SERIES REVIEW – Devastated over the cold-blooded murder of a family member by a Mexican drug cartel, white-collar criminal entrepreneur Ruth Langmore (Garner) seeks revenge. Meanwhile, money launderers Marty (Bateman) and Wendy Byrde (Linney) try to free themselves and their children from the cartel’s grip.
Few TV finale shockers can top the third season of Ozark. Even die-hard HBO fans gasped for breath when a central character was murdered, inches away from corrupt accountant Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) and his equally corrupt lobbyist wife Wendy (Laura Linney), drenching the pair in blood and brains. The remaining episodes of the first half of Season 4 barely diminished in intensity, thanks to both routine and passionately professional storytelling. The genius of Ozark lies in its rare blend of cynically realistic depictions of dark mafia crime and the inherently corrupt criminality of the FBI, unresolved tensions between (and within) families, and the darkest gallows humour of the kind seen perhaps only in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.
The last seven episodes took all of this to the maximum, as the fate of the ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ protagonists is equally hopeless in this bloody, cruel and cynical mafia and family drama.
Who can you (still) trust?
For anyone who was initially inclined to dismiss “Ozark” as “Breaking Bad Lite,” the Netflix drama surpassed all expectations, steadily building toward the final showdown, reinforcing the idea that dealing with the dirtiest Mexican drug mafia will indeed have consequences. The fourth season also became a family affair, adding a deeper hook to the Byrde saga that carries the tension to the max until the final frame.
What’s most prominent in Ozark, as the series consistently tested, is how far Marty (Jason Bateman) and his wife Wendy (Laura Linney) are willing to go to survive as they try to navigate a minefield that includes drug dealers and the feds in their quest to get out of their dirty money laundering business and buy their way back to Chicago.
Over the years, Marty has defined himself as someone who can talk his way out of any situation, or at least tries to, while Wendy becomes increasingly ruthless. She eventually risks alienating their not-quite-adult children (Sofia Hublitz, Skylar Gaertner). The Byrds have added each other to this calculus from the start of “Who can you trust?” but the question of whether they work together out of love, affection or simply necessity seems particularly important now.
Broken alliance, cold and cruel father
Likewise, the split season revealed Byrdes’ dissolved alliance with Ruth (Julia Garner) while inevitably recalling the collateral damage they have inflicted in their gradual descent into the world of illegality. The show also developed supporting characters, such as drug lord Omar Navarro (Felix Solis), with a complexity that shows how even serious threats can be strangely charismatic, though it is never wise to turn your back on them.
The performances are again sensational, with Garner standing out in the final scene, which shows just how tough and determined she can be as Ruth. Richard Thomas also plays a more prominent role as Wendy’s estranged, cold, cruel and alcoholic father, who has returned to her life and, like almost everything else in “Ozark”, tries to make it as difficult as possible to make it as hellish as possible.
Frappant, shocking and thought-provoking conclusion
After four seasons, viewers will surely have their own ideas about whether the Byrdes can find a way out after having slid so deep into such dirt and cruelty and whether it is possible to come to their senses again after all the damage they have done.
‘Ozark’ skilfully builds towards the final, inevitable answer and delivers it in a thought-provoking way that cements its place among Netflix’s best dramas. Having proven itself to be one of those addictive series that pushes the boundaries of thriller series with maximum professionalism, the full-throttle showdowns of the final episodes put the finishing touches on the “i” with a conclusion that is at once punchy, shocking and thought-provoking. (Rating is for the whole series.)