Ozark

Ozark season 4

Credits

Cast

Network

Reviewer

Kennedy Unthank
Paul Asay

TV Series Review

The Byrdes are in the cleaning business. Money laundering, that is.

Oh, to most of the world, Marty and Wendy Byrde don’t look like tools for a ruthless Mexican cartel. Marty was a fairly successful financial advisor in Chicago for years, while Wendy helped guide local political campaigns. But around 2007, Marty and his under-the-table business partner, Bruce, started lining their wallets with cartel cash.

Everything was going quite swimmingly until the cartel learned that Bruce was skimming some of that newly laundered money. So the outfit promptly (ahem) terminated him (and his fiancée, for good measure). The cartel spared Marty’s life, but with a relocation to the popular, quietly lawless enclave of Osage County, Missouri—not too far from Branson. All the water and cash that flow through the county should wash all that cartel cash clean of its dirty drug entanglements. Or so goes the theory.

The blood? Well, that’s harder to scrub away.

What Happens in Ozark, Stays in Ozark?

Season Four finds the Byrdes still alive, remarkably. And their riverboat casino (The Missouri Belle) is doing surprisingly good—and legal—business. And really, the Byrdes should be right at home on its polished decks: When you’re working for a cartel losing a nasty turf war, every day is a bit of a gamble.

Marty wants to play the odds, to keep the cartel and its boss happy. To keep the FBI off his back (and maybe even get a pardon). To keep himself and his family—savvy and thoughtful Charlotte and reclusive Jonah—alive. And keep, if possible, to keep his struggling marriage to Wendy afloat and functional—and the constant life and death situations tend to help patch things up a bit.

But Wendy knows that the status quo isn’t any guarantee of real security, so she made the Byrdes become a bigger part of the cartel’s operation under the erratic leadership of Javi, who promises to eliminate anyone who he considers to be a threat or ineffective.

And by halfway through the final season, it turns out that the Javi problem may be a bigger issue than any other obstacle the Byrdes have faced. With his leadership, the Byrdes can walk right into an official FBI pardon for their crimes, so they tolerate his dangerous antics as they wait to secure it. However, when Javi hurts other characters, the Byrdes are forced to go into damage control in order to keep their pardon afloat. After all, in the drug cartel, someone always replaces the previous leader, and though Javi is bad enough, anyone looking to take his spot would surely be much worse.

As the Byrdes have come to know, however, if they want to compete and survive in the money laundering game, they’ll need to match the ferocity of whoever they’re dealing with. Though they once could wave away morally questionable decisions under the guise of protecting the family, they’re big players now, just as conniving and cold-hearted as the rest of the cartel—the kids included.

Even if the Byrdes are able to fly away from the mess they’ve found themselves in, how much of their humanity will be gone by the time they land?

In the Swamp

Like FX’s 2013-18 show The Americans (in which a pair of Soviet spies were just as concerned about their kids as they were stealing state secrets) Ozark is something of a twisted family show. The Byrdes do their best to keep their own kids out of the family business, and they’re determined to protect them at almost all cost. But whether they like it or not, the nature of the business is transforming their children into violent, scheming criminals as well—perhaps destined to be stuck in the gritty world of the drug cartel forever.

But apart from that protective parental instinct, as well the show’s aesthetic quality, Ozark’s list of positives ends there, as their sheer determination to shield their children turns Marty and Wendy into violent hypocritical murderers.

Though Ozark does have moments of dark levity, the show is grim and profane and oh so violent. People die, and sometimes in pretty terrible ways. Sex and nudity can be in the offing, too, and same-sex attraction is expected as well. And the language … well, let’s just say if f-words were one-pound weights, the Missouri Belle would soon be on the river bottom.

An in-show commercial for the Missouri Belle has a smiling Marty and Wendy Byrde beckoning viewers to enjoy themselves on their floating casino. “We like your odds!” They say cheerfully. Their own odds, naturally, are pretty long. And your own odds—if you’re looking for a show that offers a hint of inspiration or morality, even in the muck—are akin to playing Powerball.

Episode Reviews

Apr. 29, 2022—S4, Ep11: “A Hard Way to Go”

The series comes to a close as deals are made, threats are issued and people are killed.

Ruth and Wendy’s father drink alcohol together. Ruth mentions that Wendy’s dad used to beat Wendy, and she confesses that she was also abused as a child. She threatens to shoot Wendy’s father in his genitals. Ruth wears a low-cut shirt.

A priest does the sign of the cross and references God. Jonah says he put some money in the Bible, and Wendy comments that it’ll be a long time before anyone finds it. Immediately after, the family gets into a severe car crash. Camila, mother of Javi, threatens to kill a woman. Charlotte consumes alcohol.

The f-word is used almost 35 times and is once preceded by “mother.” The s-word is used eight times. “A–,” “b–ch” and “d-ck” are all used twice. The c-word, “h—” and “d–n” are all used once. A character references “loose women,” and “slut” is heard once. A character shows his middle finger. God’s name is misused seven times, and it is followed by “d–n” on five occasions.

[Spoiler Warning] A man shoots and kills a guard, and he executes drug cartel leader Omar Navarro. Camila shoots and kills Ruth. Jonah shoots and kills private investigator Mel Sattem.

Apr. 29, 2022—S4, Ep8: “The Cousin of Death”

Furious over the murder of her cousin, Ruth vows to take vengeance on his killer, causing Marty and Wendy to attempt damage control in order to protect their deal with the FBI.

In a flashback, Ruth and her cousin drink beers and smoke.

Ruth shoots and kills Javi in a daydream, and she shoots and kills Wendy and Marty in another daydream. Ruth holds people at gunpoint.

Javi drinks drinks wine with a man at dinner and drinks alcohol elsewhere, too. A man urinates in the bathroom. Javi beats the man bloody and flushes his head in a bathroom urinal. Marty and Wendy consume alcohol. Wendy threatens to rip someone’s tongue out of their mouth. Multiple songs play throughout the episode that reference drugs, firearms, murder, vodka and “crackheads.”

The f-word is heard at least 65 times. The s-word is used 16 times, and the n-word is used 11 times. The c-word is heard twice. We also hear “b–ch,” “a–,” “d–n” and “h—” on occasion. God’s name is misused four times and is followed twice by “d–n.” Jesus’ name is misused once.

[Spoiler Warning] Ruth shoots and kills Javi.

Jan. 21, 2022 – S4, Ep1: “The Beginning of the End”

When drug lord Omar Navarro commissions the Byrdes to help him retire with FBI immunity, Marty and Wendy realize that Omar’s replacement, his nephew Javier, may be too erratic to deal with.

In a series recap, we see people get shot and killed. We also see Marty’s son Jonah point a shotgun at cartel attorney Helen Pierce, and we hear a gunshot directly after a pistol is pointed at Helen’s head.

In what seems to be a flash-forward, Jonah says he put some money in the Bible, and Wendy comments that it’ll be a long time before anyone finds it. Immediately after, the family gets into a severe car crash.

Marty and Wendy wash Helen’s blood out of their hair at a baptism party. We see crosses at the party, and someone prays with a rosary in hand. At the party, Marty and Wendy meet Javier. Javier says he’s going to Chicago for business, but Omar retorts that it’s for “bottle service and loose women.”

Omar later warns Marty and Wendy that Javier will kill all three of them if he sees any weakness. As a result, Omar wants to retire from the drug cartel with immunity from the FBI, and he threatens Marty and Wendy to help him achieve it.

Marty and Wendy drink wine on a couple locations, and a rival family celebrates a new deal with champagne. Wyatt, who works for the rival family, drinks a beer in the pool with Jonah and his cousin Ruth. Jonah betrays his family and agrees to launder Ruth’s money. Jonah gets in trouble with his family for shooting the windows of the house out.

Javier misses Helen because she was “sexy.” Later, Javier smokes a cigarette, and upon being questioned by Sheriff Nix, he shoots and kills him. He then gets Marty and Helen to cremate the body while Jonah looks on. The FBI holds a briefing discussing the confiscation of heroin and weapons.

Jonah references the Temple of Heaven and the Hall for Prayer for Good Fortune in Beijing. The song “Vehicle” by The Ides of March plays in the background and references God.

Sometimes, we just desire a bit more ingenuity in language, but alas, we are instead dealt 26 f-words and seven s-words, with one preceded by “bull”. The c-word is used once, “h—” is used twice and “a–” is used multiple times.

God’s name is misused five times, and three are followed by “d–n”. Jesus’ name is inappropriately used twice.

Jan. 21, 2022 – S4, Ep7: “Sanctified”

After Omar accepts the FBI deal, FBI agent Maya uses local authorities to arrest him, causing Javier to believe Marty and Wendy betrayed him.

Omar considers killing a few FBI agents, and he breaks a glass table in anger that the deal isn’t as good as he wanted. He makes a reference to alcohol, and he tells Wendy that he doesn’t kill children.

Ruth talks the Kansas City mafia out of killing Darlene, her soon-to-be cousin-in-law, and Ruth’s cousin Wyatt marries Darlene. A woman mentions to Ruth that her husband died in a boating accident.

Javier tells Marty that that he “really wants to kill him.” Javier shoves, punches and kicks Marty while holding a gun to his head. Just before he’s about to kill Marty, Javier gets a phone call and says that it “looks like God gave you another day.” He also asks for a glass of Scotch.

Jonah and Charlotte ponder what they’d do if their parents died. Wendy drinks a glass of wine. A flashback makes references to sex and pornography. The Commodores’ “I Feel Sanctified” plays during the end credits.

We hear the f-word 44 times with most instances coming from Ruth. We also hear the s-word five times and the c-word one time. In addition, “d–n,” “b–ch,” “d–k” and “a–” are used on multiple occasions. We hear one use of “h—.” God’s name is misused nine times, and Jesus’ name is inappropriately used once.

[Spoiler Warning] Javier shoots and kills Darlene and Wyatt, and Ruth finds their bodies. Ruth, in anger, threatens to kill many characters, and she resolves to kill Javier.

March 27, 2020 – S3, Ep1: “Wartime”

The Season 3 premiere opens in Mexico, where an apparent delivery man stabs the hand of a shopkeeper, then slits his throat. (The blood sprays across a number of tiny white confirmation dresses.) He then ties up a couple of guys counting money and straps a bomb to them. When the bomb explodes, the cash goes flying, and civilians outside flock to the floating currency. The delivery man then plants a second bomb and walks away. The screen goes dark as we hear the blast, and later, Wendy reads a headline telling her (and us) that 37 people died in the explosion.

We see plenty of other images of dead bodies (and body parts) on computer screens—evidence of a bloody cartel war that Navarro, the Byrdes’ employer, is losing. We watch as a cartel lackey is being waterboarded. A woman slashes another woman’s tire. A young man—squatting in someone else’s house—is Tased. Another guy gets hit in the crotch and is physically thrown off a boat. Wendy tries to sell Navarro on a scheme by suggesting, “You might very well be dead in six months,” and adding that he needs to think about passing on some legal businesses to his children.

A male FBI agent questions Marty. The agent then tells him that he dated another male agent—who died in the last season—for a while, suggesting that taking Marty’s operation down is deeply personal for the guy. A man uses a bong while taking a bubble bath. (We see him from the waist up.) When Marty and Wendy’s son, Jonah, is given a drone by his sister, Marty makes sure he’s not making any “drone porn.”

Marty and Wendy go to marriage counseling, and Marty pays the counselor under the table to side with him. Wendy breaks into her and Marty’s old house and performs small acts of vandalism (putting food coloring in the milk and turning a painting upside down). We hear references to “smoking weed” and huffing paint while pregnant. We see and hear plenty of gambling. The son of a crime lord is described as a drunk, with someone claiming that she smells the liquor on him at 10 a.m. People drink beer, champagne, whiskey and cocktails. We see Marty’s scheme for laundering money under the FBI’s collective nose.

Characters use the f-word about 45 times during the hour-long episode, the s-word eight times and also utter “a–,” “b–ch,” “g-dd–n” and “p–s.” Jesus’ name is abused twice.

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Kennedy Unthank

Though he was born in Kansas, Kennedy Unthank betrayed his roots by leaving the wheat behind to study journalism at the University of Missouri. He knew he wanted to write for a living when he won a contest for “best fantasy story” while in the 4th grade. What he didn’t know at the time, however, was that he was the only person to submit a story. Regardless, the seed was planted. Kennedy collects and plays board games in his free time, and he loves to talk about biblical apologetics and hermeneutics.

Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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