This post is about the ending to the Netflix series Ozark. I’m a bit reticent to write it, as I’m worried this blog may end up being just a film and TV and video game and book review blog, which it wasn’t my intention to have it as. But I guess things grow and mutate and change and that, and let me give you a little secret about writing: oftentimes, when writing, the writing actually dictates itself to the writer. That is to say, a person may start out writing one thing, but then find what they’re writing is pulling them in a different direction. I’d imagine most books in existence have written themselves, using an author as a vessel. Is that pretentious enough for you?
Anyway, this is a blog about the ending to Ozark. And unlike my previous posts, for example The Northman, this is going to be full of spoilers. Like, absolutely stuffed to the brim with them. If you haven’t watched it yet, then stop reading this now. Right now. Stop it. I’m just typing words to ensure any spoilers appear below the fold, so you won’t happen upon them.
Right, that should be enough. So basically, Ozark yeah? Fuck me, what an ending. That it seemed like a happy ending, only for Ruth to be shot and killed, was devastating. Ruth was the best of us, she’s the only character I found myself rooting for at the end. And maybe Charlotte a bit. But that’s it. Ozark is one of those programmes where it isn’t good guys vs bad guys, but bad guys vs worse guys. Ruth was the best of us, and I miss her.
It was done fucking well though! With Laura Linney’s character spinning out of control – literally watched it last night and can’t remember her name – and Jonah and Charlotte going off with evil Grandad, the setting was laid for a bad ending. But there was redemption! I’ll talk a bit more about that soon, but there was redemption in the Byrde family, enough to make it seem like a happy ending was coming.
And it so nearly did! That’s what made Ruth’s death even more shocking, how against the tone of the episode it was. Excellently done by all involved, kudos. I was not prepared.
So now we’re into the spoiler bit of the article, I can reveal that Ruth Langmore is actually Jesus. She died for our sins. She was the best part of us, the one who took our sins upon herself, who did the dirty work so we didn’t have to. And she was cleansed. Not quite a baptisement, more of a conversation with a judge kind of cleansing, but a cleansing nonetheless. She was finally going straight, and she got killed. Isn’t that all too often the way? Ruth was everything good about all of us, and in her death so absolved us of our sins, and allowed us to continue. And by ‘us’ I guess I mean the Byrde family. Ruth’s death was the end of the violence in the Ozarks, at least for the Byrde family. They so very nearly got away with it all. But Ruth had to pay the price for their misdeeds. Now that I think of it, it’s probably analogous to capitalism too; they rich family do what they want, break all the laws and suffer no consequences. The poor person just tries to keep her head above water, and is punished for it. That definitely is always the way.
Whilst we’re speaking Biblically, let’s go back to that idea of redemption. Because Wendy (remembered her name!) and Jonah achieved that, and it ended the show perfectly in that respect.
In the Byrde family, Marty and Charlotte were the constants. Marty is the pragmatist; he knows what he’s doing is wrong, and he’s causing violence against the innocents, but his primary concern was always his family. Everything he did was to keep them alive and safe. Charlotte was (as far as it’s possible in the Byrde family) the moral compass. She was a teenage girl just trying to survive her family, like any other teenage girl. Her primary concerns were herself and Jonah, and keeping them alive and safe.
Wendy was fucking nuts! I loved her at first, but the more she started to go off the rails the more fearful I became. The crescendo was the kids deciding to go live with Grandpa; that was Wendy officially losing everything. And whilst her trip to the mental hospital was a ploy to guilt them into coming back, it actually worked in a different way. Wendy spent enough time in there that she finally gained some self-awareness, and saw that the kids weren’t choosing to leave, she was pushing them away. Wendy’s redemption was in realising this, and letting the kids go free. She didn’t want to lose them, she explained, but they needed to do what was right for themselves, not what was right for her. And that acceptance and realisation saved her.
Jonah found his redemption in a much more classic way; down the barrel of a gun. His initial redemption was showing up in the hall in a suit, signifying that he’s attending the family charity gala, aka becoming part of the family again. This would have been enough redemption; Jonah didn’t do too much wrong. And anyway, he’s a teenage boy, so bound to be rebellious and difficult by turns. He didn’t need a huge redemption, and rejoining the family would have been enough.
But there was time for one final twist! Just when it looked like the Byrdes had got away with it, Mel reappeared from Chicago, and knew everything to do with Ben. The gig was finally up, the Byrdes had been beaten. Right? Wrong.
Jonah brought the culmination of his redemption; a shotgun. He pointed it at Mel, and as the screen went black and the credits rolled, we heard a blast. We can never know truly that it was Jonah killing Mel, but really what else could it have been? Jonah achieved his redemption the way so many people have throughout history. He killed the man putting his family in danger.
I loved Ozark, it was a brilliant show. I loved so many aspects of it, but one of the main ones is how feminist it is. Ruth and Wendy were absolutely the two best characters throughout the show. Even when Wendy went off the rails and I found myself turning against her, she was compelling as fuck. And Ruth, I always wanted Ruth to win. She deserved to win. She was a poor person stuck in a shitty situation, and she deserved some help. And she came so close to getting it. Kudos to Julia Garner, her performance from start to finish was impeccable. And kudos to everyone else involved in the show, because it was amazing.
Go rewatch it right now. I’m gonna.