Ozark Season 4 Part 2 Ending Explained: How About Those Byrde Family Values?

When "Ozark" premiered the first half of its final season in January, the show made us a promise. Immense damage was done, the dominos were stacked, and the fallout was yet to come: with 7 episodes to go, the endgame would descend upon us and make some meaning of the four-season arc of chaos. A lifetime ago, the Byrdes were your average suburban family, fit with two bickering teenagers, a failing marriage, and tedious family mealtimes. Four seasons later, the kids get along much better, the marriage is kept together by spit, duct tape, and desperation, and those family dinners? They often include casual conversations about drug lords and recently buried bodies. The Byrdes have suffered unthinkable tragedies, and also orchestrated a few themselves, crossing lines they once seemed incapable of even approaching. So with the show's ending getting closer and closer, a single question has been looming large: what's the ending that they deserve?

Alright, that's not exactly true — a bunch more questions have been hanging over the season too. Can the Byrdes actually escape their life of crime? How long will the "search for Ben" go on? Will Ruth (Julia Garner) get her happy ending? How many of our faves will survive? And who the hell is gonna raise Baby Zeke? For better or worse, we finally got our answers and... it's a lot to process. So if you've managed to survive your weekend binge of Ozark and miraculously emerged from the Byrde minivan unscathed, then you've come to the right place. /Film has a spoiler review at the ready for everyone still processing the season-long journey — but if it's that ending you're stuck on, then join us for a deep dive into spoiler territory. At long last, it's time to unpack the ending of "Ozark."

From this point forward, there will be massive spoilers for the final season of "Ozark."

It's all about choices

So. What is this show even about anymore? A long, long time ago, Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) made this grand speech about money that seemed like the foundation for the oncoming journey: "Money is not peace of mind. Money is not happiness. Money is, at its essence, that measure of a man's choices." At the time, it made a lot of sense for a show centered around a money-laundering operation but since that first episode, the story has spiraled elsewhere. There is one element of that sentiment that still rings true though — "the measure of a man's choices."

I've said it a million times but "Ozark" is obsessed with stacking dominos and watching them topple. Cause-and-effect is the whole game. Every decision that the Byrdes and all the other Ozark inhabitants make ends up weighing on them in ways they never could have imagined. Every step they take comes back to haunt them like ghosts. "Ozark" is all about choices and in "A Hard Way To Go," we get to see where all this lousy decision-making has led. To start with, Marty and Wendy (Laura Linney) have effectively torn their family apart. Their marriage remains an exhausting mess (I'd direct you to their marriage counselor but, uh, she's dead) and their kids are once again trying to escape. This time their departure plan is Nathan Davis (Richard Thomas), Wendy's father who presents as a kindly, god-fearing man but is actually an abusive alcoholic. After spending the season trying to win the kids in court, Nathan's plan sort of works out — the court rules the kids old enough to decide for themselves and to Wendy's surprise, they don't choose her. Try as she might to bribe her way to success, this doesn't come down to gaming the system. It's about where Jonah (Skylar Gaertner) and Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz) want to be and at this point, the answer is far, far away. In retaliation, Wendy checks herself into a mental institution, hoping they'll come to visit.

Marty is the one to set things in motion, driving up to see his old protegé Ruth and threatening to sic a cartel leader on her if she doesn't help out. It's not his finest moment but it's certainly his. For seasons now, he's been puppeteered by Wendy, Navarro, and terrible circumstances — all of which he's used to play off his own agency in these bloody matters. But this threat is all Marty. Ruth gets confirmation when she goes to visit Wendy and once again caught up in their bulls**t. Ruth agrees to do as she must — but with a caveat. She can get Jonah and Charlotte to abandon North Carolina with Gramps, but she can't make them stay. That part is on their parents.

The ballad of Ruth Langmore

Before we get to the Byrdes, let's revisit the Langmore tragedy. The episode opens with Ruth in a hole, shoveling the foundation for the pool that Wyatt always wanted. But it's not just a pool, of course; it's a place to hide a body — yet another life taken in a desperate attempt for survival. But Nelson's death is nothing compared to taking out Javi. Despite all better judgment, Ruth followed through on her ill-conceived plan to avenger her cousin's death and killed the cartel leader at the start of season 4 part 2. Since then, it's been a scramble to put the pieces back in order for the Byrdes, but Ruth? The last seven episodes have been spent pondering what comes next. She still wants to build something of her own, and she sort of already did. It may have been the Byrdes shady business dealings that got the Missouri Belle built, but Ruth is the one who ran it. With some deft maneuvering a la inheriting Darlene's fortune, she took the Belle to pave herself a new future. But that's a hard thing to do while holding tight to the past.

In some ways, Ruth does start moving forward. She wins the casino and starts building herself a new home. She manages to get her record wiped, starting anew in the eyes of the law. But that clean slate does nothing for her memories, nor for all she's lost and suffered. She spends much of the rinql episode communing with the dead, seeing not just Wyatt but a grand fantasy of a Langmore barbecue. The clan is back together, with Russ singing, Cade grilling, and Wyatt alive. As Russ strums a guitar through his rendition of John Prine's "Angel from Montgomery" ("Just give me one thing that I can hold on to, to believe in this living, is just a hard way to go"), Ruth talks to Wyatt and eventually, Three (Carson Holmes). Remember Three? He climbs atop the trailer and holds his cousin's hand. The last two Langmore survivors miss their family members together and in that moment, Ruth stares ahead at a future that finally seems tangible. But the past isn't done with her yet.

Killing Javi was the kind of grand action that brings hefty consequences. We can point a finger at Claire Shaw as Ruth's downfall but ultimately, she made the choices that brought her here. And whether or not they meant to, the Byrdes also orchestrated her demise. They not only forced Claire into the fold, but taught her to fear Camilla. So when pressed on the matter of Javi's death, she quickly breaks and turns Ruth over. The crows come home to roost for Ruth, who ignored every sign not to make an enemy of the cartel. So just as she was managing to escape her past, it pulls her back in. Cornered by Camilla, Ruth faces down death viciously.

The crash

Staying with their parents is a choice that Charlotte and Jonah make only after Wendy lays her cards out on the table. Offering some very rare honesty, she admits her own culpability in Ben's death. Trapped in an impossible situation, she had no choice but to have him killed lest her brother turn them all in — but that bad situation was her own doing. She pushed Ben to stay in the Ozarks because she wanted to control the situation, just as she's been trying to control her kids. But now she knows better. Who knew honesty was key to repairing relationships?

Despite everything, the kids file into the car with their parents and at long last, we arrive at the prologue that began the season. The Byrdes are cruising down a highway, Sam Cooke is crooning on the radio and before we know it, the minivan is careening off the side of the road. For once in their lives, the Byrdes aren't even the problem — a truck comes sailing down the road in the wrong lane, straight for them. Swerving to avoid the collision sends them flipping out of the way. There's a devastating pause as we zero in on the wreckage, then Marty emerges, followed by the kids. He makes sure they're okay, then peers in at Wendy. At first glance, she seems to be dead, but her eyes open when Marty moves her. When she's finally free too, Charlotte falls into her mother's arms while Jonah holds her hand.

Nothing brings people together quite like a tragedy. That hasn't always been true for the Byrdes — the past few years have ripped them apart in increasingly creative ways. Charlotte tried to emancipate, Jonah moved out, Wendy dreamt about offing her husband and Marty almost cheated. But this moment is different. It harkens back to the end of the first season when they decided to stay together: they have just enough time to think the worst could happen, and it pulls them in closer.

Wendy, we'll late learn, is f***ing ascending at this moment. When they arrive home to see Pastor Benitez and he learns what happened, he sees it as a parable: "How many times does God have to point at you before you take notice? I believe the accident was your last warning." Wendy has a different interpretation. To her, it's a divine sign that they can't be defeated — not by a freak accident and certainly not by the consequences of their own actions. "It's an assurance that we're gonna make it out alive."

Starting the season with this crash was a bold move and each episode made it increasingly difficult to imagine the payoff. With all they've done and gotten wrapped up in, the Byrdes were always destined for a crash but to know it lies on the horizon in a literal sense? It was ripe for interpretation even before we had the context. The interim between the two parts of season 4 were spent speculating who would emerge alive. Wouldn't it be divine justice for both parents to due and leave the children to carve out new futures? Or maybe the kids were destined to die and leave their parents to grieve and grapple with how their actions led to such a fate? It's no mistake that Wendy is last to emerge — we have a beat to imagine her dead, a poetic end to the character that many deem the villain o the family. But none of this happens. Because the premise of those questions completely misses the point. Since when has action led to consequence so cleanly? Did Ben deserve his fate? Wyatt his? What of Baby Zeke? Why should this be any different?

The bill comes due... or does it?

Back in the season premiere, when his parents revealed their grand scheme for escape, Jonah pushed back. "People will find out where the money came from." Wendy had concocted a perfect escape hatch with her charitable foundation, one that doesn't just allow the Byrdes to walk away from a life of crime but into a situation where they can thrive, with money, influence, and political capital. Jonah's claim doesn't shake her.

"You need to grow up," Wendy slammed back. "This is America. People don't care where your fortune came from, and in two election cycles, it'll be just some myth, some gossip, some f***ing cocktail party." The conversation was ultimately interrupted by Mel Sattem (Adam Rothenberg), rapping his fist on a glass screen that he would shatter in the season finale. But Wendy's words certainly resound in the episode's final moments, as the Byrdes stand atop the Missouri Belle, celebrating their grand success and pretending they don't know Ruth Langmore is being killed as they speak. Certainly, no one in the room would dare suspect a thing of the golden family, with all their dazzling accomplishments.

The final moments of "Ozark" find the family back home, with Marty and Wendy quietly absorbing the weight of their actions. Navarro is dead. They have a signed deal with the FBI. Ruth is dead. Maybe they're even mourning her but ultimately, they're letting their shoulders fall because despite it all, they've emerged — alive, together, and somewhat victorious. Or so it seems until they turn a little to the left and see the shattered window. The deck light flicks on to reveal PI Mel Sattem, sitting atop the trampoline, cradling the cookie jar that contains Ben's ashes. When Mel first arrived in Part 1, he as a persistent annoyance but one that only needed to be taken so seriously. When he started digging into ground better left unsettled, the Byrdes offered a hefty bribe, getting him a job in the Police Force he was once fired from. It seemed to get him out of their hair for good, but Mel wasn't so easily pushed aside.

In the end, Mel's morality wins out. He can't leave them in his rearview certainly not when details are still wriggling around in his mind. It's poetic that sentimentality could be their undoing — Ruth's choice of a final resting place for Ben, a goat-shaped cookie jar for the man who wanted to run away and raise goats on a farm. Mel walked past it at the motel and though it caught his eye and the shot lingered, he walked on. But now he turns back for it, curious about what could be in the cookie-less jar. His triumph is ours because, for a shining moment, he's right. Of course they don't get to be the Kennedys of the midwest. "You don't get to win," he declares. "World doesn't work like that." Then Wendy chimes in: "Since when?"

The Byrdes win by Jonah's hand, a swift condemnation of who they are ad where they've always been heading. Jonah has been training for this from the very start — since they moved to the Ozarks and he stealthily bought a gun. In the first season, his parents were disturbed to see him shooting birds in the yard but now they look on in pride as he prepares to murder an innocent man. This isn't like when he tried defending his family from one of Navarro's goons, Garcia. It's not even like when he threatened Helen, enraged by Ben's death. Perhaps he even intended to follow through that time, but he still hesitated. This time, he's locked into team Byrde. If it costs his soul to keep their family together and solidify the future they've been working towards, then so be it.

Arguably, there are some loose ends to go. There will always be Mel Sattems in the world (isn't Agent Miller the OG?), and without Ruth, the Casino still needs someone at the helm. Who's to say Camilla lets them go so easily, if she discovers they lied to her? The chaos will continue and through their sheer force of will, the Byrdes will persevere, no matter the cost.