"From the beginning, Ozark promised there was a toll to pay," says Dan Jackson, adding: "With the second half of the final season arriving this week, comeuppance feels as inevitable as the tight-lipped emoji grimace (Jason) Bateman deploys in nearly every episode when he learns his latest scheme hasn't gone as planned. That put-upon Bateman face, transported from the satirical playpen of Arrested Development to the bleak world of a violent prestige drama, has always been Ozark's secret weapon. His exasperation, underplayed in even the most gruesome scenarios, never gets old. It's a look that one has to assume Netflix executives were making this past month as the company's stock plunged nearly 35 percent after the announcement that they'd lost 200,000 subscribers earlier this year, a move that knocked out about $50 billion from its market value. Whether you're running a streaming service or cooking the books for the cartel, that's not the type of monetary loss you quickly recover from." As Jackson notes, the DNA of Ozark is tied to a different TV era. "In the future, it's unclear if a show like Ozark would be part of the Netflix portfolio," says Jackson. "If the company is committed to cutting costs while serving up more tentpole-style offerings like Red Notice, comfort-food reality series like Selling Sunset, and anthology shows like Anatomy of a Scandal, could a relatively low-concept offering about a white-collar criminal fall by the wayside?"
Ozark finally acknowledges its victims in its brilliant final season: "Not since The Americans has a series grappled this seriously with the ruined lives, psychological terror, and amorality of its antiheroes," says David Faris. "In doing so, the fourth and final season of Ozark creates a carefully layered and genuinely deft meditation on the recursive nature of organized crime, the enduring wounds of family trauma, and the myriad ways that money and power protect the wealthy from accountability — all of which should elevate the show into the discussion of the best television of this era."
Ozark ended its four-season run as -- what it's always been -- a mixed bag: "Yes, I think the show’s second season probably was awful and its third season was probably comfortably better than average," says Daniel Fienberg. "In the balance, though, I’ve thought Ozark was a mixed bag — always worthy of consideration thanks to a few standout performances and a reliably churning sense of suspense, but also infuriating for its thinly conceived supporting ensemble, narrative sloppiness and my sense that the show the characters kept talking about rarely aligned with the show I was watching. Guess what? The last seven episodes of Ozark don’t suddenly become anything better or worse than the show has been overall. I was annoyed and rolling my eyes. I was on the edge of my seat wondering if the show would do anything truly surprising. And I appreciated these last few hours of watching Julia Garner and Laura Linney, whose work here consistently withstood the inconsistency of the show around them."
Ozark’s final episodes were baffling: "Not because they don’t do exactly the sort of thing Netflix’s ludicrous crime thriller has been doing since 2017, but because they do so with a sentimentality that’s uncharacteristically sappy," says Alison Foreman. "For a drama boasting multiple jump-scare executions and the unhinged depths of antagonists like Darlene Snell (rest in peace, queen), serious suspense plays an almost eerie second fiddle to the Byrde family’s season-four swan song. Sure, there’s bloodshed; there’s always bloodshed. But these seven episodes are more about saying goodbye than good riddance–a staggering tonal shift for a show so dark it once threatened to drown a baby."
Ozark ended as a good, but not a great, series: "It's likely Ozark will be remembered more as a clever thrill ride – a captivating collection of showcase scenes for a cadre of superior actors – than a series with a coherent message," says Eric Deggans. "And that's a shame, because the difference between good and great for this series can be measured in the way it has morphed from an intriguing character study into a series of escalating and increasingly outlandish threats to a family sinking into a morass of criminality. Kinda like 'Breaking Bad: The Family Edition.'" Deggans adds: "To be honest, I didn't like it as much as I hoped I would. Shows which have as many plotlines in motion as Ozark can feel rushed in their final episodes as they plow through circumstances to reach the finish line....When one of the biggest attractions of a series is its forward motion, any move toward a conclusion can feel anticlimactic. Ozark's frenetic pace also keeps you from thinking too much about how nonsensical the plotlines have become."
It's funny how much Ozark became a Breaking Bad wannabe: "Ozark has always been derivative: it sometimes seems like a smoothie whirred together from helpings of Breaking Bad, the second season of Fargo, Justified, and a little of The Americans," says Linda Holmes. "It has gotten almost funny watching the show tick off the boxes in emulating Breaking Bad in particular: the split final set of episodes. The flash-forward that introduces the last season. The young person who never had a chance once they got mixed up with a much worse, much more immoral — but much more superficially 'respectable' — adult. The all-seeing, all-knowing, hyper-brutal "cartel" that borders on caricature. The people who are decent and doomed. The marriage where the principals kind of hate each other."
For anyone inclined initially to dismiss Ozark as 'Breaking Bad Lite,' the Netflix drama has exceeded all expectations: "After four seasons viewers surely have their own ideas about whether the Byrdes could plausibly find a way out after sliding so far down this rabbit hole, and if it’s truly possible to get clean again after all the damage that’s been done," says Brian Lowry. "Ozark deftly builds toward that answer, delivering it in a thought-provoking way that cements its place among Netflix’s finest dramas. Having already shown itself to be one of those addictive series that pushed the boundaries of serialized thrillers, its full-throttle race to settle accounts in this final flurry of episodes officially closes the deal."
Ozark was never better than its Season 1 "Kaleidoscope" episode: "Ozark, after all, is about the moral compromises available to those with enough money, power, and privilege to make them. Its early episodes are focused on the weight of choices that may seem insignificant at the time, but can lead to life-altering consequences later on," says Ben Travers. “'Kaleidoscope' makes it easy to see how Wendy’s unfulfilled ambitions and Marty’s greed masquerading as protection can push them into the life they live for the rest of the series. One concession allows for the next. Circumstances can shape those decisions, but Marty’s entitled perspective refuses to account for chance. He gets the credit, or he takes the blame. As he insists in the series premiere, 'Money, at its essence, is the measure of a man’s choices.'"
Ozark's final season is a success on an emotional level, but not plot-wise: "On a basic plot level, parts of the final season of Ozark are disappointing," says Valerie Ettenhofer. "The show seems to revert back to its penchant for shallow twists of fate in the eleventh hour, and it doles out some of its characters’ conclusions rather arbitrarily. Yet on an emotional level, the show has never been better. It doesn’t continue its mostly-detached wheel-of-fortune method of storytelling, but instead makes audiences confront the hope, fear, guilt, and shame that propel each character into their present situations."
Ozark's conclusion was fitting, yet shocking: Ultimately, says Nick Schager, "Ozark remains a show about the mercilessness required to make it big in today’s America, and the similarly ferocious resolve needed to maintain a marriage and to raise a brood. There’s no preaching required; with every step that Marty and Wendy take, the series serves as a stinging snapshot of endurance through cold-blooded calculation, and relatedly, the ruin that comes from operating according to your heart instead of your head. In its worldview, victory is the byproduct of desperate, callous manipulation and exploitation, as well as—more fundamental still—an ability to believe that the means justify the ends. Perhaps they do, and perhaps everyone who doesn’t see that is just a patsy waiting to be passed in the race to the top. Ozark, however, never loses sight of the fact that selling your soul is rarely done solely for righteous reasons."
What was it like for Alfonso Herrera to join a fully formed show?: "They have their own understanding. They have a connection," says Herrera. "There are people that have been working on that show since season one. And I’m talking about grips, camera, focus pullers, electricians—they’ve been there from the beginning. And so it’s literally a family. And I’m not saying this in a hypothetical, corny way. It’s literally a family where they take care of each other. So my first thing was, 'Alfonso, don’t f*ck it up.' And then the second thing, Jason Bateman has an amazing policy that if you’re an a**hole, you’re not going to be on the show."
Julia Garner says "I could shoot Ozark for the rest of my life, selfishly": Garner says shooting the finale was "really, really hard" and "one of the saddest weeks," partially because so many of the cast and crew had been a part of the series from day one. "I feel like Ozark changed all of our lives for different reasons," she says. "So when you have a life-changing experience, you're always going to be connected to those people."
Jason Bateman, Laura Linney and showrunner Chris Mundy discuss the final episodes: “I think the main thing was, we really wanted to be true to the story we were telling,” says Mundy. “We were always pretty brutal throughout the seasons, so we didn’t want to chicken out at the last second. At the same time, you want to be surprised and do things all the way up to the very end. Up until that last second or so, we wanted to stay ourselves.” For Bateman, it was trusting that the ends justify the means, but more so “getting out of the driver’s seat and letting Wendy go do her thing.” For Linney, the choice for her character Wendy, a person “who represents the people who can justify very bad behavior for themselves and think they’re doing something positive,” actually happened much earlier in the series. “I think it’s the very first decision that they make that you see in the flashback in season one, where they’re at a spa and they decide to enter into a gray zone,” she says.