This article contains spoilers for Ozark season 4.
Throughout the entirety of Ozark, Marty and Wendy Byrde (Jason Bateman and Laura Linney) have repeatedly found themselves in unfathomable danger, only to escape it by throwing someone else under the bus. Their indirect death count is impossibly high, with most of the people who oppose them ending up in the grave. Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner), perhaps the biggest victim of the Byrde family’s wrath, realizes this and continually calls them a poison to everyone they touch. She warns people to stay away from the Byrdes at all costs, something she is never able to do herself.
In fact, Ruth’s hotheadedness actually ends up being her downfall in this final seven-episode stretch of the show. When we last saw the show’s most popular character, she was headed out of the Byrde home with a shotgun, ready to take down the person who pulled the trigger on her cousin, Wyatt. That ends up being Javi Elizondro (Alfonso Herrera), the nephew of Navarro cartel leader Omar (Felix Solis). It feels like Javi is going to be the main antagonist of the final season, but the writers decide to immediately change course in the first episode of this final half-season.
Here is how everything goes down in Ozark’s last act.
Javi’s Short Time on Top
Ruth follows Marty and Wendy to Chicago where the couple is finalizing a deal with Javi that will give him further power in the drug game. Despite Marty’s pleas to Ruth to back off and cool down (he tells her she’s not this type of person), Ruth will not let go of her grudge. When Wendy sees this, she calls Javi into the room to allow the execution to happen.
The whole thing is very oddly placed on the first watch. It leaves the viewers wondering how the program will move forward in the next six episodes, but in typical Ozark fashion, things continue to spiral out of control for all of the characters we’ve come to love (and hate). With Omar in prison and Javi dead, it is up to Marty to take control of the cartel down in Mexico while Wendy tries to get Omar out of prison stateside.
The show loves to introduce many different storylines at the beginning of a season, and they always coalesce in perfect fashion at the end. The issue with this choice for a final season is that the remaining episodes before the series finale feel like they create more questions than answer them. This makes the home stretch feel a little anticlimactic.
Wendy’s Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Family Tree
Wendy’s father, Nathan (Richard Thomas) is brought into the fold in a big way. He finds out that Wendy’s the reason for her brother’s death after hiring private investigator Mel Sattem (Adam Rothenberg) to dig up the dirt. He pursues taking away the Byrde children on the grounds that Marty and Wendy are not fit to parent them anymore. Along the way we learn about Wendy’s troubled childhood, with bouts of alcoholism and abuse from her father possibly influencing her own evil state in the present.
The storyline shows what Ozark truly is: a family drama. While most will watch it for the crimes, drugs, murders, and lying, you stay for the juicy twists and turns within the four walls of the Byrde household. It is in this understanding of their own show that the writers have created the thesis of the series finale: will the Byrdes get away with their crimes? Will they get to keep their children, run away from it all, and never be held accountable for the lives they’ve ruined along the way?
The answer is an emphatic yes. By episode 12, Wendy fakes mental health problems (or so she says), turning herself into the same clinic that she tried to commit her brother to in the third season. When Marty is desperate to get Wendy back to her conniving, despicable self, she blackmails Ruth into threatening Wendy’s father with murder unless he gives his grandchildren back. Ruth has to comply otherwise Marty will reveal to Javi’s mother, Camila (Veronica Falcon) that she is her son’s killer. Why is Camila important? She’s Omar’s sister, and she’s ready to stab her brother in the back to take control of the Navarro cartel.
With the Byrde’s help, this transition of power is completed in the final episode of the series. Omar is assassinated at the behest of his sister after the Byrde’s get him out of prison. Marty and Wendy have their kids back in their arms, and they are prepared to go back to Chicago and reclaim their old lives. This seems a little too clean though, right? Well, that’s because they still have to be responsible for one more Langmore dying.
Ruth’s Fate Has Always Been Sealed
Camila interrogates the only other witness to Javi’s death at a celebration of the Byrde’s family foundation. This woman is Clare Shaw (Katrina Lenk), one of the Byrde’s biggest tools in the political world. She runs Shaw Medical Solutions, a company that was introduced in the first half of the season as a partner for Wendy to bring money into the Byrde’s charitable and political endeavors. Clare crumbles under Camila’s questions, ratting out Ruth.
The Byrdes can’t protect their surrogate daughter any longer, and Ruth goes out like the badass she is. Camila murders her in cold blood as she’s headed home, with Ruth nearly demanding that Camila get it over with. She goes out both a victim of her own choices and those of Marty and Wendy.
This is a gut punch for the audience, and the most devastating death in the show. Ruth has always been the emotional core of the series, played with passion, vigor, and sensitivity by the acclaimed Garner. Even though we wanted her to succeed in escaping her life of crime, she’s not Marty and Wendy Byrde. No, Ruth is a symbol of what is supposed to happen to people who continue to make fatal decisions: they get what’s coming to them.
Mel The Private Eye Returns One More Time
Marty and Wendy are visibly upset that Ruth’s fate is sealed, but they accept the consequences of their actions hurting everyone but them yet again. They come home to a broken sliding glass door leading to their yard. Who’s waiting for them? Mel the private investigator. Because Mel is a detective at heart, he had to unearth what crimes the Byrde’s committed even when he was no longer being paid to do so. He has Marty and Wendy cornered, piecing together all of the evidence, with the ashes of Wendy’s brother Ben serving as the final jigsaw.
How Ozark Differs From Other Crime Dramas
This is where Ozark differentiates itself from every other progenitor of the genre. Whereas anti-heroes like Walter White and Tony Soprano pay for their sins with their lives, Marty and Wendy get to smirk with evil pride as their son Jonah enters the backyard armed and ready to kill. The screen goes to black, with the sound of a single gunshot presumably taking down the only person left who opposed the Byrde family.
It’s the perfect way for the series to end, and stand in contrast to the series that influenced it. Sometimes, bad people do get away with everything. You could argue that their consequence is turning their son into a cold-blooded murderer, but even then they feel no shame in that. Marty and Wendy simply feel they did what had to be done. They made their choice to join the drug game, and they weaseled their way out with guile and cold-hearted decision-making.
Remember that famous Jesse Pinkman meme: he can’t keep getting away with it? The clip is perfectly transposed onto this show, leaving the viewers to feel the same way about Marty and Wendy as the credits roll for the final time. Yes indeed, Marty and Wendy can keep getting away with it. They just did yet again.