Spoiler warning: the following article contains spoilers for Ozark Season 3. Do not keep reading if you haven't seen the season or if you otherwise don't want to be spoiled.
Perhaps the most bizarre part of the third season of Ozark is the relationship that emerges between Darlene Snell and Wyatt Langmore.
It also looks to be continuing into a future storyline.
Let's be real for a minute: there's a lot of weird stuff that happens in Ozark. In the show's very first episode, for one example, before the action even reaches the aforementioned Ozarks, we see our protagonist, Marty Byrde, watching a video on his laptop that would seem to be a homemade snuff film; in actuality, it's spy camera footage of his wife, Wendy, cheating on him. Things are off from the start. But in the show's third season, relationships get taken to a new level—and if you've watched the show you know exactly what I'm talking about: the newly-widowed Darlene Snell seduces young Wyatt Langmore to work on her farm and later into her bed. The resulting storyline is utterly unsettling.
Part of what adds to the ickiness of this storyline is what we know about these characters from past seasons. Wyatt, on one hand, was supposed to be the outlier Langmore—he's constantly shown to be smart, well-read, and above the backwoods, small-time crime that his family always seemed to fall into. An emotional moment in the last season showed Ruth and Wyatt celebrating when he was granted admission into the University of Missouri, seemingly finding a path to a life his family has never had the chance for before. But then he found out that Ruth killed his father and uncle, and things were never the same.
And then there's the Darlene aspect of it all. Not only is she old enough to be Wyatt's grandmother—a fact he acknowledges—but she's also out of her god damn mind. This is a woman who commits murders of people she doesn't know—Del from the Cartel—and people she very much does know—her husband, Jacob—at the drop of a hat. She does these things on a whim, and is constantly a complete wild card. To see her draw young, naive, and promising Wyatt into her grasp is nothing but upsetting.
And it's kind of a classic story of grooming and predatory behavior. Wyatt isn't underage—we know this because we were all hoping that he would go to college—but at the start of the season he's been squatting in a mansion. That doesn't last very long, and he winds up in jail. From there, he's bailed out by Darlene, and immediately pulled into his orbit. Since he's avoiding his actual home and Ruth, who's his legal guardian, he basically has no choice but to get involved with Darlene at some level. Eventually, he's convinced to become her lover, and even starts talking about how he's "in love with" her. It's obviously not real, and is essentially a Stockholm syndrome situation.
He's thankful that she's afforded him work and a place to live, and as a result has tricked himself into thinking he loves her, when in reality it's anything but normal.
By the end of the season, it's clear that this storyline is only just beginning, and that the Wyatt-Darlene situation will only continue into a potential season 4—and now Ruth is involved, invited to join Darlene's new and growing business. Given that Ruth is essentially the anti-hero at Ozark's core, perhaps she'll come to realize just how messed up the whole situation is, and save Wyatt from this disturbing Darlene mess that he's gotten himself tied up in.
One guess? It'll probably take another reckless and violent act to snap Wyatt out of whatever trance Darlene has gotten him in. Clearly, at this point, he's blinded by her hospitality and kindness toward him; but it shouldn't take much outside of witnessing yet another unhinged act for him to see what's really going on.
As disturbing as this all is, it's hard to deny that it makes for some pretty compelling television. We're all stuck in voyeur mode, but we've got to keep hoping that Wyatt will figure everything out and live up to his potential while he's still got a chance. The Langmore curse doesn't have to be.
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