Lewis). Lewis left the show following the death of his wife, actor Helen McCrory, but might make a cameo appearance.
Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter. Sign up today.