Saturday, March 18, 2023

How the ‘Ozark’ Series Finale Failed To Stick the Landing

WARNING: Spoilers ahead!

To me, the finale is guilty of one of the worst writing mistakes possible.

It takes smart characters and makes them dumb, acting contrary to what has been established for the sole purpose of moving the plot forward — probably because the writers didn’t have any better ideas.

I’m not going to give a long synopsis of the show here, and, in writing this article, I’m going to assume you’ve watched at least some of it.

But here is a quick summary: Ozark follows the Byrd family — Marty and Wendy, and their children Charlotte and Jonah. Marty is a financial advisor, but he also launders money for a drug cartel. When forced to flee his hometown of Chicago, he sets up a new operation in the Missouri Ozarks. And things continue to slowly get worse for them.

The show was great, although clearly a wannabe successor to Breaking Bad. It was well-acted and loaded with suspense that kept viewers guessing. It was bordering on brilliant and featured some of Jason Bateman’s best work.

And then they screwed the pooch.

But dumb characters aren’t my only issue with the finale. Let’s look at the problems I had with the last episode.

They Made Ruth Dumb

This is the worst offender of all the problems I have with the finale.

Ruth, wonderfully portrayed by Julia Garner, is not a dumb character. She’s a loose cannon. She loves to swear like a drunken trunk driver. But she has proven repeatedly that she is not dumb. She’s dealt with the cartel several times and knows how dangerous they are. They waterboarded her. She knows she needs to be careful around them.

So why would she not be cautious when she returns home at night and finds a mysterious black SUV parked outside her trailer — an SUV that looks like one that the cartel uses? Why would she do this when she killed the son of the new cartel leader?

She just stands out there waiting. She doesn’t run and hide. She doesn’t get her shotgun to go out fighting. Her actions are completely contrary to how the character has been established over the previous 43 episodes.

It was done to give viewers an unearned shock, and, honestly, it was horribly disrespectful to the show’s best character.

They Made Mel Sattem Dumb

The private investigator proved repeatedly that he is a smart — and tenacious — guy. Colleagues think he was a good detective that made one horrible mistake that cost him his job. So, should we believe that Mel, after breaking into the Byrd’s house to retrieve the cookie jar with Ben’s ashes, would just hang around outside waiting for them to return?

His actions ruin the point of getting the evidence of Ben’s murder. It would be inadmissible because it was obtained illegally. He was a detective. He knows this. Also, he knows the Byrds are dangerous people with connections to other dangerous people. He already suspected that Jonah is capable of killing someone. None of this adds up.

Some Other Problems…

How about Wendy screwing up Senator Schafer’s plans to install rigged voting machines in some states? She was so happy — gloating even — that she was going back on her promise. She thinks he’s going to just let that go. Schafer’s a powerful man with the connections and influence to get a cartel leader removed from a high-security prisoner list so he can then be transferred to Mexico. He already silenced one person about the voting machines, but we’re supposed to believe he won’t retaliate. Sure thing, Wendy.

The teaser trailer showed the Byrds involved in a horrible car accident on the highway, their minivan rolling and tumbling with pieces flying off. It got many people talking online. What did it mean for the main characters we’re so invested in? Well, turns out, absolutely nothing. The scene occurs in the last episode. I completely forgot about seeing it in the trailer, and when I recognized the scene, I immediately anticipated the worst.

It’s quite an accident. The van is totaled. The Byrds have some scrapes and bruises, and…that’s it. It amounts to nothing. Wendy interprets it as a sign that they will ultimately be OK, but most viewers pretty much saw that coming already. It was a cheap shock added to get people talking after watching the trailer.

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