SPOILER ALERT: The following story contains complete plot spoilers for season 3 of Ozark. Stop reading now if you do not want to be spoiled.
The third season of Ozark was the show's best, and the finale was filled with twists and turns.
Major deaths, power plays, and more could shape the future of the show.
Here's our breakdown of the ending, and what we think it could mean for what's coming next.
After two seasons of their crime operation evolving and growing, Ozark's Marty (played by Jason Bateman) and Wendy Byrde (played by Laura Linney) have come to an impasse by season 3. While they initially started laundering money through the low stakes world of a local resort and strip club, their money is now moving on a much larger scale, as the family operates not just one but multiple casinos. This involves not only the overlooking eye of the Navarro drug cartel, but also increased attention from the FBI and a partnership with the Kansas City Mob. To put it simply? In Ozark's season 3, sh*t gets serious.
And by the season finale, the characters have to figure out a way to sort out the mess that all of those different moving pieces make. This is part of what makes Ozark's third season the show's strongest yet, though: While Ozark's first and second season had moments that waded a bit, slowly moving toward the finish line, each step of season 3 was impeccably paced. Each hour-long episode flowed into the next, and the drama was appropriately ramped up from episode to episode, until the storylines reached that explosive conclusion.
Here, we break down how each major character ended up by the season 3 finale—and what this ending could mean for future seasons.
While much of this season saw Marty and Wendy Byrde working in coordination with Helen Pierce (played by Janet McTeer) for the Navarro cartel as their new casino businesses began to take off, things rapidly dissolve into a Marty and Wendy vs. Helen face-off, as the competing parties fought for survival by season's end.
In the season 3 finale, Omar Navarro greets Marty, Wendy, and Helen, before Nelson the hitman unexpectedly shoots Helen in the head. As Marty and Wendy are stunned—and covered in Helen's blood spatter—Omar (played by Felix Solis) embraces them. There's no longer a middle-man (or, in this case, middle-woman) between them. They are now dealing directly with the top man of the cartel. They are deeper in the shit than ever before.
A major question about this season's ending, though, is why, exactly, Navarro had Helen killed. Despite her attempts to make it seem like they were all moving past everything, Helen was still setting the Byrde family up to take the fall. She was manufacturing a confession of Marty against Omar (which was in the FBI's hands) and was also fast-tracking her own casino licenses; she was trying to take over the Byrdes' businesses. We saw her talking this plan over with Omar, and perhaps he has a source inside the FBI and saw all of her duplicitous acts. That could have inspired his attempt to start over fresh with the Byrdes.
Remember, as much as he yelled at Wendy for constantly calling him throughout the season, they did develop a relationship. When she had her mentally-ill brother Ben Davis—a season 3 newcomer played by Tom Pelphrey —killed in an attempt to clean up yet another mess and prove her loyalty, that may have actually proven something to Omar, who also just saw his own family killed by the rival cartel during the violent baptism scene.
Season 3 of Ozark continued the evolution and immersion of Jonah (Skylar Gaertner) and Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz) into the criminal world that the family exists in. Jonah, in particular, went through a further transformation; after losing the old man, Buddy, in the last season, who had become his best friend, he grew close to Wendy's brother, Ben, and lost him in season 3. This culminated in something we'd seen building through the show's three seasons: he broke into Helen's house and threatened her with a big gun. We saw him buy this gun (through Tuck) back in season 1, and we saw his sharpshooting on display earlier in the season, when he shot three beer bottles (before the cops arrived). He didn't end up shooting Helen, but we fully felt the rage and anger that he was able to. The season 3 finaleproved that Jonah is further down the rabbit hole than anyone ever could have expected.
While Charlotte wasn't as involved directly in any violence as Jonah was, she also continued her immersion into the business, working directly with Wendy and Helen in the family's office for the entirety of the season; she was also tasked with what eventually proved to be a fruitless endeavor of shielding Helen's daughter from the realities of what their parents do: working for the Navarro cartel.
By the end of season 3, Charlotte was so versed in the family's business—and laundering money—that Wendy entirely trusted her to get the job done when they were flying to Mexico for who knows how long. When the show returns for season 4, we might see Charlotte ever further advanced in criminal enterprising.
The Langmore and Snell Families
Perhaps the weirdest part of Ozark's third season—seriously—was the intertwining of the Snell and Langmore families. After Darlene (Lisa Emery) killed her husband in season 2, she was alone for the start of season 3, but before long linked up with Wyatt Langmore (Charlie Tahan), who was refusing the money from Ruth (Julia Garner) to attend college and squatting in a big neighborhood house. Eventually, he found Darlene and began working on her farm, and before long entered into a romantic relationship with her.
This was obviously disturbing, and while he's not underage, she's still old enough to be his grandmother. It was an obvious case of Darlene taking advantage of Wyatt's youth and naivety, and seeing a character that we know from previous seasons as smart and kind fall down this hole was painful.
In the finale, though, we see Ruth break with the Byrde family and eventually find her way to Darlene's farm. Darlene, putting a big emphasis on the local-born aspect of things, seems to have convinced Ruth to join her re-planted farm (after shooting Frank Cosgrove Jr. in the crotch). Additionally, Darlene has the Kansas City Mob on her side after they were cut loose by the Byrdes. She is building a fairly powerful coalition entering Season 4, and it's frightening to know what could happen with that unpredictable woman having power behind her.
Perhaps the most interesting angle in all of this was the dynamic that developed between Marty and his new FBI contact, Special Agent Maya Miller (Jessica Frances Dukes). While she was ostensibly there to regulate the new casino business, eventually their relationship became a tug back and forth—Maya trying to get Marty to serve 18 months for an unrelated crime and help the FBI, and Marty trying to turn Maya to help him and his cartel business. It was a new and welcomed dynamic to see a more even-handed back-and-forth after the sociopathic style of Agent Petty in the show's first two seasons.
By the end of the season, when Helen had gone to Agent Trevor Evans (McKinley Belcher III)—serving as Marty's counsel—Maya got word and tipped Marty off, allowing him to deny that he was going to be testifying against Navarro.
With Navarro killing Helen in the season 3 finale, there's an idea that Agent Evans—or someone else—could be tipping Navarro off on the inner happenings at the FBI. How else would he know about Helen's duplicitous plotting? Or maybe he didn't and was just tired of the messiness. If that's the case, when he does find out about Helen setting Marty up, that could be an even bigger problem for the Byrdes come season 4.
So what's next?
That's the big question. Obviously, the final moment of season 3—Helen being murdered and Omar embracing the Byrdes—will be at the top of things to address in season 4. On top of this traumatic event, both Byrdes will also be in a compromised situation from other events, too. After having Cade Langmore (Trevor Long) killed at the end of season 2, Wendy has now upped the game even more in needing to have her own brother killed. Marty, having flirted with the FBI all season long, has now fully doubled down, getting directly into bed with Navarro.
In future episodes, Ozark will have to continue upping the game. That means increased FBI scrutiny on the Byrde family, and it means direct contact from Omar in the family's Byrde Enterprise operations.
And that's not even to mention whatever Darlene is cooking up at her farm. She's got Ruth on her side, and Ruth is obviously the most important player in the Ozark game. While Wendy is an essential piece to the show, you could make a compelling argument that the Marty-Ruth relationship is the show's most important—it's hard to imagine they stay separated for too long. But with Darlene's operation coming together, and more and more moving pieces involved over there, it will certainly create for a compelling plot for the seasons to come. With so many people watching Ozark, it'll be exciting to see just how everything plays out.
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