"Ozark:" Too little, too late

“Ozark:” Too little, too late

The beauty of television is its ability to create worlds in which anything is possible. Free from the burdensome confines of reality, which ceaselessly moves forward in its campaign to keep people in what society would deem as “their place;” writers, directors, and producers of television have the ability to let us see what it would look like if the under-privileged were allowed to rise to the top, and actually live long enough to enjoy it once they got there. But they rarely, if ever, do. And the “Ozark” series finale is a prime example of how, every time that opportunity is missed, it feels like a little heartbreak. Or, in Ruth Langmore’s (Julia Garner) case, a bullet through the chest.

In the penultimate episode of the series we saw Ruth dodge death when Nelson (Nelson Bonilla) gets killed before he has a chance to kill her or her friend and business partner, Rachel (Jordana Spiro). This isn’t the first time Ruth has outsmarted herself from being on the pointy side of a bullet, but it will be the last. 

At the beginning of the finale we see her flashing back and forth between two versions of reality; the one she’s currently in, burying Nelson’s body at the bottom of what would have been her swimming pool; and the one she had with her family, and would still have if she’d never gotten mixed up with Marty (Jason Bateman) and Wendy (Laura Linney) Byrde.

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Ruth is closer than she’s ever been to happiness, but desperately sad because she can sense that it will be ripped away from her when the money and influence she’s fought like hell for turns out to be too little, too late.

Throughout the episode Ruth communes with the essence of her dead cousin, Wyatt, who she wishes she could share this all with while also knowing, deep down, that he’s better off where he is, and she’ll be there to meet him soon. With each layer of concrete poured, and each foundation plotted for her new lakeside home, a look of melancholy washes over Ruth’s eyes like clouds going over the face of the sun. She’s smiling at what she has, while knowing that she doesn’t really have a thing. She’s closer than she’s ever been to happiness, but desperately sad because she can sense that it will be ripped away from her when the money and influence she’s fought like hell for turns out to be too little, too late.


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Ruth has spent her whole life catering to people like the Byrdes, happy to make do with whatever crumbs they drop that she’s felt lucky to be able to pick up and squirrel away, just by being in their proximity. She got into this mess by doing favors for Marty and Wendy, and she spends the last full day of her life on earth doing even more of them.

The Byrde family in “Ozark” (Courtesy of Netflix)After cleaning up one problem by disposing of Nelson’s body, Ruth’s immediately given another one when Marty shows up and threatens her with an ultimatum. If Ruth doesn’t help convince Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz) and Jonah (Skylar Gaertner) to stay, Marty will tell Camila (Verónica Falcón) that she’s responsible for her son Javi’s (Alfonso Herrera) death.

“Is this you, or Wendy?” Ruth asks, somewhat surprised that the man she can’t help but trust would put her life on the line like this.

In response Marty wordlessly points to himself before getting in the car and driving away. Almost as if he can’t bear to fully vocalize his betrayal, or that he’s still going so far out on a line to protect his wife, even after all she’s done.

Ruth does what she’s asked, taking a gun and a bottle of booze over to Wendy’s dad’s motel room, and suffers his tactless monologue about his own daughter being a slut before getting down to the matter at hand. 

“How about f**k her?” Nathan (Richard Thomas) says about his daughter when Ruth presses him on why he wants to take her kids from her so badly. Once the truth is out, she has him say it again in front of Charlotte and Jonah, which is effective in getting them to decide not to leave, for now.

With the kids back, the Byrde family takes to the mental hospital to spring momma Byrde and she tears up at the sight of her brood, although she was, bags in hand, about to leave them all in the dirt just days prior.

“I want you to stay so much it makes my teeth hurt,” Wendy says to Charlotte and Jonah. 

Laura Linney is a fantastic actress so her portrayal of Wendy makes it nearly impossible to tell if there’s ever any real truth behind the words she says. In this moment, reunited with her kids, I found myself feeling for her, but while maintaining a stink eye. Like how my dog sizes up other dogs who come her way at the park.

“I’m not saying I love you unconditionally, but we’ve been through a s**tload of conditions and I’m still here,” Marty says to Wendy in their minivan on the way home. What a cuck.

In what feels to be a rather unnecessary twist first shown at the beginning of this season, Marty swerves to avoid an oncoming semi, and their family vehicle flips in what would seem to be a fatal accident, but everyone comes away with a barely a scratch. 

Father Benitez (Bruno Bichir), waiting in their driveway when they get home to tell them that Navarro wants to talk to them, hears about the accident from Wendy and says, “How many times does God have to point at you before you take notice?” 

Wendy laughs this off saying her takeaway from the accident is that God is telling her family they’re gonna make it out alive. In the world of “Ozark,” it seems that even God favors the affluent. Wait, that’s the case in real life too, or so it would often seem.

The Byrdes meet with Navarro in prison and he tells them he thinks that Camila is the one who put a hit out on him, and that she’s probably responsible for Nelson going missing as well. Marty and Wendy no longer need Navarro’s help or protection at this point, so as long as he’s not breathing down their neck about anything, they don’t really care. When we later see him gunned down by a guard in a staged “escape,” it’s hard for the viewer to care either. That plot point has been run to death and, at this point, with only a short amount of time left on the episode, most people are occupied with thoughts of Ruth, and what, if anything, the Byrdes will do to help her.

At the bigwig donor function on the Belle, Marty, Wendy, Charlotte, Jonah and Ruth are all dressed in their finest which, in this context, looks like they’re dressed for a funeral.

At the bigwig donor function on the Belle, Marty, Wendy, Charlotte, Jonah and Ruth are all dressed in their finest which, in this context, looks like they’re dressed for a funeral. 

The booze is flowing, the money is exchanging hands, and everyone is almost in the free and clear. But then Camila presses Wendy, Marty and Clare (Katrina Lenk) for more info on the day Javi died, and Clare chokes and gives up Ruth’s name.

Her death is dignified, at least we’re given that.

“I’m not sorry. Your son was a murderous b***h. And now I know where he got it from,” Ruth says to Camila, who emerges from the darkness in front of her house to do the job herself.

“I’m not sorry. Your son was a murderous b***h. And now I know where he got it from,” Ruth says to Camila, who emerges from the darkness in front of her house to do the job herself.

There’s a long pause as Camila cruelly holds Ruth in anticipation. 

“Well, are you f**king gonna do this s**t or what?!?” Ruth yells, and those are her last words ever spoken.

As Ruth bleeds out in the dirt the Byrdes are about to give speeches on the Belle to squeeze as much money as possible out of their foundation donors. At the end of the night they return home and pour themselves drinks that they enjoy in silence from opposite sides of the kitchen. Wendy notices broken glass in their sliding door, and we see Mel Sattem (Adam Rothenberg) outside holding the cookie jar containing Ben’s ashes. 

An exchange takes place. More threats are made. And then Jonah appears with a rifle, the screen goes blank, and there’s a bang.

We’re supposed to wonder, at this point, if Jonah shot Mel, or turned that gun on his parents so he can finally, honestly, be free. But for me, I couldn’t have cared less one way or the other. For me, this finale ended the minute Ruth hit the ground.

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