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No, the Byrdes Aren't Trying to Be Like Walter White in Ozark Season 2

They're not embracing their criminal enterprise

Megan Vick

The Byrdes narrowly escaped Ozark's first season with their lives, and they're only getting into more trouble in the second season. After laundering $8 million for the cartel last season, the Byrdes have proven to be a valuable asset for the drug lords on the other side of the border. Now they have to figure out a way to wash more cash on a more frequent basis -- and it's off-season in the Ozarks. You know what they say, mo' money, mo' problems.

TV Guide sat down with series stars Jason Bateman, Laura Linney and Julia Garner -- who plays Marty's (Bateman) kind-of-protege Ruth -- about how Season 2 will expand on the troubles of Season 1 and what fans can expect as the Byrdes try to open a casino to solve their problems.

Jason Bateman, Ozark​

Jason Bateman, Ozark

Jessica Miglio/Netflix

The great thing about Season 2 of a show is that once you've established characters and worlds in Season 1, you get to play a bit more in Season 2. How is this world expanding in Season 2?Jason Bateman: They've got a bigger number to wash this year, but beyond that I think they've got deeper relationships with everybody in town and all the complications that come with that. Everyone wants their piece. They're trying to delegate as things become -- they didn't get out. They thought, "Great. We washed the $8 million and get back to Chicago." And that's just not what happened.

They have to unpack for real and dig in a bit and assimilate. And now they're no longer reactive, but actually trying to be proactive in some of what they're doing in relationships and in the business elements. And they're not too equipped to do either one of those things. But if they knew how to do everything it wouldn't be that interesting, so it's a show about mistakes and trying to plug holes.

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At the start of Season 1, Marty and Wendy's marriage was in shambles, and they said, "We're doing this as business partners." And they never officially reconciled. What is the status of their relationship in Season 2? Are they starting to see each other as being married partners again?
Laura Linney: They sort of put their deep interpersonal issues to the side because they have to survive, and they've made a commitment to stay together, so their focus is more about what's coming at them as opposed to what's within them.

Bateman: That unity is actually creating a whole different rift that they don't even really see coming. So they get closer before they get further apart again. And we leave that up to the grand wizards [in the writers' room].

Cade [Ruth's father] is back at the beginning of Season 2. How does that complicate things for Ruth? Does it put her in the middle between her own family and the Byrdes?
Julia Garner: It definitely complicates things because she wants her dad to be better. She hopes that her dad is gonna be this guy that she wants her dad to be, but he's just not. She wants her dad to respect her in a way that Marty, I think, does and acknowledges her. And that's why she gravitated towards Marty very early on. But that's still her dad, and it's conflicting cause he's not her dad obviously.

Bateman: The things that might warrant respect in her father are some things that she might not want to do because he sees certain things as heroic, and accomplishing that, live in a space that she might not be comfortable with. Whereas making this paternal figure proud are things that are --

Garner: Right, and Marty doesn't belittle her. Whereas her dad and her uncles and everybody in her family did belittle her. So, I think that's also another thing. Even when Marty does something kind of wrong to me, I take it even more personal because I'm like, "Wait, he doesn't like me anymore? He doesn't respect me anymore?" And then I go crazy on him.

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How does the guilt from setting up her uncles' death last season manifest in Season 2?
Garner: I think it's a big part. How can that not? It's something that you carry with every day probably. She gets up in the morning and she thinks about that, and she doesn't want to think about it.

The cartel's lawyer is almost more intimidating than Del, and we haven't seen her skin anybody yet. Should we be as afraid of her as we were of Del in Season 1?
Linney: I think anyone that sent from the cartel should have power. And she represents another side of their business and represents ... You see just how powerful they are. They're not just ruthless. They're also smart and shrewd and strategic and can come at you with a ton of bricks on many different levels. ... Intellectually as well as not just inflicting bodily harm. They can get in your brain.

Marty said something really interesting in the Season 2 trailer about how they've become just as bad as the people they were working for. Is that something they're going to embrace in Season 2? Or is that something where they're going to have to look at themselves and be like, "Okay, we actually have to try and be better"?
Bateman: There's a deserved level of autonomy that the writing department deserves, and so I could just say from discussions that we've had, the world of [what Breaking Bad's] Walter White went through is ground that we respectfully will go around. So I don't see him or them ever leaning into it, but there is an ability by virtue of their intellect or lazy ethics to justify a lot of criminal things. That they can say well the ends justify the means... but they're still trying to do it all right and make sure nobody gets hurt and would like to reach the finish line without becoming as bad as those that they are running from or criticizing. But sometimes it's just impossible, because the alternative might mean death to someone in your family. That's part of the joy of the show is looking at the choices that these people have to look at.

Speaking of family, at the start of the season, the Byrdes are trying very actively to keep their kids out of everything again, but the kids do know about the business. How successful would they be from stopping these very smart, precocious kids from getting involved?
Bateman: The odds are against them cause they're the acorns. They've got a couple of smart parents and they're every bit as intelligent and they're living in the house. I think they recognize that they can be valuable to us. And we to them. So how do we best work as a team sometimes?

Can we talk about though Wendy's growing role in this business and is she accepting that she has a 50/50 partnership in this? Is she willing to get her hands a lot dirtier than we thought she would have at the beginning of Season 1?
Linney: I think she's responding to the danger at hand, so I don't think there's a conscious decision about how involved or how uninvolved she will be. I think she's just reacting to what is in front of her to keep herself and her family safe. So, I think in areas where she sees something giving way or something getting weak, she's gonna move in and shore it up just to survive.

Do you guys have a multi-season plan of how far this story goes? Or it's more like we're gonna go for as long as we can?
Bateman: Well, [that is] ... a good question for [showrunner] Chris Mundy, but they're really comfortable and generous in the sense that they just allow the show to develop and become what it is. They'll see what dynamics are working and what aren't, what is really interesting to them, what isn't, what are their social current social parallels that they might want to explore. But who knows? So [the] long answer is no. No idea where it's going. Each season we do we're treating each season as a single story, as a single film that's broken up into 10 parts as opposed to each one being closed-ended. So we will close out Season 2, and we were going to be obligated to come up with a brand new story for Season 3. There are some threads that are left open that we can build upon, but it is intact. We're leaving it all on the table every year.

Going back to the Breaking Bad comparison, we knew from Season 1 there was no way that Walter White was going to make it out of there with a happy ending. Is there any possible redemption for the Byrdes or is it possible that anybody can get out of here with a halfway normal life and happy ending?
Linney: I think they believe so. Absolutely. I think the characters believe so.

Bateman: Yeah, and there's definitely a way to write that. I don't know what it is, but that would be fascinating to watch a happy ending with some big gushing, broken, break fluid pipe at the bottom of that. Like it's a happy ending except this is destroyed. What's that look like? And again, Chris and his group would come up with that I'm sure.

Ozark Season 2 premieres Friday, Aug. 31 on Netflix.