Warning: This article contains spoilers for the final episodes of "Ozark."
"Ozark" is one of the best television dramas that Netflix has ever produced. The thrilling family crime saga managed to keep viewers on the edge of their seats throughout its four-season run. If you get anxious watching characters finding themselves in intense situations, "Ozark" will surely make you uneasy. The series has no shortage of jaw-dropping moments, balanced by a surprisingly dark sense of humor.
The first season of the show follows Chicago accountant Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman), who secretly launders money for a Mexican drug cartel. Marty’s wife, Wendy (Laura Linney), has no idea what her husband actually does. After Marty’s business partner, Bruce Liddell (Josh Landall), steals $8 million from their employers, the cartel threatens to kill Marty. Marty desperately pleads for his life and offers to move with his family to the Lake of the Ozarks, where he can find the money to repay Bruce’s debt — changing the Byrdes’ lives forever.
"Ozark" finally reached its conclusion in 2022 — airing its fourth and final season in two parts — drawing differing responses from fans and critics. Was "Ozark" one of the rare drama shows that pulled off a satisfying conclusion? Or, was it a massive disappointment to everyone who had invested their time watching? Now that the series is over, we explored the best things and the worst things in "Ozark" Season 4 Part 2.
Best: The flashbacks with Ben Davis
The character of Ben Davis (Tom Pelphrey) helped to make the third season of "Ozark" compelling. Although the first season kicked off the show in a strong way, the second season felt cold and emotionless. It seemed like the series had become so intent on shocking the viewers, that the characters became secondary. However, there was more focus on the various relationships in the third season, with the introduction of Wendy’s troubled brother, Ben, adding an interesting new dynamic to the Byrde family.
Ben deals with a serious mental illness. Although he bonds with the Byrdes’ children, Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz) and Jonah (Skylar Gaertner), Wendy is concerned about Ben’s well-being. His health problems had become very hard to manage when they were young. Although Wendy tries to keep Ben out of trouble, he falls in love with Marty’s protege, Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner).
Ben’s emotional stability is shattered by a series of traumatic events. He disrupts a charity event that the Byrdes are holding and physically assaults Marty. Ben is moved to a medical facility, but the Byrdes’ business partner, Helen Pierce (Janet McTeer), is still furious with him after Ben revealed the laundering scheme to Helen’s teenage daughter, Erin (Madison Thompson). Wendy is forced to have her brother killed in an absolutely devastating moment. Season 4 contains many powerful flashbacks to these tragic events that help reveal how both Wendy and Ruth are processing their grief and guilt.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.
Worst: The overlong episodes
One of the advantages of developing a streaming show for Netflix is not having to deal with commercial breaks. Since "Ozark" wasn’t capped for time, the episodes often ran over an hour in length. This helped to make the storylines feel more fleshed out. However, the longer running times can also pad the episodes with unnecessary moments. In Season 4, several episodes felt extremely bloated and overstuffed with plot threads.
The 10th episode, "You’re the Boss," is 63 minutes long. Although there are many gripping moments when Marty visits the Navarro leaders in Mexico, the episode feels extenuated by the conversations between Ruth and Frank Cosgrove Jr. (Joseph Sikora). Frank Jr. is an interesting character, but his storyline in Season 4 is underdeveloped. There isn’t enough time dedicated to his relationship with Ruth; he doesn’t factor into the conclusion. As a result, these conversations feel unnecessary.
The 11th episode, "Pound of Flesh and Still Kickin’," is also over an hour long. It explores how Ruth and Rachel Garrison (Jordana Spiro) work together to undermine the Byrdes’ casino operation. Meanwhile, Wendy tries to convince Omar Navarro’s (Felix Solia) sister, Camila Elizonndro (Veronica Falcón), to help finance their scheme. There are several long, dull sequences devoted to the legal proceedings — these moments feel like they could have been condensed. While not every episode of "Ozark" needs to be action-packed, Episode 11 grinds the season’s pacing to a halt.
Best: The final shot
Perhaps the make it or break it moment for many "Ozark" fans was the finale’s last shot. Similar to the iconic ending of "The Sopranos" in the series finale episode "Made for America," the last "Ozark" episode, "A Hard Way to Go," ends by fading to black. While a gunshot is heard, there’s no confirmation about who the victim is. Some viewers may have felt like this was a cop-out, but others might have enjoyed the open ending.
"Ozark" has always been a series that thrived on its moral and ethical ambiguities. None of the characters are completely good, or completely evil. Marty, Wendy, and their children all make terrible decisions throughout the series; they often do things that ruin other characters’ lives. While their situation is never entirely relatable, it is understandable. This moral grayness is part of the reason that "Ozark" is so compelling — even if you’re not rooting for the Byrdes, you can’t help but get invested in their story.
The only thing that is clear for the Byrdes is that there will never be any clean getaways. Every decision they make will end up having consequences, in one way or another. Season 4 does a great job at bringing the family back together, and all of the Byrdes have blood on their hands. Regardless of where that last gunshot came from, it is evident that someone is paying the price.
Worst: The Sam Dermody storyline
The character of Sam Dermody (Kevin L. Johnson) has been a part of "Ozark" since the beginning. Sam was first introduced as a hapless real estate agent, who Wendy easily manipulates. Initially, Sam’s gullible nature was very endearing. Some of the best dark humor in "Ozark" came from seeing the Byrdes influence the community’s inhabitants. Sam’s situation continues to worsen after he becomes the manager of Lickety Splitz, a strip club that the Byrdes operate.
Sam had a very interesting character arc in the third season. After he starts learning how to play cards at the Byrdes’ casino, the Missouri Belle, Sam becomes a gambling addict. In a ruthless moment, Wendy ends up banishing him from the casino, and it’s hard not to feel bad for Sam. Ruth decides to take advantage of him, employing Sam as the manager of her motel, the Lazy-O.
Unfortunately, there was really no place for Sam’s storyline to go in the fourth season. He primarily interacts with Wendy’s father, Nathan (Richard Thomas). After talking to Nathan, Sam becomes a religious fanatic. He decides to get baptized, and Nathan’s girlfriend, Annalise (Jane McNeill), welcomes him into the community. This plot development doesn’t add much to the story. While Sam’s indoctrination helps to show how charismatic Nathan can be, there’s not enough time dedicated to seeing the religious group influencing the Ozark community. The scenes with Sam are largely expositional, serving as extra padding in what is already a long season.
Best: The dark comedy
Between murder, torture, and corruption, there have been plenty of disturbing "Ozark" moments over the series’ run. However, "Ozark" also has a very twisted sense of humor. The show does a great job of acknowledging how ridiculous the premise can get. The Byrdes are forced to acknowledge how risky their plans are, and the humor adds more realism to the story.
Even though Season 4 is extremely grim, the last seven episodes have many laugh-out-loud moments. In the 11th episode, Marty and Wendy have a tense argument during their drive home from the hospital. Marty is already stressed, and a rude driver pushes him over the edge as he screams profanities. His anger is actually very relatable, but like everything in "Ozark," it goes to the extreme. Marty gets out of the car and assaults the other driver. It is an unexpected moment, and you can’t help but laugh.
The Byrde family is later reunited in the final episode. As they are coming home from the hospital where Wendy was staying, the Byrdes enjoy a relaxing drive. They talk about the music on the radio, and their guise of normalcy is ironic. Of course, things immediately go sideways when Marty crashes the car: Another disaster felt inevitable.
Worst: Mel Sattem’s crisis of confidence
At the beginning of Season 4 Part 1, private investigator Mel Sattem (Adam Rothenberg) is introduced as a new threat to the Byrdes. Mel begins investigating the disappearance of Helen Pierce, and it is revealed that Mel is working for Wendy’s father, Nathan. In the first half of the season, Mel added an extra layer of tension to the story. The Byrdes are already overwhelmed by the Navarro clan and the FBI; the last thing they need is another person looking into their case.
Unfortunately, Mel’s storyline does not develop in a very interesting way during the final episodes. It had been previously established that Mel was a former police officer, but was banned from the force after stealing cocaine from an evidence locker. Mel is looking for a shot at redemption, and Nathan’s message of healing and forgiveness appeals to him. However, Mel was never a likable character, so attempting to humanize him felt pointless.
As Mel gets closer to learning the truth, the Byrdes attempt to pay him off and offer to have him reinstated as a police officer. Mel mulls over this decision; he even misses a critical court appearance, in which he was supposed to testify for Nathan during the custody trial for Charlotte and Jonah. However, it is obvious from the beginning that Mel will not accept the bargain. He has clearly become too invested in bringing the Byrdes to justice.
Best: Richard Thomas’ amazing performance
It was made clear since the beginning of "Ozark" that Wendy had a traumatic childhood. Although it’s only teased throughout the first two seasons, Wendy reveals more of her backstory during the third season. She mentions to her brother, Ben, that she endured abuse at the hands of her father, Nathan. Wendy subsequently became disconnected from her family. Nathan only briefly appears in the first half of Season 4, in the episode "Ace Deuce."
Wendy’s dad then becomes a major character in the last seven episodes. His relationship with his children is very complex. After visiting the Lazy-O-Motel, Nathan is disturbed to find his grandson, Jonah, living on his own. It is obvious that Nathan does not approve of how Wendy has raised her children, and he shows kindness to both Jonah and Charlotte. Jonah has completely turned on his mother, and does not believe her account that Nathan is abusive.
Richard Thomas does a fantastic job exploring Nathan’s latent motivations. Claiming to care about his grandchildren’s well-being, he files for custody of Nathan and Charlotte. However, this is just a cruel attempt at getting revenge on Wendy. After Wendy hands him a drink, Nathan’s alcoholism becomes apparent and his sinister qualities are revealed as he insults Wendy. Despite his initially friendly demeanor, Nathan instantly becomes terrifying. Wendy has never been an entirely likable character, but it’s hard not to feel sympathy for her after seeing her father’s true nature.
Worst: The distracting Killer Mike cameo
"Ozark" always had a very interesting soundtrack. Many of the needle drops were slightly unusual, adding to the darkly comedic tone. Ruth is a big fan of hip-hop. Her love of rap doesn’t just make the soundtrack more eclectic, but helps shed light on how she copes with trauma. Ruth is very skeptical about opening up to people, spending a lot of time alone listening to music. It seemingly allows the character to process her feelings. Ruth certainly has much to deal with emotionally after the first half of Season 4, struggling to process the shocking death of her cousin, Wyatt (Charlie Tahan), on top of Ben’s loss.
In the episode "The Cousin of Death," Ruth follows Marty and Wendy to Chicago. She plans to kill Javi Elizonndro (Alfonso Herrera), the man who shot Wyatt. While she considers her options, Ruth notices Killer Mike of Run the Jewels fame sitting at a restaurant table. She admits to him that she’s a big fan. They have a brief conversation where Ruth opens up and discusses how Killer Mike’s music has brought her a sense of comfort.
While it is nice that Killer Mike got the chance to appear on "Ozark" (as he’s admitted to being a big fan of the series), this moment is very distracting. If "Ozark” is known for anything, it’s certainly not celebrity cameos. Killer Mike’s appearance stretches the authenticity of the series and is a departure from the realistic tone that the show has.
Best: The slower pacing
"Ozark" is renowned for its relentlessness, amping up the intensity from the very beginning. In the pilot episode, "Sugarwood," the stakes are quickly established. Marty is immediately forced to bring his family into his dangerous secret profession. The show wastes no time and establishes Marty’s Ozark operation by the end of the pilot. While a slower series may have teased out the revelations to his family, Marty immediately tells Wendy what he really does. Wendy shares the news with Jonah and Charlotte early on in the first season.
This frantic tone helped to distinguish "Ozark" from "Breaking Bad," as the family crime sagas are often compared to each other. While "Breaking Bad" generally took its time building up to the most climactic moments, "Ozark" speeds things along. This was both an asset and a disadvantage to the show. In the beginning, "Ozark" did a great job hooking viewers in. However, at some points, it seemed like there were too many storylines going on at the same time. Season 2 felt very convoluted by all of the characters that it introduced.
Thankfully, Season 4 Part 2 manages to slow everything down. It was important for the series finale to spend time exploring how the Byrdes are processing everything that they’ve done. The slower pacing also helps to shed light on some of the supporting characters.
Worst: Underutilizing Three Langmore
Three Langmore (Carson Homes), Wyatt’s younger brother and Ruth’s cousin, was consistently underutilized throughout all of "Ozark." Initially, Three is very immature. He helps Wyatt trick Charlotte, and steal the Byrdes’ money. However, Three matures as the series continues, and both he and his brother become closer to Charlotte. Three doesn’t always agree with Wyatt’s decisions, and he becomes a more independent character. Three’s confused about why Wyatt is in a sexual relationship with Darlene Snell (Lisa Emery), which creates tension between the two siblings.
Three is just as shocked as Ruth is when Wyatt is killed. Despite their occasional disagreements, Three had always looked up to his brother. He doesn’t know what he will do without Wyatt’s guidance. Season 4 Part 2 had a great opportunity to wrap up Three’s character arc. However, in the last few episodes, he’s barely featured at all. The brief moments in which Three and Ruth reflect on Wyatt’s death are very powerful. Unfortunately, they are few and far between.
Best: Ruth in mourning
Ruth’s character arc culminates beautifully in the final episodes. Ruth has always been one of the most complex characters in the series. (Julia Garner won two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her performance as the beloved character.)
Ruth had a tumultuous relationship with her family throughout all of "Ozark," considered an outsider within the Langmore clan. Marty sees a lot of himself in Ruth when the two meet and get to know each other. Although neither character ever acknowledges it directly, they care for each other. In many ways, Marty becomes a father figure to Ruth.
Ruth’s feisty, outspoken attitude makes her a memorable character. However, she is much more reserved in Season 4 Part 2. Ruth is processing everything that she’s endured since the Byrdes arrived in the Ozarks. She’s still in shock following the death of her cousin, Wyatt, who was one of the only characters that Ruth was comfortable opening up to. She is also still furious with Wendy over the death of Ben. Ruth and Ben had fallen in love, and for the first time, Ruth allowed herself to become hopeful about the future. Garner gives another extraordinary performance with a more solemn depiction of the character.
Worst: Charlotte and Jonah’s confusing decisions
"Ozark" does not waste a lot of time bringing the Byrdes’ children into the fold. Early on in Season 1, Wendy tells Charlotte and Jonah that their father launders money for the Mexican drug cartel. It doesn’t take long for Charlotte and Jonah to begin mirroring their parents. Charlotte uses her influence and charisma to deceive many of the locals; essentially, she becomes her mother’s chief lieutenant. Jonah has always struggled socially, but he is very intelligent. He learns how to launder money, like his father.
While the children of the main characters on shows like "Breaking Bad," "The Sopranos," and "The Wire" are relatively clueless, Charlotte and Jonah make thoughtful choices. However, they make some truly baffling decisions in the final episodes. Charlotte decides to inform Ruth that the Byrdes are meeting with Javi, knowing that Ruth will seek revenge. For some reason, though, she’s surprised when Ruth actually executes Javi.
Jonah is still infuriated with his mother after Ben’s death, and the seemingly endless betrayals. He decides that he will move to North Carolina with his grandfather, Nathan. While this is obviously a plot to get back at Wendy, Jonah seems to immediately trust his grandfather. Considering how savvy he has been, Jonah’s decision to trust a man he barely knows feels shortsighted.