This article contains spoilers for the latest episode of ‘Ozark’.
Say this a lot for the final moments of “Ozark”: they speak to the realization of the show’s own importance.
More from Variety
After four seasons, the saga of the Byrde family came to an end with the launch of the drama’s final run of episodes on Netflix – or at least the part of the story that we as viewers see concluded. The implication of those final seconds is that Marty and Wendy, the amoral husband and wife played by Jason Bateman and Laura Linney, will indeed achieve anything they want, and they will do so with the buy-in of their son Jonah (Skylar Gaertner ).
In the finale, the Byrdes stage a charity gala that represents their rise from the depths they’ve taken to become legitimate citizens again. After the event, their last real threat emerges: a private detective (Adam Rothenberg) who reappears to confront the pair. But Jonah manages to get hold of him, a shot rings out and the family’s triumph is sealed when the camera goes black.
From a movie perspective, this looks like a spin on “The Sopranos” finale, but a show that lacks the courage of its convictions. (The finale of “Ozark” was directed by Bateman, who won an Emmy for his work behind the camera.) Not literally showing the final act in the Byrdes’ rise suggests ambiguity, but Bateman makes sure the sound of the shot is included – just in case viewers were confused.
And narratively, this latest murder completes the show’s rather schematic understanding of who the Byrdes are and what they want. We’ve been told everywhere that Marty and Wendy are relentlessly laundering money, not just to avoid debt to organized crime (as was literally true), but to build a future for their children. Now one of their children has admitted that their parents had the right idea.
In the past, I’ve written critically of “Ozark,” a show that’s relentlessly watchable and often a wicked kind of fun. But it often presented itself as a “Breaking Bad” with the ideas coming out – all pulsating action, not much left to grab. And what I see as a tendency to lean on clichés about the potential crime lurking in the hearts of men and women, fans might well call a willingness to play in bold and elemental terms. A show about good and evil would have more degrees than ‘Ozark’, which is about evil, plain and simple. The show likes to show us Wendy and Marty’s greed, desperation and willingness to do anything to get ahead; the conclusion, with the final corruption of the eternally ambivalent Jonah, is the ultimate coup d’état.
It doesn’t really work either: For starters, the finale leaves daughter Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz) out of the family equation, as if she doesn’t matter to the story. She is depicted in mirror image, standing next to her brother as he aims his gun; the implication is she approves of it, but it’s clumsily executed. That awkwardness may be due to the fact that neither Byrde kid did important to the story until they can be used to prove an important point about generations of wealth and generations of violence. They were certainly much less important to the story than Julia Garner’s Ruth Langmore, the hapless young woman whose predisposition to crime made her the true heir to the Byrde parents before she was murdered in retaliation for a murder she committed in retaliation. for… and so on.
Ruth is out of luck, just as upper-class Byrdes stumbles upon even greater fortune, according to a certain literal way of thinking, the way of the world. And if it aspires to nothing else, “Ozark” is eager to express this cynical point of view. The problem is, it has little more to say than “that’s the breaks, huh?” This is reflected in sermons, such as when Rothenberg’s character—thinking he is on the brink of ruining the Byrdes—tells the pair that they can’t just reinvent themselves as American royalty, and that “the world ain’t that way.” works”. It’s a line written for purpose only: Wendy’s answer (“Since when?”) is the last line of the dialogue we hear. The show’s closing argument, that the rich create their own reality, is frankly better expressed by Ruth’s dragging battle up in the previous seasons.
The final moments feel “inevitable” and lack the edge of surprise. Ruth has long drawn-out sentimental moments with various members of the Byrde family leading up to her death, a parting shift in her attitude that makes it clear that we’re about to say goodbye. (Of course, her fate was sealed when she impulsively slayed a key member of the cartel in a revenge kill, but there seemed to be potential for a little more thrills in watching the moment.) And we should have known that the Byrdes were invincible when a massive car accident they find themselves in – one that was plagued at the start of the season – leaves the family unscathed and Wendy more convinced than ever of their righteousness.
That last detail is intriguing: Wendy, played by Linney, is the show’s richest character (closely followed by Ruth, who could be used more often as a means of contrasting classes in the “Ozark” milieu than as a fully rounded figure). Wendy’s outspoken belief that the family is moving toward some sort of transcendent American greatness is a comment that went underexposed until the show’s end.
If that had been explained more clearly, we might have better understood what Jonah and Charlotte thought they were signing up for as they committed to the family way of life. Instead, we get “Since when?” — a line written with a sort of grimace of certainty. “Ozark” ends by congratulating himself on accurately documenting the state of American life, all within an invented reality that had been manipulated even more for the Byrdes’ benefit than real life could be.
Best of variety
Sign up for the Variety newsletter. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest news.
Click here to read the full article.