It was “a hard way to go” for Marty and Wendy Byrde in the final four minutes and 28 seconds of Netflix’s “Ozark” but utterly gratifying. The 14th episode of the fourth and final season was helmed by executive producer and star Jason Bateman, stepping into the director’s chair for the first time this year.
In those final moments, we see that Mel (Adam Rothenberg) has broken into the Byrdes’ home. The viewer has just witnessed Ruth (played by two-time Emmy winner and double nominee this year, Julia Garner) being killed by Camila. With the audience fixated on Bateman sitting at the table, the camera pans out to see Mel. A tension-filled monologue while holding the cookie jar containing the ashes of Wendy’s brother Ben (played by guest actor drama nominee Tom Pelphrey) is impossible to breathe through.
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With subtle glances at his wife and the ground, Bateman says, “name your price,” with a slight crack in his voice, permitting the fear and anxiety to spill out of his mouth, but as the events unfold with a deceitful plan to get rid of the last loophole in this web of murder and lies. Instead of attempting some acting acrobatics that can go over the top in scenes such as this, Bateman’s wide eyes do the talking, thanks to killer writing from showrunner and EP Chris Mundy.
“You can change your life. You can change anyone’s life you want,” are the final lines Bateman delivers before his son Jonah comes with a shotgun standing alongside his sister, Charlotte.
Fade to black and a shot is heard. Steering the ship that will conclude a treasured series is difficult enough. Add the stress of delivering the performance of your career. Many artists would buckle under the pressure, but not Bateman.
The 53-year-old’s ability to act through his body has been one of the most undervalued tools in his repertoire. Gained critical acclaim and Emmy notoriety over the years, including three acting noms as the financial adviser-turned drug cartel money launderer, the star has never won an Emmy for acting. His sole win is for directing the Season 2 episode “Reparations” in 2019.
Triple nominated for drama series, directing and lead actor, his pathway to another statuette lies in the director (drama) race where he’s facing the multiple figures from “Succession,” “Severance,” “Yellowjackets” and his Netflix stablemate “Squid Game.” However, in the past decade, five of the previous 10 winners for lead actor drama have won for the final seasons of their shows — Kyle Chandler for “Friday Night Lights” (2011), Bryan Cranston for “Breaking Bad” (2014), Jon Hamm for “Mad Men” (2015), Matthew Rhys for “The Americans” (2018) and Josh O’Connor for (his final season on) “The Crown” (2021). This stat could point toward a surprise win for the accomplished actor who faces off against Brian Cox, Lee Jung-jae, Bob Odenkirk, Adam Scott and Jeremy Strong.
If awarded in acting, it would be historic, with Bateman being the first person to win Emmys for directing and acting in drama categories (although in different years). However, this isn’t going to be easy to pull off with Lee walking into the ceremony with wins from Critics Choice and SAG Awards ceremonies and with the Television Critics Assn. winners still to be announced on Aug. 6 for which Bateman isn’t nominated.
Upsets happen every year. As the Season 4 poster’s tagline reads, “No one gets out clean.” Bateman is on the hunt.