‘Ozark’ ends like an American Horror Story

Spoiler warning

For most of breaking Bad, Walter White has insisted that his rise to a fearsome kingpin was the only way to ensure his family was taken care of after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. No matter the atrocities he’s committed — an exhaustive list that includes ordering a child to be poisoned and watching Jesse Pinkman’s girlfriend choke to death on her own vomit without intervening — Walt could always refer to the family as a moral justification for his actions. In fact, it wasn’t until the end of the series that Walt finally recognized the elephant in the room: he became Heisenberg for himselfand he liked it.

On ozarkNetflix’s crime drama that feels like an algorithmic response to the popularity of breaking Bad, Jason Bateman’s Marty Byrde began laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel to protect his family. (To be fair to Marty, the only reason he was put in this precarious position was because his business partner was caught skimming money from the cartel, who wanted to fix the issues.) But over the course four seasons, Marty’s desperate bid for Survival in the Lake of the Ozarks evolved into an insatiable lust for power that left a chain of bodies in its wake. Marty said it himself during the series premiere: “Money is, in essence, that measure of a man’s choices.” And those choices paint a horrible picture not only of Marty, but also of his wife, Wendy (an excellent Laura Linney), whose fierce ambition for the family business led the character to emerge as the show’s equivalent to Walter White.

Like ozark Heading into its final batch of episodes, the Byrdes still hoped to get away from the underworld by negotiating a deal with the FBI. The plan was for the head of the Navarro cartel to act as an informant for five years in exchange for no prosecution. (The deal was originally presented to Omar Navarro before he was put behind bars by a rogue FBI agent, but has since been passed on to his power-hungry, trigger-happy nephew, Javi.) But when Marty’s former protege Ruth Langmore shoots Javi in ​​retaliation for killing his cousin Wyatt, leaving the cartel with a power vacuum that jeopardizes the Byrdes’ deal with the FBI. Although Marty and Wendy want to manage everything around them, there will always be forces beyond their control – a theme further conveyed by the fourth season opening with a flash-forward in which the family is embroiled in a serious car accident.

The question of whether the Byrdes can get everything they want – and who could be caught in the crossfire – is driving the final season. If the Byrdes manage to wipe the slate clean, they plan to become political players in the Rust Belt, having already established a nonprofit foundation with high-profile donors including Clare Shaw, CEO of a major pharmaceutical company. (Of course, the Byrdes’ supposed philanthropic efforts are tainted from the start, as the arrangement with Clare hinges on her company buying opium from the Navarro Cartel.) The fact that the Byrdes can so easily move on from laundering of money to influence on national politics is telling. of another philosophical nugget Wendy shares in the series finale: “Money doesn’t know where it comes from.” But while money may not be capable of judgment, people certainly are.

If there was any hope that the Byrdes would retain any semblance of humanity during their chaotic ordeal, ozarkThe dark, brutal ending crushes it effectively. In the series finale, “A Hard Way to Go”, the FBI deal is back with Camila Elizonndro, Omar’s sister and Javi’s mother, who took over the family business after hitting her brother . Meanwhile, Wendy’s father, Nathan, leaves town after relinquishing custody of his grandchildren, Charlotte and Jonah, and finding his missing son, Ben, who was last seen with his sister. (What Nathan don’t know Ben’s disappearance won’t hurt him.) But just as everything seems to be falling into place for the Byrdes as they enjoy a successful fundraiser for the foundation, Camila presses Marty, Wendy and Clare about Javi’s death. “If you know something about the day my son died that you didn’t tell me, I’ll forgive you this time,” Camila told Clare, sensing her fragility. “If I find out later that there’s something you’re not telling me right now, well, I’ll have someone cut you from your pussy to your chin.”

With that [clears throat] creative persuasion, Clare cracks and abandons Ruth. In cold, practical terms, Ruth becoming the target of a new cartel boss doesn’t affect the Byrdes’ results. But Marty bonded closely with Ruth, who practically became his second daughter. Camila has pushed Marty and Wendy into a corner – if they try to warn Ruth, their children’s lives will be in danger. In the end, the Byrdes sit down and let Camila get revenge by shooting Ruth in her trailer which is being turned into a posh lakeside property. It’s a tragic ending for a character who rose through the ranks from petty criminal with a wounded soul to shrewd and successful businesswoman. (If it’s any consolation, Julia Garner should have the Emmy nomination in the bag, if not her third win.)

Ruth’s death alone shatters the core of decency the Byrdes had left behind, but the finale still had a trick up its sleeve. When the family returns home, Marty and Wendy are confronted by Mel Sattem, the ex-detective-turned-PI who investigated Ben’s disappearance until the Byrdes pulled strings to get him rehired by the Department of Security. Chicago police. Mel gathers enough coins to realize that the couple hid Ben out of sight: his ashes were stored in a goat-shaped cookie jar. (Ben wanted to raise goats on a farm before he disrupted the family business enough to get Wendy to agree to have her brother killed.) There’s only enough DNA evidence left in the jar—the Byrdes’ local crematorium is outdated—to implicate them. “Name your price,” pleads Wendy. “You can change your life. You can change the life of whoever you want.

Indeed, the Byrdes have amassed a ton of wealth by this point in the series, but Mel is no longer swayed by that, believing – not wrongly – that their money is “toxic”. The fact that you can make the connection between managing a cartel’s finances and working with politicians and CEOs is quite relevant: with wealth comes power, and the Byrdes wield a lot of both. But whether it’s an FBI agent out to arrest Omar or Mel trying to establish some form of justice for Ben’s death, there will always be individuals who will stand up against them because it’s the right one. things to do. “You don’t win,” Mel tells Marty and Wendy. “You can’t be the Kochs or the Kennedys or whatever fucking royalty you think you are. The world doesn’t work like that.

“Since when?” Wendy responds coldly.

Just then we hear a shotgun being cocked; Mel turns around to find Jonah pointing the gun at him. Seeing the youngest member of the family ready to shoot Mel after spending the entire season hating his mother over what happened to Ben underscores the moral rot that has spread within the Byrdes. What’s even more disturbing is how Marty and Wendy react to their son’s actions, not with disgust or horror, but with a hint of pride.

As “A Hard Way to Go” fades to black before the confrontation reaches its conclusion, Mel’s fate is hardly ambiguous – we hear Jonah pull the trigger. Considering the series has racked up an impressive body count since its very first episode, it’s only fitting that ozark would end in yet another act of violence. For viewers who want the Byrdes to succeed despite their many flaws, they might be pleased that the family, for all intents and purposes, got away with it without any legal repercussions. But while the nuclear family has remained intact, virtually everyone around them hasn’t been so lucky. And after all the moral compromises Marty has made with the justification of protecting his family, ozark ends with the rest of the Byrdes leaning down to his level. (In many ways, Wendy had long since passed him.)

For his part, showrunner Chris Mundy describes the end of the show like “all about the choices of who’s family and who’s not”, and if there’s one bigger takeaway from the finale, it’s that those kinds of decisions are inevitably tied to philosophy of Marty on money as a measure of a person’s choices. In four seasons, ozark shed light on the true cost of pursuing the American dream and whether such success matters when so many lives are destroyed in the process. Obviously, in their final moments, the Byrdes were content with the bed they made for themselves, which makes the family’s journey all the more harrowing. ozark could have started as a breaking Bad copycat, but it ended as an American Horror Story.

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