It all had to end, we just didn’t know how. Season four of Netflix’s crime drama, Ozark, is its last, and this final season has been split into two parts. The first seven episodes dropped on January 21, while the final seven drop on Friday, April 29. As we know from the first seven episodes, the conclusion to the Byrde Family drama will not come quietly or easily. The final episodes only confirm that suspicion, as the finale of the Emmy Award-winning series from creators Bill Dubuque and Mark Williams is a wild and nerve-jangling ride, an absolutely cathartic ending to a show that surprises and excites, all the way to the bitter end.
The first three seasons of Ozark revolved around Marty, the central character played by Jason Bateman, an accountant forced into servitude to a drug cartel, but this last season has found its focus more in Marty’s two female counterparts, his wife, Wendy, played by Laura Linney, and his colleague-turned-competitor Ruth, played by Julia Garner. Season four tracks Wendy and Ruth’s converging storylines, as one wants to use the Mexican drug cartel to fund her charitable foundation, while the other seeks to avenge the deaths of her boyfriend and cousin, placing the blame on Wendy and the cartel.
Stuck in the middle is Marty, who, despite being equally loyal, will eventually need to pick a side. Marty has been walking the razor’s edge already, juggling his commitments to both the cartel and the FBI, who are both asking for various degrees of pounds of flesh, in addition to his Wendy/Ruth conundrum. So the question is, what will Marty do and who will Marty choose. And, the question that’s been asked for four years: can Marty and his family even get out alive.
All will be revealed, but you’d better hold onto your hat.
The final seven episodes are packed with story and craft a fitting conclusion to the Byrde family story. What makes the second half of season four so rewarding is its emphasis on character more than plot. You don’t get the gift of Laura Linney and Julia Garner and not squeeze every ounce out of what they bring to their portrayals of Wendy and Ruth. Linney, who already has two Emmy nominations for playing Wendy under her belt, is sure to land a third for her steely, pragmatic and haunted performance this season as a woman slowly unhinging, weighed down by guilt but driven by ambition.
Linney’s powerful presence is matched only by Garner’s. The two-time Emmy winner is coming hard for a third, as Ruth’s evolution is both searing and heartbreaking. Garner imbues her with a combination of delicacy and ferocity that takes the show to another level.
It is Ruth’s progression, from small-time con artist to full-fledged drug dealer, around which the entire narrative evolves. From the time the Byrdes arrive in the Ozarks from Chicago, their effect on the people has been life-altering, but no one has been as affected by the Byrde family than Ruth, who’s lost nearly her entire family over the course of the show, and has come out on the other side battered but bolstered by a renewed resolve and a strength unmatched. It is a character and a performance that will long be indelible in television history.
But it is the concept of family that still lies at the heart of Ozark and comes to play in a powerful way in the last episodes of the final season. From Ruth’s loss of her family (except for Three, of course), to the Byrdes’ desperately trying to hold onto theirs, to the tangled and complicated family dynamics of a drug cartel’s power structure, family is central to the way storylines play out as Ozark careens to its conclusion. As if the Byrdes don’t have enough drama already, another family member arrives on the heels of Wendy’s brother Ben’s disappearance and adds even more of a chaotic spin to an already splintered family.
As for how Ozark ends, nothing will be revealed here, but the ending will please some, frustrate others, and downright piss off even more. But, in the end, I’ll take a show that ends with a bang more than a whimper any day, and Ozark certainly doesn’t disappoint. Happy endings are overrated anyway.