Ozark (Finale)–No Exit
This masterful series, breathtaking in all four seasons, has now come to an end. Season 4 Part 2 of Ozark debuted April 29, delivering the conclusion to the Byrde family saga.
Ozark is exhausting, brimming with betrayal, murder, money-laundering, and more murder, and brutal family dynamics. What’s the meaning of it all?
The viewer sees character arcs over time that always hint that the two parents, Marty (Jason Bateman) and Wendy Byrde (Laura Linney), and their children will redeem themselves. After all, they have committed unspeakable acts accompanied by self-denial and the excuse that their intentions are for the greater good of the family. Family is above all else.
And the compartmentalization is stunningly cold and unconscionable. An execution and then back to a family dinner. And in the final seven episodes of Ozark we witness the complete transformation of the narrative from Marty’s casino money laundering to Wendy as criminal mastermind.
When Wendy threatens the Mexican cartel kingpin’s family to ensure the safety of her own, the cartel leader finally comprehends that Wendy has no rules in order to keep her family together.
“You want to be a smart ass? You want to hate me? Fine,” Wendy tells their fifteen-year-old son, Jonah. “[But] with our foundation — everything this family has sacrificed, everything — it’s going to at least give us the power to do whatever good we want to do. We can be the most powerful family in the Midwest, with the full endorsement of the FBI to boot.”
Willing to sacrifice morals by shedding the blood of others, we come to realize why her obsession has no boundaries. Their future plans for doing good will bury the bad.
In perhaps the most unforgettable scene in this final season, Wendy drops to her knees on the courthouse steps, looking up at her towering abusive father, who is plotting to take custody of the Byrdes’ teenage daughter and son. Groveling in a plaintive, infantile voice, Wendy –the strong, imperious matriarch and strategist–humiliates herself in front of her father in a desperate attempt to retain custody of her children. The family splinters. Her damaged soul and unhealed wounds are exposed for her husband to see her unspeakable pain.
“I know I’m not easy to love,” Wendy Byrde tells her husband Marty afterwards, in a scene following her father telling her that same thing.
But Marty may love Wendy even more, in a palpably irrational, bone-deep way. Engulfed in bitter and scathing disagreements, inextricably entwined in criminal conspiracy and organized crime, in a constant life-and-death cat-and-mouse game of danger and betrayal, they both are drowning.
Ruth Langmore (the extraordinary Julia Garner), who is as close to a member of the family that the Byrdes will entertain, thinks she has the chance to make a new life, away from three generations of her own criminal family. We want to believe that is possible. That there is hope. There’s a fundamental truth about our better natures—we want some people to change. We want good.
In this final season, there is no reinventing ourselves and there is no redemption. You are who you are. The systems and structures in place will never let you forget that and will always protect the status quo. And as much as we hope for something different, the inevitable is in front of our eyes.
In this brilliant creation of characters, some are just too big to be defeated. Too big to fail. In the Ozark world, a status quo isn’t broken easily. How people view themselves, what they present and what they are can be radically different. Psychopathological is the term applied to the ruthlessly shrewd, primal and feral. They believe and trust their own indomitable power. Perhaps delusional and mentally unstable, they don’t necessarily know themselves well: out of an instinctual drive for self-preservation. And these are people who don’t get taken down by others either. The rest of us don’t stand a chance. Veracity–in Ozark— is revealed in how America typically protects the powerful and abandons the weak.
“You need to grow up,” Wendy admonishes her son, Jonah. “This is America. People don’t care where your fortune came from, and in two election cycles, it’ll be just some myth, some gossip, some fucking cocktail party.”
Because you can’t escape what’s coming in this world. There is evil and there is good. But when you confront the evil, evil wins with impunity. At least that is how Ozark sees it. This is the dark and gloomy worldview that Ozark embraces. Is there a price to be paid for repeatedly doing what is expedient and in one’s self-interest, instead of what is right, no matter how bad the choice may be? This question has a disturbing answer in this series.
To underscore the power of corruption and the power of family, Ozark is not for everyone. Dark, dystopian, and astringent, this is a bitter account of the world and how it works. The major theme:
Deceit changes us. And in the process we become capable of believing and accepting everything we say and do regardless of deceitfulness.
The cast is indisputably the best that could undertake this chilling, amoral drama. Laura Linney is at the height of her career as is Jason Bateman. And the young Julia Garner, in her breakout role, will undoubtedly be thrilling to watch in the future.
One of my favorite series of all time. Will definitely revisit and rewatch the entire four seasons sometime in the future. A true classic!
Availability: Netflix streaming
Note: For reviews of the previous three seasons see: Season 1 (September 20, 2017), Season 2 (October 16, 2018) and Season 3 (April 8, 2020)
Great insight!! Can’t wait to finish the rest of the season!! I’d love to write the insurance on this.
Diana, great job summarizing the final chapters of Ozark and putting into context the astonishing journey Jason Bateman and his team-mates have taken us on. So many series stumble at the very last in the challenge to find the perfect ending. Ozark made it! But I’ll miss visiting that world.
I haven’t finished this last and final season yet, but you, Diana, have done it again on summarising and critically analysing this series and why it is such a powerful statement of the American (USA) way of life. Kudos to your insights and evaluations.
I can hardly wait to see the rest of the series. (I only have 3 more episodes.)
PS – I have always admired Laura Linney’s work and she has made this one something we won’t forget. Jason Bateman has never been a favorite of mine, but this series has shown him to be an actor extraordinaire as well as a thoughtful, complex human being.