This article contains spoilers for all seasons of Netflix’s Ozark.
The Byrdes – the Midwest’s best money launderers – are back for the final season of Ozark. After season three ended with a bang (violent content warning), Marty (Jason Bateman) and Wendy Byrde (Laura Linney) are left to work directly with Omar Navarro (Felix Solis), the head of the Navarro cartel.
Season four begins with a flash-forward of the Byrde family in a brutal car crash before picking back up moments after Helen Pierce’s (Janet McTeer) death in the season three finale. Navarro tells Marty and Wendy he wants out of the cartel and that they need to make a deal with the FBI that would allow him to move freely between Mexico and the United States without serving any jail time. This sets up the Byrde family’s final moves as they reach the end game.
Ozark is following a format similar to Breaking Bad and The Sopranos, where the final season is broken into two halves. In part one, the show brings in fresh blood. Alfonso Herrera is excellent as Javi Elizondro, Navarro’s violent, unpredictable nephew, and is bound to play a big part in the season’s second half. Mel Sattem (Adam Rothenberg) is also a great addition as a private investigator and ex-cop who is looking into the disappearance of Helen, giving the Byrdes a major headache.
After learning about what happened to his uncle at the end of season three, Jonah Byrde (Skylar Gaertner) has quite the rebellious streak. While Gaertner, now 18, doesn’t really pass for a 14-year-old, his acting has come far since Ozark’s debut. He settles into his character’s unthinkable position and convincingly embodies Jonah’s anger and angst.
As expected, part one of season four ends with a thrilling cliffhanger. Darlene Snell (Lisa Emery) and Wyatt Langmore (Charlie Tahan) get married – yuck – but their celebration is short-lived: Javi swiftly kills them both. While killing off two of the show’s most featured characters was shocking, the breadcrumbs were laid out earlier in the season. From Darlene’s heart attack to Wyatt’s reluctant loyalty, each character’s arc had run its course and Wyatt’s death leaves his cousin Ruth (Julia Garner), one of Ozark’s more sympathetic characters, with no one.
Garner has already won two Emmys for Ozark, but as Ruth finds her cousin’s body at the end of season four episode seven, Garner gives some of her best work yet. The final shot of Ruth screaming in silence as she drives in search of Javi is gutwrenching.
Ozark has natural parallels to Breaking Bad, another show about a seemingly normal protagonist who gets caught up with illegal activities. Like Breaking Bad, Ozark ramps up the stakes every season without going over the top or losing what made it great in the first place. At its core, Ozark is a show centered around a power-hungry family that infects everyone they come across. Marty is a compelling character because he is likeable despite being complicit and has a deep desire to leave this life behind.
What separates Ozark from Breaking Bad is Wendy. In Breaking Bad, Skyler White spends multiple seasons unaware of her husband's second life and when she finds out she is forced to become complicit. As Ozark’s lead woman, Wendy is powerful, ambitious and often more central to the story than Marty is. Along the way, the show keeps viewers on their toes by introducing new faces and killing off old ones. Season four is no different as many regulars on the show are disposed of without hesitation.
What’s to come in part two of Ozark’s final season is anyone’s guess. Ruth’s mission to kill Javi jeopardizes the deal between the Byrdes and the FBI and the family’s opportunity to finally escape. How will Omar Navarro affect the final seven episodes after being sent to prison? Ozark has gotten better with every season and there’s no reason to think it won’t stick the landing with the remaining seven episodes.
Thumbnail from “Ozark: Season 4 | Part 1 Trailer” on YouTube.