“Ozark” isn’t your typical summer binge. The dark Netflix series (literally and figuratively) is the antithesis of a relaxing beach read, an invigorating vacation, or light fun in the sun. Frankly, at times, it’s hard to watch.
But it’s also addictive. As much as viewers might want to look away from some of the more challenging scenes, Bill Dubuque and Mark Williams’ drama pushes audiences to keep going, even when “Ozark” very nearly goes too far.
Jason Bateman and Laura Linney’s family-centric thriller approaches the line more frequently — and with more patience — than many recent thrillers. Like a staring contest with your television, “Ozark” dares you to blink before it does. Sometimes the worst happens. Sometimes it doesn’t. But you’ll remember the time spent waiting to find out which scenario goes down as much as you’ll remember the final result.
These are the best of those moments, ranked from least to most shocking. Each scene came as a genuine surprise, and only one still has us wrestling with our conscience. Did “Ozark” ever cross the line? Read on, and determine for yourself.
[Editor’s Note: The list below contains spoilers for “Ozark” Season 1.]
7. Del’s Dead, Baby. Del’s Dead.
The last-second twist of Season 1 — which sets up Season 2 in a big way — is the death of Del (Esai Morales). After successfully negotiating a deal between the two mob bosses lording over him, Marty (Bateman) seems to have pulled off the impossible. Then an ill-timed pejorative sets Darlene (Lisa Emery) off, costing Del his life in the blink of an eye.
That’s why you don’t call people names, kids.
Perhaps more surprising than the trigger-happy Darlene’s moxie is the end of Del’s journey. Season 1 quickly built up the cartel king’s menace to outstanding heights, making him a big bad it seemed safe to assume would be toying with Marty for years to come. Now he’s out of the game entirely. A new representative of his Mexican cartel will undoubtedly replace him in Season 2, but Darlene’s temper elevated the Snells to Del’s level of intimidation.
The enemy of Marty’s enemy is not his friend. His enemies are just stronger (and crazier) than he thought.
6. Ruth Auditions at the Strip Club
Ruth, as played by Julia Garner, is the breakout performer of Season 1, and her scheming with Marty to help set up his money-laundering empire is an area we hope to see more of in Season 2. The highlight of their teamwork in Season 1 is robbing the strip club, but before the glorious culmination — when Marty and Ruth rip the safe through the back wall with the family van — Ruth was put in a precarious situation.
Sent to scout out the office space under the guise of auditioning to be a stripper, the owner demands she earn the onstage job by showing what she’s capable of off-stage. Ruth sells her commitment long enough for us to think going through with it is the only option.
But Ruth knew she wouldn’t go that far, and so did the writers. That she punches the owner in the dick rather than do anything else to him is one of the reasons we still love Ruth and can root for her survival. Whatever’s left of her innocence remains intact. It may not be much, but what’s there is precious.
5. Jonah Pulls the Trigger
The corruption of Jonah might be the most difficult pill for viewers to swallow. Parents, especially, may struggle to accept Marty and Wendy’s decision to tell their children everything, no matter how much the situation necessitated it, but the arc was made urgent when an assassin from the cartel broke into the Byrde’s house and little Jonah pulled a gun on him.
Now, a child holding a gun is far better than a child being held at gunpoint, but “Ozark” made you sit with the concept long enough for its effects to take hold. What would killing a man do to Jonah? Did he have to do it? In that moment, would you have done what Wendy did and nodded at your son, telling him to shoot?
He tried, but the gun didn’t go off. Jonah decided to kill the intruder and protect his family, but he was spared the guilt of going through with it by circumstance. Luckily, Buddy (Harris Yulin) did the dirty work himself, but the moment when it seemed like Jonah was about to do it himself carried even more weight.
Need we say more?
The most memorable moment of Season 1 arrived in the very first episode. As Marty audibly fumed, walking up to his wife’s lover’s Chicago condo to confront “Sugarwood,” the man of the hour came falling into his lap. Well, not literally. He missed Marty by a few feet. But his sudden smack on the pavement felt disturbingly close even to those watching through a screen.
Much like Del’s quick death at the end of Season 1, this was an abrupt shock, and it continued the trend of blunt, brutal surprises first set up in…
Continue reading for the three most shocking moments in “Ozark” Season 1.