The end is coming for Wendy and Marty Byrde. The fourth and final season of Ozark is approaching on Netflix, and a new trailer for Part 1 makes clear that the threats will come from every direction.
Threats are nothing new for the Byrdes, who by this point have stared down more cartels and mafias than could be expected from most families. But on Jan 21, when Part 1 drops, the couple is being challenged from within their family. That’s new.
It’s been a long road for Ozark, which started in 2017 and features Jason Bateman and Laura Linney as Marty and Wendy. Starting only four years after the critically and culturally beloved Breaking Bad, it was tough for another show about white-collar white people suddenly entering crime-filled lives to escape from its shadow.
But Ozark managed to do just that, and very much become its own fascinating world. While Breaking Bad was filled with rich characters, there was never any doubt that Walt was its compelling and horrifying lead. Family members and business partners moved their lives around The One Who Knocks, who was able to hide being a drug kingpin plain sight due to his reputation in good standing as a teacher.
Ozark shifted the Breaking Bad premise in several key ways: for starters, it doesn’t revolve around drugs. Rather, Ozark’s focus is money laundering, turning the endless piles of dirty money that a drug cartel makes into clean money capable of use. Marty is a ruthless genius like Walt, but he’s more focused on making money disappear and pretending to be a respected businessman.
Also, Ozark makes a critical decision early: it expanded the criminal enterprise to become a family affair. Marty makes the decisions early on, but sooner or later the entire Byrde family becomes involved. While Wendy doesn’t have Marty’s magic with numbers, she has a political persona that gives the family an air of dignity. She once worked for Barack Obama, we’re told, back when he was an Illinois state senator.
In many ways, the Byrdes are harsh parodies of the hope and change Obama once promised. They move into the Ozarks claiming they big plans for the area that will be great for everyone involved, like Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner), and end up screwing them in ways they couldn’t even imagine.
Garner, who won a much-deserved Emmy for her portrayal as Ruth, is Ozark’s breakout star. Her evolution from Marty’s protege to rival is one of the show’s more fascinating arcs. In this upcoming season, it looks like another one of Marty’s younger admirers, his son Jonah (Skylar Gaertner), is being set up for something similar.
Season 3 saw Marty kidnapped by the Mexican cartel and Ruth getting involved with Wendy’s unstable brother Ben. It also saw the Byrdes enter family therapy, which in one of 2020’s best storylines saw them both trying to bribe their therapist. Things haven’t been going well for them, especially when Ruth finally quits working for them. But just when things seem bleak, last season’s finale offered an amazing twist: they were suddenly playing a major role in running the cartel. All of their work pretending to be criminals in the name of helping their family paid off, they finally became indistinguishable from the real thing.
“No one gets out clean,” goes the tagline for this final season. At times Ozark has verged into the ridiculous, with characters surviving shootouts they had no right to, but the long arm of the Byrdes has remained fascinating throughout. Whatever twists and betrayals come in the final season, it’s hard to imagine that Wendy and Marty will ever truly get out.