Ozark Season 4 Part 2 Review: The Crime Saga Crashes Into Its Inevitable Conclusion

Potential spoilers for "Ozark" follow.

Marty Byrde has come a long way from his humble money-laundering beginnings. Gone are the days of a quiet financial advisor puttering around a tiny office building, shuffling papers, rearranging numbers, and pondering the trajectory of his failed marriage. Enter the man he's become after four seasons of nonstop pressure, rushing to put out one fire after the next and just barely managing to scrape by while facing threats from all sides. All things considered, he isn't that different — callous, emotionally distant, and vaguely nonplussed in the face of horror. But his hands are dirtier and what little morality he has left is hanging by a precarious thread. Marty (Jason Bateman), along with his inimitable wife Wendy (Laura Linney) and their teenage kids who've been reluctantly dragged along for the ride, are now so entangled in the dealings of Navarro's drug cartel that they've evolved well beyond bearing witness to unspeakable horrors. They are now active participants in this twisting crime saga, just in time for it to bring them over the edge.

The inevitable crash

The opening moments of the fourth season are almost set up to deceive us — they would have the audience believe that the Byrde family is no different from any other. When the beginning of the end arrived in January, it took its sweet time to prepare us for the endgame by kicking off in the Byrde family minivan: all four family members were present and the car was cruising down the highway, with Sam Cooke crooning on the radio. Sometimes they masquerade themselves so well that you can almost forget the Byrdes are soaked in blood. But those masks rarely stay on for very long and in a matter of seconds, the show reminds us exactly who they are. Wendy barrels forward with preparations for their latest scheme, Jonah (Skylar Gaertner) resents her in the corner, Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz) makes jokes that hit morbidly close to home and Marty weathers it all with an indifferent expression. And in case that's not enough to bring the dynamics front and center, the show hits us with an effective bang — Marty glances away from the road for just a second too long, and their van goes careening off the side of the street, violently flipping over.

It's a hell of a way to start off a final season, especially one that already has us pondering resolutions. The supersized 14-episode final season has plenty of loose ends to tie up and stories to resolve, yet one question has trumped all others — what's the ending that the Byrdes deserve? In the era of prestige TV, this dilemma is nothing new. We've been here before, grappling with the fate of our morally gray protagonist trapped between what feels realistic and what seems fair. Painfully self-aware, "Ozark" doesn't skirt past the question but almost makes a joke of it with this car accident looming in the future. In the wake of all the tragedy they've caused and their refusal to backpedal, the Byrdes are careening towards consequences that, whether metaphorical or literal, are the equivalent of a crash.

When the first half of the final came to a close and hadn't yet caught up with the car accident, it only raised more questions. Given their internal tensions, how would the Byrdes get back to a place where they would ride together as a family? What would be the fallout of the crash? Who would survive? And how much of the aftermath would we see? With 7 episodes to go, the time for dodging questions is behind us, so "Ozark" faces them head-on. This is our last opportunity to see the Byrdes for precisely who they are and maybe even enact some judgment before the bill comes due. And sure enough, the entire clan makes who they've become crystal clear.

Suffer the consequences

Thanks to the show's obsession with watching the domino effect play out, "Ozark" has always concerned itself with consequences. But sometimes the answer of who has to pay them ... well, that s**t ain't equal. Exactly how many people have paid the consequences for the Byrde's decision to launder money in the Ozarks? Ben paid with his life for getting involved in Wendy's mess of a life. And just last season, Wyatt lost his because of Darlene Snell's checkered past. We don't have to look much further to see the extent of their damage: Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner) has paid the price of a lifetime. She's lost nearly every member of her family to the Byrde operation, not to mention becoming a target for drug lords and mobsters. But Wyatt's death is what pushes her over the edge and when the final seven episodes begin, openly mourning the loss of her cousin takes a backseat to her warpath for revenge. Killing his murderer is the least she can do to numb the pain and would perhaps be easily achieved if not for the identity of the killer in question.

Javi Elizonndro (Alfonso Herrera) isn't just the powerful new leader of the Navarro cartel, he's also a danger in his own right — an absolute wildcard whose fate is now inextricably tied to the Byrde's escape plan. Their arrangement with the FBI — the one allowing them to return to Chicago, finally leave crime behind and instead continue to rule the midwest as the legitimate founders of a charity foundation — is contingent on Javi being an informant. Which would be quite difficult if he were to die. But why should Ruth care? The Byrdes have taken everything from her, so it seems well within her right to get some payback. All she has to do is go through them first.

If time has revealed anything about Wendy Byrde, it's that she doesn't lose easily. But Marty has more pause when it comes to acting against the young woman he's obviously become fond of. Ruth has been a friend to the family — the person he asked to look after his children should some tragedy take him away. She herself has been like a daughter to him at times, having started out as a protege and evolve into a partner. And as frustrating as her grief-stricken decision-making is, he isn't so deluded that he can't find fault in himself for getting her here. And it's weighing on him. He tries very hard to play the bad situation off: after all, Ruth has never met Javi, doesn't know what he looks like, and how would she even get past his security? The odds are stacked against her, he argues — but Wendy knows better. They've seen what a person can do with only sheer will in their favor. Against all odds, they themselves are living, breathing examples.

The table is set for chaos

How can we not root for Ruth's destructive plan? Especially if it will bring her some peace. This is not to say that we don't care about the Byrdes, but they're a lot more difficult to love than Ruth, the crafty foul-mouthed criminal who has become the heart and soul of the show. She's the Jesse to the Byrdes' Walter White. The promise of something brighter has always been in her future and it's all too easy to rest our hope on her — not just because we've seen the Byrdes careen off a highway, but because after all her suffering, she must be allowed some peace. Meanwhile, the Byrdes have proven how despicable they can be and only doubled down on it since. Surely, they have to pay for all they've done.

It certainly feels like it as the pieces fall into place for the final act. Ruth is not the least of their worries, yet she's only one of many storms they must weather. Navarro is less than thrilled about recent developments and still carries significant weight from behind bars. Plus, their partnership with Shaw Medical Solutions CEO Claire Shaw becomes tenuous as she becomes increasingly more fearful of the situation she's gotten entangled in. As the search for Ben continues to yield interesting results, the Mel Sattem's (Adam Rothenberg) and Maya Miller's (Jessica Frances Dukes) of the world remain determined to expose the Byrdes, and believe it or not, that's not all!

The external threats are more than enough to keep the Byrdes busy for seven episodes, yet they also have plenty of family drama to work through. Jonah remains on the outside, painfully aware of his mother's flaws, while even Charlotte is having difficulty pretending her parents aren't constantly endangering her life. And Wendy and Marty? Their marriage remains perilous as they operate on completely different levels, blatantly disregarding one another. But hey, where would the Byrdes be, if not juggling multiple crises at once? The final few episodes don't fully rise above the issue that's been plaguing this show for four seasons — but its uneven pacing is less noticeable this close to the end, when our minutes in the Ozarks are finally dwindling. At the very least, the premiere wastes no time getting right to the meat of this season's issues, with the action kicking off immediately.

A marriage of inconvenience

As the endgame is upon them, the crows are coming home to roost. Think for a moment of all the Byrdes have done: the lives they've decimated and the paths they've altered. The Ozarks are full of ghosts and this season, the show is feeling especially sentimental. We glimpse familiar faces and long-forgotten stories as the show pulls its many threads closed. Through it all, Marty and Wendy are hardly concerned with any moral reckoning they may or may not have coming. Above all, Wendy wants to thrive. Whoever must be trampled to make everything worth it, she's mo0re than willing to pin them down. In a way, "Ozark" seems to reshape around her orbit, framing Wendy as the biggest bad of them all and the architect of the Byrde downfall. But though Wendy is the boldest influence in the family, she isn't singular. Marty bears just as much responsibility for the neverending cycle of crises they live in. His desire to merely survive is just as dangerous because as the season will prove, he's willing to cross many lines to get there.

In its eleventh hour, "Ozark" pushes past the question of what the Byrdes deserve to ponder something deeper and dangerously real: what does any of it matter, in the face of immense willpower? In a world of crime, death, and desperate acts of survival, humanity is a difficult virtue to maintain. Worst yet, the will to live is crucial to survival in a way that compassion isn't. Especially in its final moments, "Ozark" thrives as it puts these concepts to the test, contriving scenarios that push each and every character over the edge. All the while, it stays true to its domino-effect-obsessed roots, but makes ample room for the unpredictability of life and the struggle between selfishness and humanity. When it finally fades to black, it's with an ending we couldn't have possibly envisioned when Marty Byrde first presented his Lake of the Ozarks money laundering scheme, and yet, where else could this winding road have led?

/Film Rating: 8 out of 10