This story contains spoilers for Season Four, Part Two of Ozark.
I won't lie to you. Or play academia make-believe. I've long struggled to understand what, exactly, Ozark is all about.
That's not to say Ozark isn't one of my favorite shows. It most definitely is. I've listened to the Ruth Langmore TikTok song more times than I'd like to admit. But in a series jam-packed with double-crossing, murder, money-laundering, and more murder, what's the meaning of it all? In my review of Part One of the final season, I settled on the lies. Ozark, when you look at it with the view from Wendy Byrde's third glass of wine, is about who we become at the end of the thousandth fib. Deceit changes us. If we're desperate enough, we're capable of believing everything we say—no matter what it is—and later, what we do, too. Ozark splattered that fundamental truth about ourselves onto a canvas of four brilliant seasons, giving us the enough doses of drama, anxiety, and Julia Garner-provided comedy to, you know, become a pretty damn enjoyable series.
Now, we've reached the end. (This is definitely the end, by the way.) Season Four, Part Two debuted on Netflix this Friday, delivering the conclusion to the Byrde family saga. And I have to say—the ending changed everything I believed about the series. Let me tell you a story. It's the only way I can process the finale without spoiling your weekend binge with, well, spoilers. (Come back on Monday for those.)
I brought a friend home during my freshman year of college. A kid I met in the dorms, skinny, unshaven, wore the same white T-shirt everywhere. I thought he was cool. The guy would show up to every party with a fifth of whiskey and no less than three women. I didn't know any better than to see through the car-salesman grin on his face and realize he was full of shit. But my mom did. The second he left the room, she muttered, "I don't like him." I argued that this boy who had girls and booze around was a great person, actually. If you think he's bad, maybe he'll change and you'll like him. "People don't change," she said."You might change how you look and act, but fundamentally—people stay the same."
Ozark sees the world like my mom does. If you think back to just about everything Marty Byrde either did or said over the course of the series, Ozark seems to always hint that he might change. He'll order an execution for Omar, then he's back to his family! Marty threatens Ruth, but then he'll be back to the cuddly mentor he always was! Go down the list. Wendy, Charlotte, Jonah. They all do unspeakable things under the guise that it's for the greater good. Ozark knows that we'll grit our teeth through it all and believe in the Byrdes. You know why? There's another fundamental truth about us all—we want to see people change. We want good. Ozark could've written the finale so that even one Byrde would find redemption, but it didn't. There's a reason for that.
Ozark, clear as day, wants to show us that not only do we stay the same at our very core. Also, that evil prevails. There are good people in this world, yes. There are bad people too. When you pit one against the other, evil wins. At least how Ozark sees it. (I hate to write it, but take one look at the planet right now, and you'll find more than enough examples to back Ozark's worldview up.) I'd be willing to bet that it wasn't the finale any of us wanted—and that's all I'll say for now!!!—but it's the conclusion that was the truest to the journey we've taken with the series.
The kid, the one from college? Heard he got hammered, had an impromptu boxing match with his roommate, and left school. Never heard from him again.
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