No one ever expected Ozark (much like Breaking Bad, with which the Netflix show shares heavy vibes and a similar dynamic) to have a happy ending (or even close). There’s simply no way that all of the remaining characters who matter — the Byrde quartet and Ruth Langmore — would saunter off unscathed into the sunset. For one thing, Marty and Wendy sucked their kids into money-laundering hell, and there’s no way they can simply return to their unassuming suburban-Chicago existence after dancing with a drug lord; and the show didn’t shy away from starting the already released first half of the season with a rollover vehicle crash for the fam without telling us what happened. For another thing, the amount of loss that Ruth’s suffered means that she’ll probably never not be miserable and haunted, no matter if she lives or dies.
With that out of the way, whew, this is a difficult review to roll around in my head. That’s the case not only because there are so many spoilerific developments but also because the newest trailer was somewhat misleading. I’m being very vague, but let’s just say that this final batch of episodes will be controversial. People will unload their opinions and arguments and takes. I’m both looking forward to and dreading how everyone reacts. The ending is intense. It’s savage and shattering. I’m not thrilled with the full outcome, and I’m still working through the process of why certain decisions were made.
The key to balancing such a final season is to make sure that the fates of these characters (some of whom are beloved, even begrudgingly so at times) are at least handled in a believable and justifiable way. Does Ozark do so? Well, I’ve watched the remaining episodes and obviously cannot and will not spoil what happens to them. We can talk that out after Season 4, Part II releases, but what I can say is this: get ready because you aren’t prepared for what goes down.
First, however, the show picks up in the immediate aftermath of Ruth raging at Marty and Wendy over Javi’s twin murder involving Wyatt. Baby Zeke is still onboard, but for all practical purposes, Ruth’s lost everyone dear to her. Ben’s gone, Wyatt’s gone, and her last ounce of give-a-sh*t is gone. She’s long-stopped caring what Marty thinks, and she’s gone both full circle and nowhere at all. Julia Garner’s performance is, as always, ferocious, but beyond the grim circumstances with which this season begins…
…there’s still some joy to be found in Ruth’s journey. While it’s debatable whether she “knows sh*t about f*ck,” especially while full of fury, she’s more in-command than Marty at this point. And we get to see Ruth in some new settings, where she’s hellbent upon going gangster against Marty and Wendy’s wishes. Along the way, she has a chance meeting with a very special cameo star, and in that encounter, she’s more alive we’ve seen her be during most of the show And she’s coping as best as she can while shouting things like, “F*ck off, Dr. Phil!” and candidly admitting, “I really love your sh*t.” God, I love Ruth and that godforsaken goat-shaped cookie jar, which also returns.
Ruth does realize some dreams this season, too. And fortunately, she completely sees through Marty and Wendy’s BS at this point. We’ve already known that Marty lost his grip on everyone a long time ago. He failed to maintain any semblance of control on the situation, and Jason Bateman has always done a fine job of exuding the weariness of a c*cked husband (one who can’t even muster up the tiniest scrap of dignity akin to Ben Affleck as the Alpha Cuck in Deep Water), who then got sucked into being a lackey for a drug lord. I mean, what a spectacular ride to the bottom that it’s been for Marty Byrde.
Ironically, Marty and Wendy were supposed to be at the top of the empire after Navarro had Helen killed off in the final moments of Season 3. Yet it’s still more of the same for Marty. He’s supposed to be in charge, but nope, Wendy is the Byrde who’s really running the joint, although “winning” isn’t happening for anyone on this show. Marty wouldn’t be alive without Wendy pulling strings and showing absolutely no scruples or remorse for her actions, but yup, it’s Wendy’s fault that her own brother is dead. Yet finally, in this season, there’s some comeuppance for her sins.
Actually, one thing that I really enjoyed about this final Ozark rodeo is that Wendy really has to do some groveling. She’s almost lost all of her humanity at this point in the series, and she’s argued all this time that she’s only defending her family. Make no mistake, though: Wendy Byrde is a fascinating character, but god, she is a terrible, inherently manipulative person with absolutely no moral compass (any Skylar White comparisons have never really worked, so let’s not go there). There was a point, extremely early on, where it was possible to feel sympathy for Wendy’s plight, but there’s no end to the anguish that she causes for everyone. She’s pushed for advances into the Byrde life of crime even while Marty wanted to pull back and play it relatively safe. None of this, of course, even hints at Wendy’s ultimate fate.
Alright, so it’s time to deal with a massive elephant in the room, meaning that I must address how the show teed up this moment (and I ain’t saying jack about Wendy here):
Yup, that moment launched the fourth season, as we saw a few months ago. And we’ve been left to wonder who, if anyone, survives that crash. It didn’t look good, that’s for damn sure, and Ozark leaves no one hanging in the “who” department after the collision. Now, the “why” of the crash, well, that’s more than a little bit confusing. Like I already said, there will be plenty to discuss about how this series ends. For now (and because there are many prohibited happenings that can be discussed later), it’s enough to finish up with this impression: within a show that’s strongly resembled Breaking Bad, there are no “Ozymandias” or “Felina”-grade episodes to be found here. The final flourishes simply aren’t of the Breaking Bad caliber (that’s almost fitting since Better Call Saul will hopefully be carrying that torch in its own final episodes), but overall, this last round is just fine, and shattering enough to still be Ozark without being spectacular.
Netflix’s ‘Ozark’ will come to an end on April 29.