So what has Ozark been about all this time? Now that it’s over, we can look back on the story of a family who was willing to do anything to survive and could quite literally get away with murder. When Marty and Wendy chose to uproot their family and launder money for a Mexican drug cartel, they knew in their hearts that it would come with a cost. But it turned out that the cost was mostly paid by others. Think how few people have survived the orbit of the Byrdes. Go back over the seasons and the body count gets remarkable: Mason Young, Russ Langmore, Darlene Snell, Javi Elizondro. It’s been a show about a privileged family who always gets out of the car accident unscathed while the other driver isn’t so lucky. And the series ends with at least two more notable deaths: Omar Navarro and Ruth Langmore (and possibly Mel Sattem). A show that has always been deeply cynical ends with one of its darkest chapters in a lot of ways, suggesting that people like the Byrdes are untouchable. God help anyone who gets in their way.
The episode opens with a shovel tapping the muddy ground. Ruth has buried Nelson, and she has a vision of Wyatt looking on. It’s the foundation of the pool he always wanted. And it kind of makes sense that it would have a body underneath it. Marty comes looking for Ruth with a threat: He will tell Camila that Ruth killed Javi if Ruth doesn’t help Marty get his kids back. It’s a desperate final plea because Marty knows that Jonah still listens to Ruth. Convince him, or Marty spills Ruth’s secrets.
After Marty and Camila go over the plan to transfer power to her and have Omar killed during a transfer, there’s a scene between Ruth and Wendy at the hospital. Ruth agrees to get the kids to see Ruth, but she needs reassurance from Wendy that if Ruth does her part, Wendy won’t retaliate even if Jonah decides to go with Nathan. It can’t be her fault if Jonah still insists on leaving. Wendy accepts, and they share a moment dishing about their shitty fathers and past mistakes. Ruth admits that she wishes she had left Ben in the facility that now houses Wendy because he’d still be alive. That’s the difference between Ruth and Wendy: Ruth accepts responsibility even when she arguably shouldn’t, whereas Wendy always passes the buck.
Ruth confronts Nathan with a toast “for Ben” and pushes his buttons in the process. “Every beating I ever got from my daddy, I knew it was my fault.” Won’t Nathan just beat Jonah and Charlotte? What if Jonah is a mini-Marty and Charlotte is a Wendy? Nathan Davis is a piece of human trash, using his grandchildren as weapons, and Ruth can’t let this happen. He even admits he’s doing this to get back at Wendy. Ruth has had enough, so she pulls a gun, fires a warning shot, and gets Nathan to confess his ulterior motives to Charlotte and Jonah.
After a tender scene in the hospital between Wendy, Charlotte, and Jonah (beautifully played by Linney), where Wendy admits to her role in Ben’s death, the show finally gets to the season four prologue. Remember the scene that opened the season thirteen episodes ago? The Byrdes are driving as Sam Cooke plays on the radio. They’re joking, smiling, and discussing moving after an upcoming FBI meeting. And then a truck serves into their lane and nearly hits them straight on. Marty swerves out of the way, and the van flips several times. Marty gets out first, pulling Jonah and then Charlotte. Wendy? She’s not responding at first, but it turns out she’s okay too. They hug. It’s a show about sudden danger —everything seems fine, and then a truck is in your lane. But it’s also a show about the Byrdes being able to weather any storm. They’re unkillable. Even if that means everyone around them has to die.
They come home unharmed to learn that Nelson is missing. Father Benitez suggests the accident could be a final warning; Wendy sees it as assurance that they will make it out alive. They can survive anything. She will turn out to be correct.
Marty gets Ruth to confirm that Nelson is under her new pool. He offers her a deal to escape, a new identity, a chance to leave town and start clean. Or she can wait till Navarro has no more power. Bring her in on the operation with the FBI to keep the Belle a part of it. Later, Ruth has a vision of the Langmore men having a good day, singing the amazing “Angel from Montgomery” by John Prine. Wyatt is on the roof, talking about the pool he always wanted by the lake. Three shows up. It’s a nice scene and good to see Ruth smile.
Despite Rachel’s guilt-driven anxiety, they go to the meeting with the FBI and Camila at the funeral home. First, Ruth demands an apology from the FBI for what Petty did to Rachel, which she gets, and then the deals get made. Ruth and the Belle will remain part of the operation that Camila will lead. It looks like it’s all going to work.
Wendy says goodbye to Sam, who is moving to North Carolina — a funny end to a funny character. “Thanks for always having my back,” he says, and it makes sense that Sam is basically the only local to make it out alive. Wendy basically tells Nathan that she will pay him to stay away. “Research money” for Ben that he can use for whatever he wants, but he doesn’t get to hurt Wendy.
The Byrdes are smiling more here than they have in all the seasons combined, getting ready for the fundraiser. Everything is coming up Byrdes! But why does it feel like there’s a truck around the corner? Wendy is feeling so confident that she pulls the rug out from under Schafer. “You’re going to want to make a quiet exit,” she says. They’re pulling the voting machines in Michigan and Wisconsin. They don’t need him to get Omar off the SDN list anymore because Omar isn’t going to survive the night. At least the laundry list of Byrde sins won’t include election fraud anymore.
As Omar is getting transferred and the Byrdes kids are discussing their future, the key scene unfolds between Marty, Wendy, Camila, and Clare Shaw, the one variable that Marty never really considered enough. Mr. Risk Management didn’t take into account Clare’s vulnerability. Camila starts asking tough questions, and Clare’s story shifts a few too many times. Camila says that she will forgive Clare if she tells the truth now, but not if she finds it out later. Clare cracks: “It was Ruth Langmore.” And everyone’s stomach drops. Oh no. They can’t warn Ruth, or everyone will die. The Byrdes have to watch this truck come and not swerve out of the way. They have no moves to make. Marty says it simply: “Anything we try to do, Wendy, is gonna be suicide.” Wendy is scared this will be too much to bear, but Marty assures her it won’t be.
Omar is killed during the transfer just as Ruth gets home to find someone has beat her there. She knows and approaches the car slowly. Camila emerges from the woods with a weapon. “Clare Shaw told me.” Ruth is unapologetic. She doesn’t turn away. She doesn’t run. She doesn’t beg. “Your son was a murdering bitch,” she growls. And then she yells, “Well are you gonna fucking do this shit or what?” And those are her final words. The Byrde legacy of death finally takes out Ruth. They will escape. They will move to the northern suburbs of Chicago. No one will know the full extent of their body count in the Ozarks. No one will know how many people had to die for them to live, including almost everyone who shares the name Langmore.
A sad Wendy and Marty go home for one of the last times. They exchange rare “I love yous.” The camera pans out through broken glass in a door to reveal a figure outside. It’s Mel with Ben’s ashes. He broke in to get them. He seems like he might be drunk. “I couldn’t do my job,” he says. He couldn’t “put all the guilt away.” The Byrdes are so good at putting all the guilt away. And so he came to find the evidence in Ben’s ashes. Marty offers payment, but Mel says, “You don’t get to win. World doesn’t work like that.” Wendy’s response: “Since when?” And Jonah pulls a gun on Mel. Cut to black. Shot fired.
The last loose end is closed on Ozark. The Byrdes can finally go home and leave it all behind. And it truly seems like they will. They have told themselves over and over again that nothing is too costly when it comes to protecting their family. That’s been the theme of the show — how far these people were willing to go to stay together. All the way to the Ozarks and back again. With so many lives destroyed along the way.
• Are all the loose ends tied up? Let’s think about it. With Ruth gone, the FBI may have some questions. The presumption could be that Rachel takes over the Belle and runs that operation, but she’s got some heavy guilt over Nelson and will know what happened to Ruth. It feels like all of that could collapse and pull the Byrdes back in.
• Does anyone else think the final scene is a little much? The thematic thrust that the Byrdes can do anything hits home, but Jonah killing a man who is just trying to find justice for his uncle? Does that seem in character to you? Not really. Yes, they’ve kind of been playing Chekhov’s gun with Jonah and a weapon since season one, but he’s probably the least likely to be a cold-blooded murderer in the Byrde clan. Felt a bit like a cheap joke to end the series.
• So who’s the season and series MVP for you? For the series, it probably has to be Julia Garner, likely headed for a deserved third Emmy for this star-making role. For the season, I think it’s time to give Laura Linney and Jason Bateman some more love. They were both excellent this year, arguably doing career-best work.
• Thanks so much for reading for all four seasons! It’s been a pleasure and a joy to dig into this show with you.