Spoiler warning: This article contains major spoilers for Season 4 of Ozark. If you aren’t caught up yet on the show, please close your browser or put down your paper right now. Go do yourself a favor and go watch it!
One of the best shows on television right now dropped a brand new season earlier last month, with the first 7 of 14 episodes of gritty crime drama Ozark being made available at 3 A.M. on January 21, 2022. The show continues following Marty Byrde (Jason Batemam) as he launders money for the Navarro Cartel in rural Missouri and struggles to keep his family alive against the cartel’s high expectations and an ever-present FBI. I personally binged the entire 7 episodes in one night, and suggest anyone with the free time to do the same.
In my opinion, the character development in the show is what sets it apart from others. This can be particularly seen in Jonah (Skylar Gaertner), the youngest Byrde and wunderkind of the family, who has developed a strong sense of right and wrong, having correctly called out his mother for killing off his mentally-ill uncle Ben (Tom Pelphry). However, he also seems content to assist Byrde-ally-turned-enemy Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner) in laundering money against his parent’s wishes, having improved upon his father’s money laundering software. Jonah is living proof that characters in the Ozark universe are not black-or-white, and that people are more complex and complicated than they initially seem.
This season continues the trend of introducing new and deeply compelling characters with every new season. The standouts are Javi Elizondro (Alfonso Herrera) and Mel Sattem (Adam Rothenberg). Javi is a cartel member and the nephew of Bryde ally and cartel leader Omar Navarro (Felix Solis). Javi is extremely impatient and impulsive and takes up the mantle of “cartel watchdog” on the Bryde’s business in the Ozarks and reminds me of Del, the main antagonist from Season 1, as well as Lalo from Better Call Saul. I think the introduction of Javi and his implied comparison to Del is a great decision by the writers, especially given that Del was killed by heroin grower Darlene Snell (Lisa Emery), who was in turn killed by Javi in episode 7 of this season.
Mel Sattem is a ex-cop and Private Investigator who wants to help facilitate the divorce of slain cartel lawyer Helen Pierce (Janet McTeer), who was killed by the cartel at the end of Season 3 after she became at odds with the Byrde family. Mel has a drug problem and was removed from the Police force after being found in an evidence locker doing cocaine and talks with an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor during one episode. Mel is relentless in trying to find Helen and is convinced that the Byrdes had something to do with it, making him a constant pain in their side. Mel reminds me of FBI Agent Roy Petty, who also was a workaholic with a drug problem and a haunted past. Agent Petty was killed in Season 2, and his death along Del’s and their subsequent replacement with similar characters helps expertly show the unique theme that Ozark pushes that other similar shows, such as Breaking Bad and The Sopranos get wrong – which is that you cannot kill your way out of trouble.
Finally, I think this season is so great because it finally reveals the “endgame” that the Byrdes are playing for, which is a tone shift in itself. The majority of the show has focused on Marty’s in-the-moment decision making and his desire to survive against whatever the current problem is facing the family. However, in this season, his wife, Wendy (Laura Linney) reveals that she wants national political influence for them, and begins buying politicians in the region after securing a $150 million grant from a pharmaceutical company pushing opioids.
Additionally, the Byrdes facilitate a deal between the FBI and Omar Navarro, giving them an out to the cartel that they have desired throughout the series and haven’t been quite able to maneuver towards. However, they still have many problems ahead of them, having to deal with new antagonists Javi and Ruth, repair the familial damage that their constant lies have done, and deal with Mel and other characters’ poking around their loose threads. According to Lauren Puckett-Pope, an Associate Editor at Elle.com, the show would need to release the final episode by May 31 to be eligible to win an Emmy in 2022 at the highly-sought after awards show. I therefore think it is fair to expect the last seven episodes and highly-anticipated series finale of the show to drop in late April or early May. I cannot wait to see how this phenomenal show chooses to end it’s story!