OZARK CHARACTERS, RANKED
Ozark is Breaking Bad if the whole family were in on it.
I’m finally caught up on Ozark! Who wants to discuss it? Yes, this is long, but writing it provided a much-needed respite from real life. (So, let’s watch a dark show about murder instead?) Anyway, I can’t stop thinking about it, so feel free to reply to tell me how wrong my ranking is.
Obviously, this contains spoilers. Out of the characters appearing in 9+ episodes, these are my favorite to least favorite. I haven’t yet read any reviews. Oh, and see if you can find the eight REO Speedwagon references. (Why eight? I don’t know. The Byrds sang “Eight Miles High.” Good enough.) Here goes…
1. Rachel Garrison
In every drama, I almost always like: The Protagonist. The Antagonist. The Comic Relief (who normally doubles as the Voice of the Audience). The Conflicted One, Battling Between Good and Bad. The Hot Chick. Yeah, Rachel’s the hot chick, but she also represents the purest form of innocence you’re gonna find in the dark world of the Ozarks. Say what you want about her lifestyle (no judgment); she was ostensibly an innocent bystander so I had a soft spot in my heart for her. Every time she returned, I was just hoping she’d be OK; it was reminiscent of how I felt about Cutty in The Wire. I’m glad Marty Byrde went so far out of his way to fight for her. I’m also glad they didn’t sleep together; that was a nice twist. I guess they can fight this feeling.
2. Ben Davis
Aw, Wendy Byrde’s brother. I’ll get my second and last Wire reference out of the way early. Like Omar said, “Man’s gotta have a code.” We learn in his first appearance as a substitute teacher that he sees the world through a child’s eyes and he’s gonna do what he can to set things right, at least according to his worldview. Despite his beating the living daylights out of a stranger at a bar, it’s not his fault that he’s bipolar. The use of Ben as Voice of the Audience was particularly salient: it was a clever reset of how insane things had become, or how insane the Byrds had made them. I knew he’d die by the end of the season; he’s exactly the type of character who flashes brightly and then burns out. Losing Ben hit me as hard as almost any loss in The Wire. OK, THAT was the last Wire reference.
3. Buddy Dyker
We don’t know everything about the past of the old man who comes with the Byrde’s new house, but the friendship Buddy forms with Jonah and that he saves the family’s life is enough. You also gotta love a senior citizen who skinny dips. I’m glad he got to go out on top, setting fire to an opium field. That had to rival anything he did in Vietnam… and in Detroit.
4. Wyatt Langmore
His story is the most tragic of all. Blessed with brains and what would’ve likely been a great future, the fact that he falls from attending his college of choice to banging a woman old enough to be George Washington’s grandmother is difficult to watch. His journey depicts the powerful hold of a cursed family name.
5. Russ Langmore
Wyatt and Three’s father deserved better. Basically a victim used by FBI Agent Roy Petty and killed by his niece, he was a nice man born into the wrong circumstances.
6. Ruth Langmore
The entire show pivots on Ruth, IMO. She’s a tough bitch but more tough than bitch. The time she belted Frank Cosgrove, Jr. in the nuts and threw him off the top of the ship was the second hardest I laughed the entire series. She’s probably been through the most during the run of the show: taking abuse by her father her whole life, getting beaten within an inch of her life, losing the love of her life… I’m rooting for her and am really hoping she makes it. The romance between her and Ben almost drove me to tears. Why isn’t she higher? Um, she murdered her uncles?
7. Charlotte & Jonah Byrde
I’ve never seen a brother and sister in such lock step on everything. The two Byrde children truly seem to care about each other. It’s touching and they’re entertaining to watch. The daughter’s actions are a bit more believable; it’s a little fantastical that the son, also being the younger one, seems to take to crime disturbingly easily. But he seems to follow in his Dad’s footsteps in how solid he is at it. And he gets that drone because it’s time for him to fly.
9. Marty Byrde
Since Valerie in the ’80s, I can watch Jason Bateman do pretty much anything. In retrospect, Horrible Bosses was his transition from comedy to drama. The reason he’s so low on this list is that he and his wife are responsible for the havoc wreaked in the Ozarks. Is ANYBODY better off because they moved there? That said, he’s as funny as a show like this allows him to be and he’s obviously extremely intelligent. But he’d do well to share more with his wife; it’s not fair how much he leaves her in the dark. Then again, people this adept with numbers normally are control freaks. He’s probably the only man who makes me miss my hair. He has really good hair.
10. Three Langmore
A minor character, he’s a sweet and innocent kid. His part thus far is so inconsequential that you have to wonder if he’ll play a pivotal role in the final season.
11. Sam Dermody
An oaf. But this poor bastard is totally being used by the Byrdes. When Wendy asks him if his life has improved because of them, it’s downright ridiculous. Yes, he’s out from under his overbearing mother and underneath some very nice boobs, but those boobs aren’t real, and dude, HE WATCHED HIS MOTHER GET RUN OVER BY A TRUCK.
12. Maya Miller
She had me at her long list of three-letter bands. I’d never heard REO Speedwagon and N.W.A. mentioned in the same hour. And this is coming from somebody who used to get REO Speedwagon, R.E.M., and Run-D.M.C. mixed-up. I adore that she’s such a straight shooter, and it tracks that an individual like that normally sucks at office politics. She absolutely should’ve reported in writing to her bosses that Marty was trying to compromise her. My boss at P&G knew every single thing I was up to. And he was from Missouri, FWIW. After all, it is the Show Me State. You’d think a Black woman would know that White people would throw her under the bus. Even if she likes REO, she should’ve known that idea was DOA.
13. Trevor Evans
It’s tough to know what to make of the FBI outfit in general. Kudos to the show for portraying the good in the bad people and vice versa, especially if you’re tired of the same old story. At times, I do wish they’d do more with Evans. Right now, he seems to be there solely to avenge Petty’s slaying… not that that’s petty. I mean, he won’t back down… no, he won’t back down… you can stand him up at the Gates of Hell… alright, I’ll stop. That’s not REO Speedwagon. I can’t tell if the actor just isn’t that strong or if there simply isn’t more depth to the character.
14. Charles Wilkes
I obviously hate his politics and am glad to see somebody so slimy get screwed over. But he isn’t wholly unlikable.
15. Wendy Byrde
Laura Linney is perfect for this part. She plays to a T the role of the smarmy (a word normally reserved for males), cunning, “power-hungry bitch” (as Marty calls her). This is a dialed-up version of her turn in Mystic River, an equally dark work of art. The reality is that she wants more responsibility, but she’s not as sharp as her husband. She pretty much jacks up everything she touches — and I’m a bit surprised you can portray a woman like this these days. It’s hard for me to feel any real empathy for her as I disagree with almost all of her decisions. Nearly every time she has an idea, I facepalm and think, “Just let Marty do his thing and get them outta here.”
16. Roy Petty
He’s not an evil character but he’s a bad guy. It’s almost comical how he teases Cade, a known murderer, alone on the river. Was he asking to be bludgeoned to death? I had to feel bad for him given what he went through with his smack-addled Mom, but upon his passing, I thought, “Wow, this show is moving fast.”
17. Sheriff Nix
For most of the show, I figured he was dirty given it seemed he was indebted to the Snells. But I couldn’t believe he so blatantly agreed to run dope for Darlene. Fairly typical asshole cop.
18. Jacob Snell
And now we’re into the downright evil section of the cast. I’d rank Jacob a bit higher out of this crew only because he seemed to be a man of his word. And he won some sympathy points for getting poisoned to death by his own wife.
19. Mason Young
The preacher was annoying AF. That’s a terrible thing to write, but I was glad when he was eliminated. Anyone who couldn’t figure out that heroin was being distributed right under his nose (heh) was too stupid to live.
20. Frank Cosgrove, Jr.
I don’t know if the entitled dick deserved to lose his dick for putting Ruth in the hospital, but he probably did.
21. Darlene Snell
As they say in the musical Brigadoon: ‘’They were indeed horrible, destructive women. l do not suppose you have such women.” “Witches? Oh, we have ’em. We pronounce it differently.’’ Darlene’s a straight-up witch, even if she is a good Led Zeppelin song. From what we know, she shoots Del, poisons her husband, and castrates Frank Cosgrove, Jr. In her defense, she sees the Byrdes as the carpetbaggers they are and is driven by a principle, one of wanting to see her own people take charge of their own lands. I can respect that. Besides, Del was a murderous drug dealer; her husband was an opioid manufacturer; and Frank Cosgrove, Jr. was a piece of crap. Then again, Darlene did kill about 57 drug users, too, by lacing her own dope. And she’s in the process of ruining Wyatt’s life; at the age of around 65, she’s banging an 18-year-old. (I hope he’s 18.) Oh, and what she did to Mason’s wife might be the most horrific thing to transpire in a TV drama. (Don’t argue that one by spoiling another series for me; I’ve only seen all the way through: The Wire, Breaking Bad, The West Wing, The Sopranos, and True Detective.) Yeah, she’s tough to defend. Maybe she can redeem herself if Republican Senator Josh Hawley flies home and runs into her.
22. Omar Navarro
What can you say? A very different Omar from The Wire. OK, THAT was the last Wire reference. He’s the kingpin. The drug overlord. The cartel leader. The reason they’re in all this mess. And he always seems to have the information. He heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend who…
23. Camino Del Rio
I almost forgot about this dude, the first contact Marty Byrde had with the Navarro cartel. He throws Marty’s partner, Bruce, and Bruce’s girlfriend, in a vat of acid. Not a nice person. Gotta be glad when Darlene blows his head off for calling her a redneck.
24. Cade Langmore
His death may have been the second most satisfying. It appeared he was in prison for Murder One. And he neglected and berated Ruth to the nth degree. I mean, that ain’t love. You don’t see this type of character much on TV anymore: somebody who has no layers. He’s just a dick of a human being.
25. Nelson Bonilla
I think that may be the actor’s surname, but it was bothering me that he’s the only one without one. He’s a professional hitman. At least Navarro is building something. I had mixed emotions when he whacked the therapist. She should’ve seen by the look in his eyes, baby, there was somethin’ missin’.
26. Helen Pierce
And at the absolute bottom of the list is the cartel lawyer. I absolutely loathe her, more than Darlene, more than Cade. Though I tend to gravitate strongly toward hardcore hip-hop, I never really got into that Run the Jewels record, “Ooh La La,” and I don’t know really what it means, but it’s the perfect ending track to what was arguably one of the greatest TV seasons in history. When Navarro had Nelson blow Helen’s brains all over Marty and Wendy, I started giggling uncontrollably. I seriously could not stop laughing during one of the best climaxes I’ve ever seen. (Although I did feel a bit like the Joker.) Omar made me laugh, even if he made them cry.
All in all, I’d rate Seasons 1–3 as: 8, 8, and 9.
What say you? Do you agree? Which characters would you rank lower or higher?
Rajiv Satyal is a standup comic. He resides in Los Angeles.