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How Jason Bateman Changed A Key Ozark Season 2 Scene

Throughout its pulse-pounding three seasons and counting on Netflix, the pitch-black crime saga Ozark has developed quite a reputation for executing go-for-broke narrative twists. There's good reason for that, as the series follows mild-mannered accountant turned high-level money launderer Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) in his escalating entanglements with a Mexican drug cartel, and there's just no telling what sort of violent, double-dealing scenarios Marty and his family might find themselves in from one minute to the next.

In fact, such a setup doesn't just leave the door open for shocking twists — it basically demands them. As strong as Ozark's reputation for wild surprises has become, so too has the series' rep for finding new and brutal ways to kill off its cast of shady characters. And Ozark really does indulge on the regular — as evinced by the series' head-spinning season 3 finale, the show often does so by offing a central character in suitably violent fashion. 

Terry Gross actually broached that topic with Ozark star-slash-producer-slash-director Bateman in a recent interview on NPR's Fresh Air, specifically referencing the vicious season 2 murder of the Snell's (Lisa Emery and Peter Mullan) henchman Ash (character actor extraordinaire Michael Tourek). "The murder that you and your wife have witnessed. It's pretty gruesome — not that graphic, really, but it's very upsetting for the characters," Gross pointed out.

For context, the scene finds Marty and Wendy (Laura Linney) fresh from a fancy shindig, and trying to make a deal with the Snells at the behest of their Cartel boss, who demands blood for the murder of his top adviser in season 1. In doing so, they expose Ash's own betrayal, at which point Jacob brings the big man down with a log to the head before stabbing him with a fire poker. It's a patently nasty scene, and it seems Bateman was responsible for how the brutality came about.

Bateman and the Ozark team apparently relish finding new ways to off people

Bateman responded to the inquiry with surprising candor, explaining, "It was written where that character would get shot in the head. And there was another character that got shot in the head in a room just around the corner from that room in another episode. And so I said to the writer, I said, 'You know, I'd love to come up with another way to kill this guy.' And so I kind of gave it some thought and pitched to Chris Mundy, our head writer, our showrunner, you know, this idea. And I kind of walked him through, you know, how I would do it."

Seems Bateman was bent on not repeating the shocking season 1 kill scene which saw Esai Morales' cartel lawyer unexpectedly shot by a crazed Darlene Snell, as that shooting ultimately resulted in the cartel calling for Snell blood. Death by fire poker was a suitably offbeat substitute, and Bateman went on to detail how the Ozark team takes particular pleasure in the varied ways they kill off their characters. 

"We have these fun conversations about all the deaths on the show. And I'd come up with these weird ideas... some of them work, some of them don't. This particular one was as a result of what the set is there that he might not be aware of because he does the writing here in Los Angeles — but sort of put together all these elements that were right there in front of us."

Bateman didn't just put elements together in re-envisioning Ash's gruesome Ozark departure; his penchant for improvisational violence ensured said departure carried extra weight. And yes, it also raised the murder bar for a series which clearly relishes doing so.