“Ozark” thoughts, Season One, Episode Six: “The Book of Ruth”

We’ll start with the title character, Ruth Langmore. After a visit to her imprisoned father, a true sociopath who literally tells her that murdering people feels good and that “a moron’s a different species than you and me—we got a right to take ‘em out,” she plans out an undetectable hit on Marty so that she and her family can finally loot what remains of his dwindling supply of as-yet-unlaundered cash. If you were expecting a change of heart or a face turn from this character, too bad: She one-hundred-percent goes through with the murder attempt, a dockside electrocution the authorities would likely blame on faulty wiring. Only the intervention of Agent Petty, who learns something’s up his boyfriend Russ Langmore, saves Byrde’s skin.

The result is a look on actor Julia Garner’s face that freezes the blood in your veins: Her wide eyes reflect shock, confusion, disappointment, regret, relief, and the nauseating feeling that she’ll have to go through with this all again, all at once. The follow-up to this failure — a fight she gets into about it with her uncles Russ and Boyd that leaves her with a black eye, which she shamefacedly allows an oblivious Wendy Byrde, herself a former abuse victim, to attend to the next day — hits hard too.

The other young pillar of the cast, Sofia Hublitz, has a powerful outing as Charlotte Byrde as well. I think it’s fair to criticize the the show’s juxtaposition of Wyatt Langmore, the gawky sensitive sci-fi outcast, against Zach, the much more conventionally attractive older guy Charlotte eventually goes for. It’s implicit dig at Charlotte’s judgement that doesn’t take into account the idea that being more attracted to a more attractive guy, one who’s never thrown you out of a moving boat for that matter, is a perfectly natural choice. Even so, the show’s handling of Charlotte’s first time with this Zach dude is impressively rooted in both the nervousness and the heat of the moment. When the pair retreat belowdecks on his boat, it’s clear to them both what’s about to happen. So she takes a bathroom break, and the camera shows each of them in turn, sighing and coming to grips with what’s about to happen. When they finally go for it, it’s a realistically intense and utilitarian process. (And if you’re gonna lose your virginity on some rich jock’s boat, “Black Beatles” isn’t the worst you can do for a soundtrack.)

And again, the follow-up is key. The dumbfounded look on Charlotte’s face, the childlike way in which she wordlessly shakes her head “no,” when she tracks Zach to the dry dock where Wyatt works and learns he left for the fall without telling her, is crushing in its vulnerability. So is the way she clings to Wendy afterwards, when her mom comes to comfort her without really knowing what it is she’s comforting her about.

I reviewed episode six of Ozark for Decider. Garner and Hublitz are very impressive actors.

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