The Ozark finale brought the show’s dark, elusive vision to its end point: The Column

This article contains spoilers for the final episode of The Ozarks.

Here’s what you can say about Ozark’s last moments: they speak to the show’s sense of significance.

More from variety

After four seasons, the Bird family saga has come to a close with the launch of the drama’s final set of episodes on Netflix – or at least the part of the story that we as viewers see completed. The point of these final seconds is that Marty and Wendy, the immoral husband and wife played by Jason Bateman and Laura Linney, will really do whatever they want, and they will do it with the help of their son John (Skylar Gaertner).

In the finale, the Birds host a charity gala that represents their journey from the depths they have occupied to become legal citizens again. After the event, their last real threat appears: a private eye (Adam Rothenberg), who reappears to confront the couple. But Jonah manages to attack him, a gunshot rings out and the family’s triumph is captured as the camera cuts to black.

From a filmmaking standpoint, it’s like the finale of The Sopranos, but on a show that lacks the guts of its convictions. (The Ozark ending was filmed by Bateman, who won an Emmy for his work behind the camera.) That the final act of Birds’ ascension isn’t shown literally suggests ambiguity, but Bateman makes sure to leave out the sound of a gunshot—just in case viewers were knocked off sense.

And in terms of storytelling, this latest murder ends the show’s rather sketchy take on who the Birds are and what they want. We were constantly told that Marty and Wendy ruthlessly laundered money, not only to pay off debts to organized crime (which was literally true), but also to build a future for their children. Now one of their children admitted that their parents were right.

In the past, I’ve written critically about The Ozark, a series that’s relentlessly watchable and often terrible entertainment. But it was often Breaking Bad with the ideas leached out – all pulsating action, with nothing else to grab on to. And what I see as a tendency to rely on clichés about potential crime lurking in the hearts of men and women, fans may well call a willingness to play bold and elementary. A show about good and evil will have more gradations than Ozark, which is about evil, simple and straightforward. The show takes pleasure in showing us the greed, desperation, and willingness of Wendy and Marty to do whatever it takes to get ahead; its completion, with the final dissolution of the ever-ambivalent Jonah, is the final reversal.

It also doesn’t quite work: at first, the ending leaves daughter Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz) out of the family equation, as if she were irrelevant to the story. She is shown in reverse, standing next to her brother, who is aiming a gun; it is implied that she approves, but this is clumsily done. This awkwardness may be due to the fact that none of Byrd’s children did are of great importance to history until they can be used to prove a big point about intergenerational wealth and intergenerational violence. They were certainly far less important to the story than Julia Garner’s Ruth Langmore, the unfortunate young woman whose criminal streak made her the true heiress of Byrd’s parents before she was killed in retaliation for a murder she committed in retaliation for… and etc.

Luckless Ruth when the upper-class Birds stumbles on even more luck, in some literal sense this is the fate of the world. And, if it’s aiming for nothing else, The Ozark is keen to express that cynical point of view. The trouble is, he has nothing more to say other than “these are breaks, huh?” This is expressed in sermons, such as when Rothenberg’s character, thinking that he is going to destroy the Byrd family, tells the couple that they can’t just reinvent themselves as American royalty and that “the world doesn’t work that way.” This line is only written to serve as an opening: Wendy’s response (“Since when?”) is the last line of dialogue we hear. The show’s closing argument, that the rich create their own reality, was frankly better expressed in Ruth’s hard-fought struggle to the top in previous seasons.

The last moments seem “inevitable” and lack the harshness of surprise. Ruth goes through lingering sentimental moments with various members of the Byrd family in the run-up to her death, a farewell change in her behavior that makes it clear we’re about to say goodbye. (Of course, her fate was sealed when she impulsively killed a key cartel member in a revenge killing, but it felt like there might be a bit more tension when watching at that point.) And we should have known that the Byrds were unbeatable when the big car the accident they’re in – one teased earlier in the season – leaves the family unscathed, with Wendy more than ever convinced of their righteousness.

This last detail is intriguing: Wendy, played by Linnie, is the show’s richest character (followed by Ruth, who can more often be used as a vehicle to contrast classes in the Ozark environment than a full-blown figure). Wendy’s expressed belief that the family is on its way to a sort of transcendent American greatness is a footnote that remained little explored until the show’s conclusion.

If this were stated more clearly, we might better understand what Jonah and Charlotte thought they were signing up for in their family lifestyle. Instead, we get “Since when?” — a line written with a kind of smirking confidence. The Ozark ends by congratulating itself on accurately documenting the state of American life, all within a fictional reality that has been even more rigged in favor of the Birds than real life could ever be.

Best of Variety

Subscribe to the Variety mailing list. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Click here to read the full article.

Leave a Comment