WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the fourth and concluding season of “Ozark.”
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During the ultimate “Ozark” panel discussion, the series’ creator and cast members finally shed light on the concluding moments of the show and the fate of a beloved character.
At a Netflix-hosted Q&A panel held in Hollywood on Friday, Chris Mundy, the Emmy Award-nominated creator, along with SAG-nominated actors Jason Bateman and Julia Garner, provided insights into the reasons behind the unexpected deaths of two characters in the show’s final scenes.
Mundy elaborated on the challenges of wrapping up the last 14 episodes, acknowledging the creative conflicts that arose. He emphasized the importance of adhering to the thematic essence of the Byrde family’s ambition to “construct a legend” and how, in doing so, they unwittingly “forged a curse.”
Regarding the pivotal deaths in the series, starting with Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner) and followed by Mel Sattem (Adam Rothenberg), Jason Bateman explained, “The Byrdes have a debt to settle.” After the Byrdes (portrayed by Bateman and Laura Linney) find themselves responsible for the demise of their associate, Ruth, they witness their teenage son, Jonah (Skylar Gaertner), taking the life of the private investigator, Mel Sattem.
Chris Mundy added that it would have been unrealistic if there were no repercussions. Bateman went on to describe the series finale as having a “bittersweet” conclusion, one that offers much-needed clarity to the audience regarding the question of whether “the Byrdes will escape unscathed or not.”
Bateman emphasized that while “they do escape,” the Byrde family still faces a karmic consequence. He pointed out that they must grapple with the fact that “their son has become a murderer,” and Jonah now carries the metaphorical “scarlet letter.” Even though they are free, the Byrdes can’t escape the guilt of having blood on their hands.
The concluding scene of the series has sparked debates about whether Jonah killed not only the private investigator but also his own parents. Chris Mundy, however, offers clarification by asserting that Jonah’s act of killing a law enforcement agent marked the final retribution and sealed the Byrde family’s tragic fate.
Mundy goes on to explain that even though the last shot fades to black without a visual confirmation of the victim, he was genuinely surprised to hear the audience’s belief that the scene left room for ambiguity, suggesting Jonah might have shot his parents instead of Mel.
“In my mind, definitively, and anyone can interpret it as they wish, but in my view, he unequivocally shot Mel, and Mel is deceased. That’s the bottom line,” stated Mundy. “I simply didn’t want to depict it. It was over. If you show him shooting Mel, then you’re immersed in the gore and aftermath… but the series had reached its conclusion. He did it.”
While Mel’s death was a topic of debate among viewers, the demise of Ruth posed a unique challenge for the creator. Chris Mundy grappled with how to conclude the story of the series’ beloved character, admitting that it left him sleepless for weeks, waking up at four in the morning. Ultimately, Mundy came to the difficult decision that this shocking death “was the right choice for the show,” even though it was a tough pill to swallow for the cast, crew, and audience alike.
Mundy explained, “Ruth’s character became even more powerful in death than she would have been if she were off living elsewhere. That was our aspiration for the show. As the favorite character of everyone—Jason’s favorite character, my favorite character—we just wanted to do her justice.”
Julia Garner chimed in, expressing her belief that the fate of her character was “the best decision Chris could have made.” She clarified that by the second part of season four, “[Ruth] had essentially already passed away. Her spirit had withered, and even though she was physically present, in the last four episodes, she was already a walking ghost.”
Mundy sheds light on the significance of a particular scene in the finale, featuring all of Ruth’s uncles and deceased Langmores. He explained that he wanted to create a moment for the audience to intuitively sense the impending tragedy of Ruth’s death. By presenting her surrounded by her departed family members, he aimed for viewers to grasp this emotionally rather than rationally, emphasizing that Ruth’s fate was such that she would be better off deceased.
“Ozark” remained a resounding success for Netflix throughout its concluding season. The series garnered a staggering 78.4 million viewing hours during its debut week following the release of the final seven episodes.
The acclaim for “Ozark” is further evident in its nominations for four Screen Actors Guild awards. The series previously secured two SAG awards, one Writers Guild award, and four Emmy victories.