Inside ‘Ozark’s’ Shotgun-Blast of a Series Finale – And That Tragic Death

Ooften compared to Breaking Bad– another story about seemingly ordinary Americans turning to a life of crime – Netflix’s Ozark always seemed to be headed for an equally horrific conclusion, with at least some of his patrons meeting a fatal end. Yet predicting the precise nature of that outcome was stymied by the reluctant plot of the fourth and final season, the final episode of which exceeded expectations by letting the bad guys escape — and, in the process, the show’s portrayal of capitalist venture as a war that can only be won by those who are willing to fully embrace their ruthless amorality, and who are able to control their wild impulses.

“Everything is bearable,” Wendy (Laura Linney) tells Ruth (Julia Garner) when the latter visits the former at the care facility where she’s made her new home. Ruth thinks not; the murder of Cousin Wyatt (Charlie Tahan) was an act so excruciating that it could only be answered with a bullet. Javi’s (Alfonso Herrera) death remains a thorn in Ruth’s side, because even after Marty (Jason Bateman) gains control of the Missouri Belle casino, she uses her guilt as a means to blackmail her into getting Jonah (Skylar Gaertner) and Charlotte to get help. (Sofia Hublitz) away from their poisonous grandfather Nathan (Richard Thomas). Ruth obeys, barely blushing to scare Nathan away, as he reveals himself as a poisonous misogynist who cares only about his grandchildren as tools to wound Wendy.

Marty’s plan works. Aware of Nathan’s miserable treatment of their mother, Jonah and Charlotte visit Wendy, who admits—about Ben, her controlling behavior, and their clan’s breakup—“It’s my fault. Everything.” Wendy acknowledges her shortcomings with a naked honesty that she’s rarely shown in recent seasons. She restores the Byrdes’ family bond, as well as her generous statement that she won’t let the kids stay if they don’t want to. They do. however, which leads directly to the car accident that started Season 4 – a disaster from which they all miraculously run away.Omar’s priest (Bruno Bichir) tells Wendy that this is a warning from God that they are on the wrong path, but she rightly sees it as an indication that while danger lurks, they are able to survive as long as they are united.

In the wake of this near-death experience, Marty convinces Ruth to meet with the FBI, who will allow her to legally use the Missouri Belle for money laundering in Navarro (thanks to their own deals with the cartel). However, her blissful dream of reuniting with all her deceased relatives is an ominous omen. Omar, meanwhile, has discovered that Camila was behind his assassination attempt and decides to send her. Yet those designs don’t come to fruition because Camila is just as ambitious as Wendy. According to her plan with the Byrdes and the FBI—all of which are arranged during a meeting at Marty and Wendy’s funeral home, with Ruth and Rachel (Jordana Spiro) in attendance—she has Omar killed during a prison transfer. As is so often the case in Ozark, the females rule and display a coolness unclouded by compassion, and far more terrifying than that of their male counterparts. This is felt most deeply in Wendy’s parting from her father, in which she promises him a perpetual financial stipend and explains that he has been given everything he wants – except the chance to hurt her, which is all he really coveted.

Matters seem settled by the time the Byrdes arrive at their black-tie fundraiser aboard the Missouri Belle, as Wendy’s right-hand man Jim (Damian Young) explains it as “a goddamn coronation” of the pair as the latest political power players of the region — a position now so bolstered by new donations that Wendy tells Randall Schafer (Bruce Davison) to grab his rigged voting machines and shove them away. However, dreams do not come true without a cost. At the moment of victory, Camila pressures Big Pharma CEO Claire Shaw (Katrina Lenk) to tell her the truth about the night her son Javi disappeared. Claire bursts into tears and admits that Ruth vengefully killed him. Wendy and Marty frantically search for a way to save Ruth from Camila, but the ball has rolled too far off the proverbial hill at this point. “What if this is too much to bear?” Wendy asks her husband, visibly shocked at what is about to happen. “It won’t be,” he replies.

Ozark thus it comes to its final tragedy: the death of Ruth Langmore, who is approaching her end with her usual trepidation and defiance, spitting at her executioner Camila, “I’m not sorry. Your son was a killer bitch. And now I know where he got it from.” As arguably the most beloved character on the show, Ruth’s fate is heartbreaking, albeit ultimately unavoidable – the byproduct of her ill-advised decision to let her heart rule (killing Javi for revenge) rather than her head. (by letting go and living to fight another day). That may not make it fair — after all, Javi deserved what he got — but it’s in keeping with the series’ overarching view of the world as a place ruled by those who always act in their best interests.

As arguably the most beloved character on the show, Ruth’s fate is heartbreaking, albeit ultimately unavoidable – the byproduct of her ill-advised decision to let her heart rule (killing Javi for revenge) rather than her head. (by letting go and living to fight another day).

There’s a bleak cynicism in that perspective on ambition, at 21stcentury America, and about life, and it’s one that continues through to the show’s closing scene. Firmly ensconced as elite movers and shakers free from the cartel’s grip, the Byrdes return home to find a visitor: private detective Mel Sattem (Adam Rothenberg), whose conscience kept him from enjoying his easygoing appearing with the Chicago Police Department, who learns that Ben’s ashes are in the goat cookie jar, providing him with the evidence he needs to solve the case and put Marty and Wendy behind bars. They try to bribe Mel and he lets them know he’s not for sale and that regardless of the royalty they think they’ve become, “You can’t win… the world doesn’t work like that.”

“Since when?” asks Wendy, and her feeling is confirmed when Jonah—now 100 percent back in the herd—appears with a shotgun and points it right at Mel, echoing the season finale, putting a proud smile on both Wendy and Marty’s lips. The gunshot that echoes across a black screen, spelling out Mel’s demise and securing the Byrdes’ victory, repeats what Ozark has said from the beginning: the family that stays (and kills together), succeeds together.

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