Episode 1 of season 4 Part 1 of Ozark is aptly titled “The Beginning of the End” as it signifies the series created by Bill Dubuque & Mark Williams entering its final season. Split into two parts, 14 episodes total, Part 1 picks up immediately following the season 3 cliffhanger. Leading up to the cliffhanger is Marty (Jason Bateman) and Wendy (Laura Linney) looking for new ways to stay alive within the Omar Navarro (Felix Solis) Cartel and simultaneously breaking free from the stronghold the Cartel holds over their family. With each new season, death creeps in slowly and more pronounced from all directions building up to the final 7 episodes scheduled to hit Netflix on April 29.
It might just be a miracle that the Byrde family has survived this long after relocating to the Ozarks from Chicago in season 1. Every decision made, every deal struck has been in effort to break free and wipe their hands clean of the blood-soaked occupation, but blood doesn’t disappear so easily. It leaves marks that are easily traced back to the source. The past continuously haunts this family and with each death that comes at the hands of Marty and Wendy follows them wherever they end up going creating new headaches and bigger disputes within the walls of their lovely, windowed home. The more they hide, cover-up, corrupt, contract, the more of an open book the Byrde family becomes.
No one is safe, not even the kids, Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz) and Jonah (Skylar Gaertner) who’s roles within the family business have grown exponentially since the series’ first premiered. As young actors, both look to have grown with the wealth of knowledge and talent that surrounds them. While Charlotte had her arc to shine with emancipation, Season 4 is Jonah’s turn. After learning the truth about what happened to Ben (Tom Pelphrey), his uncle, Jonah shows defiance and a split in his allegiance to his parents. Honestly, with what went down, can we blame Jonah? I can’t. He’s finally seeing his parents without rose colored glasses, the same as Charlotte but Charlotte was able to put family first above their parent’s naive actions and reasonings for them.
The main plot that sets the endgame in motion revolves around Omar and his desire to leave the Cartel for good. The requirement for this is to travel to and from Mexico and the United States with immunity. Navarro is leaving it up to Marty and Wendy to make this happen, smoothly. Agent Maya Miller (Jessica Frances Dukes) needs more to bring the FBI – time served and insider information. While on the other side of Marty and Wendy’s already full plate is creating foundations legally to spare themselves from time served. Exactly what they have been doing – making deals that ultimately favor themselves with appearances of favoring others.
Who would have thought so much bad luck can happen in one place or maybe the Byrde family has a black cloud following them wherever they go? After all, It was Marty’s decision to start laundering money for the cartel but it’s by sheer luck and talent that has kept them one step ahead of all those who have perished.
What Dubuque and Williams have done successfully over the course of the series revolves around the sub-plots. Every character is given equal emphasis that serves the overall direction the show is heading toward. When one person dies, a more than capable replacement enters the scene ready to command the spotlight. When Del left, in comes Helen and with season 4 Jim (Damian Young) taking over as the Byrde’s lawyer. Once Agent Petty suffered his demise, in walks Maya Miller who’s just as dangerous at 9 months pregnant than she is postpartum. All fresh faces come in and feel like they’ve been there the entire time.
While seasoned players Darlene Snell (Lisa Emery) is still stuck in her stubborn mindset, but her heroine operation is back up and running thanks to Wyatt (Charlie Tahan) and Ruth (Julia Garner) taking a piece to make things appear more legitimate. I never thought I’d see the day that Ruth would leave the Byrde family business but here we are, and she took Jonah with her who’s beginning his laundering career at 14.
The subtle look of pride on Marty’s face said it all when he found out Jonah built his own software. Or the rage induced fury on Wendy’s face when dealing with Jonah’s defiance. To be fair, this isn’t normal teenage rebellion, the Byrde family has been broken for some time now and no amount of band-aid can keep it together. Selfishness will be the family’s ultimate demise if the cartel doesn’t get to them first. Now that Omar is stepping down, in comes his nephew Javi (Alfonso Herrera). It’s the circle of life. Both juxtaposed perfectly with how they handle situations – same can be said for Marty and Wendy, Charlotte, and Jonah.
Yet again Laura Linney dwarfs all on screen with her outstanding performance. She’s able to easily transition emotions dictated on her scene partners dialogue in an instant. The women have been more dangerous than the men of this series could ever be – putting Ozark in the conversation with Breaking Bad & The Sopranos. If it wasn’t Helen (Janet McTeer) striking fear in the souls of other characters, its Laura and Julia who holds the moment of Part 1. Unfortunate that it comes at the very end but when Ruth finally snaps, Julia doesn’t exist. Your heart will break for Ruth if it hasn’t already with the death of her father, uncles, and boyfriend.
Season 3 put them in the conversation with the greats the crime genre has to offer, but Ozark is one of the better series to release on Netflix. Next to Stranger Things & Mindhunter (still hurt of the cancellation after 2 short seasons) Ozark’s storytelling has had more opportunity to grow and develop with little turnaround between seasons. Though the characters aren’t ideal people, their likability makes it easy to root for the Byrde family to finally get out of this life and return to normal – even if they must claw or limp their way.
Now that Part 1 is out, Ozark follows many shows that have split their final season into 2 parts. Though it feels like we as fans are being cheated out of a full season, the quality remains at an all-time time. Tension is built from the moment episode 1 starts to the final moment episode 7 ends with. Dubuque and Williams continue to juxtapose the tension to the weather’s somber aesthetic – It hasn’t been sunny for months in Ozark implying the dread that follows the characters that inhabit this world. Though not as bulletproof as season 3, season 4 proves that the shows drawn out suspenseful narrative is worth the unapologetic conclusion the series is heading toward.
Created By: Bill Dubuque & Mark Williams
Episodes Directed By: Andrew Bernstein, Alik Sakharov & Robin Wright
Music By: Danny Bensi & Saunder Jurriaans
Cinematography: Ben Kutchins & Armando Salas
Starring: Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, Sofia Hublitz, Skylar Gaertner, Julia Garner, Lisa Emery, Jessica Frances Dukes, Felix Solis, Damian Young, Alfonso Herrera, Charlie Tahan, Adam Rothenberg
Where to Watch: Netflix
Release Date: January 21, 2022
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
My Score: 4 out of 5