When audiences watched Jason Bateman's Marty Byrde as his business partner got dissolved in acid in the very first episode of Ozark, it delivered a statement of intent: this Netflix show does not deal in heroes and villains.
No drama has attempted to match it since, whilst fewer still have maintained their own momentum without making mistakes. Four years on, in a series which has done all that and more, Ozark concludes on Netflix on Friday, 29 April.
Following the tear streaked diatribe from Ruth (Julia Garner) which closed out Ozark 4.1, audiences were rocked to their foundations.
Over three seasons, this small town slice of savvy had outsmarted all comers, including everything the Byrde family could muster. With little family left and on a one woman mission to get even, this grief stricken Langmore is out for blood.
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In other news, the Byrde family are a mess of contradictions and hidden agendas staving off law enforcement officials alongside eager wannabe drug lords. Power dynamics, which have always been a key component to the relationships in Ozark, are in flux once again. Wendy (Laura Linney), Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz) and Jonah (Skylar Gaertner) all bring their own intentions to a crowded table of self-interest, which leaves Marty fighting his own corner.
With Omar Navarro (Felix Solis) in prison and his nephew Javi (Alfonso Herrera) representing family interests, there is now a trigger surrogate crime boss to contend with. Someone who shoots first, before threatening everyone around him in a conceited display of power. With Darlene (Lisa Emery) and Wyatt (Charlie Tahan) testament to that fact, Ozark 4.2 opens like a brooding revenge thriller, before embracing bloody retribution.
When it comes to who is left standing in that final episode all bets are off. As the Byrde’s negotiate with old business connections, brow beaten FBI associates and anyone who seems like an easy mark, Ozark doubles down on the drama. Flashbacks bring in essential back story, which not only refreshes audiences on past transgressions, but provides emotional context as well.
Watch a trailer for Ozark
Ben (Tom Pelphrey), Wendy’s missing brother, remains fundamental to the story as a whole, opening up old wounds which remain emotionally raw. Not only playing a large part in Ruth’s motivations, but also directly affecting how this family now behave towards each other. Something that comes out on countless occasions, as these actors now inhabit these characters like a second skin.
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There are countless masterclass moments between Laura Linney and Jason Bateman, in a season which will make all the anticipation worthwhile. These are people who have buried their humanity so deep that they are almost strangers now. Any sense of devotion has been replaced by an adversarial edge, which finds Marty pressganged into taking on responsibilities which will change him permanently.
In the other corner, Wendy is a ruthless advocate of manipulation at all costs, even if that means hamstringing her own children. With an inevitable upping of the ante, their positions become increasingly precarious, while pressure from all sides starts taking its toll. Not least from the ghost of Helen Pierce (Janet McTeer), who represented their most fierce ally and formidable enemy in season 3.
To a large extent this cleverly constructed final part ties up loose ends. There is the same level of tension coupled with consistent performances, yet that sense of closure remains unavoidable. What has made Ozark so great is retained in spades this time around, coupled with an innate self-assurance borne of longevity.
Jason Bateman ushered this to screen alongside showrunner Chris Mundy so long ago, yet still delivers a performance that feels fresh. Marty Byrde exists so much in the grey area of life that his emotional compass is shot. Similar to Walter White (Bryan Cranston) in Breaking Bad, this is a morally upstanding man forced into making some difficult choices.
What started as a tactical necessity to protect his family has escalated out of control, bringing him to a point of no return. Looking in the mirror at someone he no longer recognises, Marty has morphed into everything he wanted to avoid. There have been so many casualties in this questionable crusade, yet the time for lies has passed as he needs to make amends.
As the body counts increase and this family gets drawn in deeper, everything is measured in shades of grey. Heroes and villains merge, conflicting interests converge and that final episode leaves a mark.
In the aftermath, audiences will be left to momentarily mourn the passing of a monumental show, as Ozark permanently passes into posterity.
The concluding part of Ozark Season 4 is available on Netflix from Friday, 29 April.