Ozark Season 4 goes out not with a bang, but with “a controlled burn”
After four and a half seasons of trying to outrun the Mexican cartel and the FBI, the tale of the Byrdes from Chicago has finally come to its conclusion, with the final seven episodes. It’s not an ending we will all be happy about, and as much as various loops and threads are knitted together, it finishes with an infuriatingly tantalising gap in the jersey, as if some stitches were dropped in the middle but weren’t noticed until it was too late.
Early reviews have been in agreement, and cautiously optimistic. “Ozark season 4 part 2 is undeniably still Ozark,” says GamesRadar. “There’s the familiar measured pacing, weighty themes, complicated storylines concerned with deals, betrayals, and murders that eventually come together. It’s a season that takes us slowly to the end, and doesn’t go out with a bang so much as a controlled burn.”
Let’s pick things up where they left off: at the end of episode 7, Darlene Snell (Lisa Emery) was shot by Javi Elizonndro (Alfonso Herrera) with Wyatt Langmore (Charlie Tahan), Ruth’s cousin, as collateral damage. Ruth (Julia Garner) is devastated with grief, and determined to get revenge by killing Javi. There are a couple of problems with this; the first being, does she have it in her to murder in cold blood? Even as vengeance? The trailer would have you believe so, but it’s a trailer; it’s supposed to reel you in with tempting scenes. Obviously, if she kills Javi, she’s signing her own death sentence because the cartel will retaliate.
For all her criminal activities, Ruth is not at heart a violent person, and although she goes through the motions of getting a gun, she does a lot of soul searching, and shows us again why we love her – the eventual star of the show, flawed and vulnerable – so much. Julia Garner is superb.
Of her performance, Collider says her “arresting performance as the troubled Ruth Langmore, [is] the vibrant and vulgar beating heart of the show. Having lost everything after getting caught up in Marty’s schemes, we begin the show’s final episodes as she is grappling with an unimaginable death.”
The consequences of Javi being taken out of the picture are not good for Wendy (Laura Linney) and Marty (Jason Bateman) either. With Omar Navarro (Felix Solis) in prison, it’s imperative they get Javi to collaborate with the FBI so they can finally negotiate their way out of this colossal mess they’ve been in for so long. No Javi, no deal.
At this point of the series, and it’s been building for a while, Wendy and Ruth have become the central characters, and their relationship plays a significant role. Wendy in particular is driving the narrative, with Marty as well. She plans and schemes and plots power moves that will keep them alive, in one instance sending Marty into an extremely dangerous situation, even as exit doors keep slamming in their faces.
Obviously Marty is not without sin, but he’s floundering in the shadow of Wendy’s dominance, even as he too learns the new depths to which he is capable of plunging. He does however manage to maintain a united front when necessary, as he reads Wendy’s cues and reacts appropriately. It’s in the private moments that he reveals his true feelings, specifically in a heartfelt conversation (confession) with daughter Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz).
Jonah (Skylar Gaertner) is still living and working at the motel, and things hit a serious wobbly when Wendy’s father Nathan (Richard Thomas) – who appeared in episodes 4 to 6 of Season 4 Part 1 – pitches up again, with his church group, determined to continue the search for his son Ben (Tom Pelphrey), who we all know is dead after Wendy set him up to be killed when he and his loose tongue became a liability. (This was another person robbed from Ruth by the Byrdes.)
Somehow Nathan has the disgraced cop turned private investigator who first came on the scene to look into Helen’s disappearance to finalise her divorce, working for him, now more interested in what happened to Ben than Helen, but just as adamant the Byrdes are responsible.
When it’s clear Ben will never be found, Nathan makes another play, this time for Charlotte and Jonah. It feels a little late in proceedings to be introducing back stories but we do learn more about Wendy’s troubled past with her dad. Unfortunately, all the history being dragged into it, and small storylines for minor characters, detracts from using the time more efficiently to wrap things up. There is more than one point when you look at how many episodes or minutes are left and think “How? How are they going to do this?”.
In a similar vein, there are lots of Ruth and Wyatt flashbacks too, conversations on the trailer roof, deeply poignant and more relevant. There can’t be a single fan who isn’t rooting for Ruth so a smidgeon of good news is that she turns out to be the heir to Darlene’s fortune, through Wyatt who had married her moments before they died. This gives Ruth the opportunity to make some power moves of her own, in one instance enlisting the help of a face from the past who has a bit of a grudge against the Byrdes. Together they give the Byrdes the finger.
Other things you might want to know or remember before embarking on this series finale, are that the car crash in Season 4 episode 1 is not that important, other than the conversation between the Byrdes is contextualised; and the goat jar is important, if you’ve forgotten it.
Oftentimes, series like this will wrap up lazily by just killing everyone off. That doesn’t happen here, but neither does everyone make it out alive…
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