Ozark Midseason-Finale Recap: The Long Goodbye

The final season of Ozark has been similar to Breaking Bad and The Sopranos. The protagonists have faced problem after problem, solving one in time only for another to arise. It’s Whack-A-Mole plotting wherein one problem is solved and another one pops up. All of these shows have a “one step forward, two steps back” structure near the end, in which it feels like the characters think they’re escaping but don’t realize they’re getting pulled backward toward their doom. What is basically the season finale — there’s no word on when Part 2 of this fourth and final season will air, but it’s logical to presume it’s in another Emmy year, so the Fall or Winter seems likely — has a number of these fake-outs. Omar thinks he’s making the deal to change his life; Javi thinks he’s going to run things his way; the Byrdes think they are finally moving back to Chicago; Darlene & Wyatt think they will live happily ever after. They’re all wrong. No one in this world can plan for tomorrow.

The subtitle that opens the episode is perfect for a season finale: “[Clock ticking].” Time is running out for everyone here. As Marty plans to move to Chicago and has flashbacks to the business partner who got him in this mess in the first place, Wyatt tells Ruth that he’s marrying Darlene Snell. It’s for the baby, he says, but there’s more to it than that. Wyatt needs to be needed. Ruth is furious, reminding Wyatt that they buried the head of the Kansas City mob just the other day. She tells him that he promised to leave with her. Garner is so good here, leading with frustration and anger before moving into defeated sadness. This show needs to end with a victory for Ruth — nothing less will be satisfactory.

On the other side of the drug trade, Omar Navarro has ceded power to Javi Elizonndro. He’s meeting with the FBI in an abandoned mall in Jefferson City and will give the information necessary to apprehend his nephew and neutralize the cartel entirely. Of course, the Feds change the plan. They want Omar to stay in power and serve as their inside man. They also need five more years of money seizures, of course. “They want me to kill my nephew and pay for the privilege,” says Omar. Yep, that’s about it.

Would you take the deal if you were Omar Navarro? He knows that Javi can’t pull this off for five years. And he knows that the FBI could change the rules again. But he doesn’t have a choice. The FBI will assume the role of the Byrdes. Can they actually get out now? Return to normal? Marty seems happy; Wendy seems uncertain. Can Wendy really leave all this power behind? Omar senses a similar soul and tells her, “It has been a pleasure watching you work.” It feels like everything is bound to blow up.

Ruth goes to Kansas City to talk to Frank Junior about his plan for vengeance. She begs him not to kill Darlene so her cousin Wyatt can be happy. Leave it alone. They can work the Snell operation from his dad’s seat of power. He agrees. He gives his word.

Words don’t mean much, as Omar learns the hard way. Maya Miller goes around her superiors and arrests Omar as he’s leaving the country. With guns drawn, Omar is thrown to the pavement and cuffed. Maya made a move that’s so public now that the FBI can’t pull back. Of course, Javi blames the Byrdes, even as Marty swears that it was just a rogue agent. Javi keeps telling Marty how much he wants to kill him and gives him 90 minutes to figure it out. Panic sets in everywhere. They send Charlotte and Jonah into hiding while Jim calls Marty and insists that he comes over to address some damaging papers. As the boat is sinking, everyone tries to get to a life raft. Ruth has no idea any of this is happening, buying seeds for the wedding she doesn’t really want to attend as Marty is closer to death than ever before. The call from Jim was a trap as Javi is there with a gun and a sneer. He beats up on Marty as Wendy pushes Omar to call his nephew. Put Javi in power and keep Omar’s family protected. There’s an important beat wherein Wendy basically threatens Omar’s children, something he notes he would never do. Wendy Byrde has surpassed Omar Navarro on the Sociopath Meter. This feels important. Omar makes the call, and Javi says, “Looks like God gave you another day.” God Wendy Byrde.

After that tension, the episode sags a bit before its explosive finale. There’s a thin fight between Charlotte and Jonah, but the important thing that comes out of it is that they’d stick together if something happened to them. They could move to the Pacific Northwest and get new names. “We’re always going to be fine,” Charlotte says. It feels like this could be a preview of the end: Wendy and Marty dead, Charlotte and Jonah starting a new life.
Marty is taken to the meeting while Wyatt and Darlene are getting married. Unions are forming, but we know they can’t last. Javi meets with the FBI at the funeral home the Byrdes own. They offer him a position as the inside man to run the cartel without fear of prosecution for a decade. Anyone learns about it, and the FBI takes him down. Javi accepts but doesn’t know that Omar gave him up. The Byrdes held that information back, and it could be currency in the future — they tell Javi and he targets Omar and his family. Before the violent end, some potentially important final beats include Jonah basically moving into the Lazy-O for good and Mel calling Maya, forming a possible outsider alliance of people who know more than they should.

And then it happens. Javi suddenly has a gun on Darlene and Wyatt in the Snell house. Darlene tries to apologize and gets a bullet in the chest, followed by one in the forehead for Wyatt. And the bodies are left there for Ruth to find. Poor Ruth. The sound drops out as she peels down the driveway in a rageful mess. She naturally thinks Frank Jr. did it first, but he swears to God that he didn’t. She turns around and goes to the Byrdes, shotgun in hand, screaming for answers. Jonah has them. His name is Javi Elizonndro, and he works for the FBI now. And Ruth is going to fucking kill him.

That’s one hell of a season finale. The deaths of two major characters, the disposal of another into prison, and a massive shift in the power structure of the show. Keep in mind Javi now has the weight of the FBI behind him. They will protect him from prosecution, which allows him to be even more reckless. But Ruth will not walk away from this one. It feels like she’s suffered so much loss over the three-and-a-half season run of this show that the death of Wyatt is her breaking point. It’s hard to imagine the show ending without her killing Javi unless someone beats her to it. The question is what happens between Ruth and Marty. They’ve been the core of the show. Will the final episodes unite them in a common enemy or force them to opposite sides?

• Who’s your MVP of the season? It’s got to be Julia Garner, who seems to be coming hard for that third Emmy. Laura Linney was also phenomenal this year, leaning into the Heisenberg-ing of Wendy Byrde in terrifying ways. I’m also happy they didn’t stunt cast with a major face for the final season, bringing in new characters that fit the plotting but didn’t distract from the main ensemble. Alfonso Herrera and Adam Rothenberg were both great.

• What do you want from the second half of season four? The show has run into the same moral gray area that fans felt watching The Sopranos and Breaking Bad at this point in which it’s unclear what ending these people deserve. After all this death, do we want to see the Byrdes sitting happily around a family dinner table in Chicago? I’m not so sure the writers can pull that off. Wendy, especially, feels like she deserves to meet some sort of justice. All I know is Ruth better win this damn war. She’s earned it.

• Thanks for reading this season! See you for the final stretch!

Ozark Midseason-Finale Recap: The Long Goodbye