[Editor’s Note: The following article contains spoilers for “Ozark” Season 4, Part 1 and the preceding seasons.]
“Ozark” is coming to an end. After bursting onto Netflix back in July 2017, the Byrde family will say goodbye on April 29, 2022. The streaming service premiered the first half of Season 4 back in January, and the final seven episodes will debut in just a few short days.
In case your memory is as wrecked as ours and Part 1 already feels like a distant, fuzzy memory, IndieWire has put together an “Everything To Know” guide for the final season, in the hopes of refreshing our collective memories. After all, with stakes this high, it’s best to be as prepared as possible before the ultimate end arrives.
Created by Bill Dubuque and Mark Williams, with Chris Mundy serving as showrunner, “Ozark” tells the story of Marty and Wendy Byrde (Jason Bateman and Laura Linney, respectively), a married couple living in the Chicago suburbs with their two children, Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz) and Jonah (Skylar Gaertner). Life appears normal to the point of tedium — he’s drifting through life, she’s seeking thrills through an affair — but the two seemingly average parents have secretly agreed to launder money for a Mexican drug kingpin. Unsurprisingly, that choice proves costly, and when cartel members come calling — demanding restitution for money stolen by Marty’s business partner, Bruce (Josh Randall) — the frightened husband and father cooks up a quick scheme to make back the cash by moving to Missouri and setting up a bigger cleaning operation in the Lake of the Ozarks.
Their grand plans move quickly, as the Byrdes buy a motel, strip club, funeral service, and more as covers for laundering drug money. Soon enough, they escalate their operation and establish a riverboat casino, before Wendy pursues even more ambitious political control across the greater Midwest and beyond. But there are plenty of hiccups along the way. The Snells run a local heroin farm and don’t take kindly to another illicit operation drawing eyeballs to their territory. The FBI soon takes notice of the sudden influx of cash to the region, and various agents make their presence known to the Byrdes. Meanwhile, the cartel wants more money via quicker turnarounds, and the pressure mounts on the Byrdes to deliver impossible sums at record speed, all without getting thrown in jail or taken out by rivals.
And all that doesn’t even touch on Ruth Langmore, played by two-time Emmy winner Julia Garner. A scheming townie who first plans to steal Marty’s seed money, Ruth soon befriends and works for the Byrde family, helping out with various local businesses and smoothing over beefs with various local roughnecks. By Season 4, she’s both alienated from her former employer and central to his hopes of escaping, so let’s dig in with where things stand entering the final episodes.
What’s Happening with Marty?
Marty was this close to getting out. After working both the FBI and cartel kingpin Omar Navarro (Felix Solis), a deal was in place that would turn Omar into an informant for five years in exchange for his freedom. The Byrdes were set to walk away under those terms, but then FBI Agent Maya Miller (Jessica Frances Dukes) goes rogue — arresting Omar with the help of local police.
Marty then convinces Javi Elizondro, Omar’s second-in-command, to take the same deal with the FBI (only for 10 years)… but all then Javi kills Darlene Snell (Lisa Emery) and Wyatt Langmore (Charlie Tahan). Ruth, Wyatt’s cousin and close friend, is incensed and swears vengeance on Javi. (“If you want to stop me, you’re going to have to fucking kill me!” she screams.) If Javi dies, all bets are off, but Marty isn’t willing to meet Ruth’s terms… or is he?
Where Does Wendy Stand?
Wendy is trying to make big moves, and the success of those maneuvers is also tied to whether or not Ruth kills Javi. For one, Wendy made a major deal with Clare Shaw (Katrina Lenk), the CEO of Shaw Medical Solutions, whose ethical standards don’t stretch as far as the Byrdes’. Wendy is counting on the money from Shaw — $150 million — to stock her political war chest and establish her as a political power broker. Without it, she’d have to find an alternative income stream and fast… but she may have bigger worries if the FBI and cartel are incensed over Javi’s death.
Wendy is also taking more extreme measures within her own family. She and Jonah have been at odds all season, and her recent attempt to have him arrested — as “punishment” for laundering money for Ruth — only further split the mother/son relationship. Wendy’s anomosity toward Ruth paired with her severe discipline of Jonah have caused problems between her and Marty, as well. The Byrdes’ only chance of survival is together, and right now, they’re far from it.
What About Ruth?
Ah, Ruth. The pin in the grenade. Will she kill Javi? Either way, can she find purpose, even happiness, in a young life ridden with so much death? For all the questions surrounding the Byrdes, just as many hang on Ruth — but it’s hard to know where to start until her beef with Javi plays out. (For what it’s worth, Vegas odds have Ruth as the least likely to die this season. Here’s hoping they’re right.)
The most recently deceased include heroin farmer Darlene Snell (Lisa Emery) and Wyatt Langmore (Charlie Tahan), who Javi killed as a way to fulfill his promise from the beginning of Season 4. But Javi also killed Sheriff John Nix (Robert C. Treveiler), when the local law enforcer caught Javi in a suspicious situation, and Frank Cosgrove Sr. (John Bedford Lloyd) also perished earlier this season, at the hands of Darlene.
Season 3 had a number of major deaths. Helen Pierce (Janet McTier) was killed in the finale’s waning seconds, unable to convince her boss (Navarro) that she would be better suited to run the Byrdes’ operation than them. But it was Ben Davis (Tom Pelphrey) whose demise really left a mark, after his own sister, Wendy, turned him over to the cartel out of fear he’d drag down the rest of their family with him.
Plenty more notable figures have met a tragic end during “Ozark’s” four-season run, but there’s no point listing all of them here. The series isn’t averse to flashbacks, so key memories (and characters) may be resurfaced as needed over the last seven episodes. Brought back or not, what’s done is done. Now the Byrdes just hope to live to see a brighter future.
Who’s Still a Threat?
Javi appears to be the greatest threat to the Byrdes’ longevity headed into the final episodes. Hot-headed and quick with the trigger, the ambitious member of the Navarro cartel is looking to edge out his uncle for control and has no respect for Marty or Wendy as necessary aspects of his success.
On the other hand, Ruth very well could be the more frightening presence. If she follows through with her promise to kill Javi, that could screw the Byrdes over with their cartel bosses and FBI agents. Even if she doesn’t, she could blame them for her cousin’s death (along with plenty others). Her relationship with Marty is fractured, and her disdain for Wendy is unhidden. In a battle between them and her, my money’s on Ruth.
Also entering into the picture:
– Mel Sattem (Adam Rothenberg), the private investigator looking for Helen Pierce, who’s been sniffing around the Byrdes’ business
– Camila Elizondro (Veronica Falcón), Omar Navarro’s sister and Javi’s mother, who’s holding court in Mexico while her brother is in custody and her son is roaming around the American Midwest
– Maya Miller (Jessica Frances Dukes), the FBI Agent whose decision to disobey orders pushed Javi into power; she’s devoted to pursuing justice, which means she’s unlikely to let criminals like the Byrdes walk, even if the cartel somehow does
What Do the Creatives Want Us To Know?
At IndieWire, we try to respect the integrity of stories yet-to-be-told by limiting the number of details shared in advance. After all, wouldn’t you rather have the professionals tell the story their way than pick out details yourself from all over the internet, putting together a vague picture on your own? And with “Ozark,” we’re so close to the very end, why tip any of the final twists ahead of time? (Our pre-release review is also spoiler-free.)
So here’s what Jason Bateman wanted to share about the ending, speaking in an interview with IndieWire before they shot the last chapter.
“I do know where everything is going to end,” Bateman said about his conversations with showrunner and writer Chris Mundy. “The specifics leading up to it, I didn’t really grind him on. But I was interested in the big question he has the opportunity to answer: Are they going to get away with it, or are they going to pay a bill? What does he want to message to the audience about the consequences of what the Byrdes have done — or lack thereof?”
“We had some great conversations about that, and he’s got really good ideas about that. Specifically, what kind of happens at the end of the last episode: I know, and it’s great.”
Despite fears he wouldn’t be able to helm any of Season 4, Jason Bateman returns to the director’s chair for the series finale. Production on the final season began in November 2020, while the COVID pandemic was still raging and vaccines were not yet available. In the interest of safety and protecting the production as a whole, Bateman did not direct the first two episodes of the season; previously, he directed all three season openers.
“As normal, I was going to do the first two episodes, but as we were looking through the protocols, the guidelines, all the complications with COVID, [and] the producer side of me made me think it’s just not responsible to have one of the actors direct the first two, given that we’re still going to be getting our perimeter safe,” Bateman told IndieWire at the time. “Because if one of the actors gets sick, we all have to go home for weeks. If one of the crew members gets sick — while I’m making sure their salary is protected while they’re in quarantine — we can hire a replacement. So it just didn’t seem smart for me to [direct] the first two [episodes].”
If Bateman or any of “Ozark’s” series regulars were to get infected, production would come to a standstill until they recovered, which could result in sizable losses for everyone involved. But by limiting his role to acting, he was able to minimize the risk of a shutdown.
“As an actor, you just sit in your trailer until they’re ready for you, then you come on out, say your words, and go back to your trailer,” he said. “As a director, you’re out there all the time: in pre-production, on location scouts, in production meetings, there are so many more opportunities to get infected.”
But by the time filming wrapped in October 2021, vaccines were widely available, safety precautions had shifted, and Bateman was able to safely resume his other roles in “Ozark.” And having anyone else in the chair for the finale would’ve felt out of place, given part of the reason Bateman joined “Ozark” in the first place was it provided him the opportunity to direct.
And Bateman isn’t the only actor also stepping behind the camera. Laura Linney makes her directorial debut in Episode 11 of Season 4.
OK, OK — When Can I Watch?
All seven episodes of “Ozark” Season 4, Part 2 premiere Friday, April 29 on Netflix.
“Ozark” Season 4 will qualify for the 2022 Emmy Awards. To date, the series has won three Emmys — two for Garner and one for Bateman’s direction — among 32 total nominations.
Also on April 29, Netflix will release the 30-minute special, “A Farewell to Ozark.” The retrospective will look back on the original series’ origins, performances, and impact.
Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.