Episode 8, “Kaleidoscope,” & The Finale
The time has come to discuss Episode 8, “Kaleidoscope,” the time-hopping flashback episode that ties so much of the season together. Following up the catastrophic fight between Marty and Wendy, we learn exactly how and why the couple decided to launder the money for Del in the first place.
For anyone who found the series to be an overly familiar narrative of morally questionable people making bad decisions, time and time again, the open and honest way in which they entered into the fateful agreement stands out as a difference maker. The agreement wasn’t entered into lightly. This couple is not stupid, but they’re also not innocent. Wendy and Marty chose — after being casually seduced by Del — to do something illegal. More so, they chose to do something morally wrong by justifying it to themselves as a rational choice.
Wendy was at her wit’s end. Like she said during the fight in Episode 7, she wanted to be closer to Marty. Her belief that Marty would be a better husband and father if he wasn’t so worried about money is more than understandable. But more than doing it for Marty, Wendy wanted to succeed at something. She’d been all but told her career was over. At best, she’d have to start at the bottom. She was struggling at home after losing a baby and wrestling with the guilt of not wanting it anyway. She needed her partner back. She needed hope.
But just when the audience is ready to turn on Marty, Del cuts out his former money launderer’s eyes; the very same eyes that were shipped to Marty in a jar a few episodes prior. In that moment, we know the true meaning of Del’s message, and we totally understand why Marty’s internal priority shifted from doing this with his wife to keeping her at a distance. They may have agreed to launder the money together, but only Marty saw the consequences of failure.
One final note on “Kaleidoscope”: I honestly don’t know what to make of FBI Agent Roy Petty (Jason Butler Harner). While the episode tells a devastating story that explains why Petty is willing to go to such extremes in his war on drugs, his character still feels a little too off the rails overall. He’s an asshole. He drinks. He sleeps around. He’s everything you don’t want an officer of the law to be, other than persistent. Though not liking Petty to begin with was a necessity so we could still root for Marty not to get caught, there’s so much going on with the FBI Agent by season’s end that he feels less authentic than what he’s investigating.
As for the finale, two things stand out right off the bat: Jason Bateman directed this nearly feature-length episode, making it the fourth overall in Season 1. He’s said he wanted to direct all 10, but production constraints kept him from doing so. That he was able to do four is impressive enough, and the dark blue hues of the series lend it a local flavor — and ominous vibe — perfect a story that always feels like its on the edge of a thunderstorm.
The second thing? Del’s death. In a battle between a redneck and a Mexican drug lord, my money was on the Mexican drug lord, but Del didn’t even get a chance to fight. Darlene (Lisa Emery) shot first and last, making a quick end to an enemy who felt far too foreboding to simply go away.
But that’s what Season 2 will tackle, assuming Netflix picks it up. Del’s replacement or vengeful boss is bound to arrive sooner or later, as is the riverboat casino that stands to make everyone more than a small fortune. Yet “Ozark” kept the focus on family. As discussed earlier, Charlotte’s line about how the kids are as much a part of this as the adults struck a nerve: Do we dare imagine an escape for the four Byrdes? Or is this a story of a cage slowly closing in on them, until their wings are clipped?
Either way, Season 2 can’t arrive soon enough.
“Ozark” Season 1 is streaming now on Netflix.