Warning: The following contains spoilers for the “Ozark” Season 4 Part 1 Finale.
The fourth and final season of “Ozark” may be split in half, but the finale for Season 4, Part 1 sure packed a lot of punches – and a couple of shocking deaths. The first seven episodes of the final season were released on Jan. 21, and they barrel towards not so much a conclusion but a cliffhanger, after which viewers certainly have plenty of questions. Luckily, TheWrap recently spoke with showrunner Chris Mundy about the explosive events of the finale ending and what we can expect in the final seven episodes.
The first episode of the final season introduces a new antagonist for the Byrdes, Navarro’s nephew Javier (Alfonso Herrera), and he’s as unpredictable as he is untrusting of the Byrdes. When Navarro cedes control of his empire to Javier in a bid to make a deal with the FBI (and thus take down his nephew with the cartel), Javier takes it upon himself to get all up in the Byrdes’ business – which includes killing the competition by murdering Darlene Snell (Lisa Emery) in cold blood. Unlucky for Wyatt (Charlie Tahan), Darlene’s boyfriend is with her at the time, and he takes a bullet to the head.
Mundy revealed that Darlene’s death was an early part of their plans for the final season, but Wyatt’s death was an idea hit upon later. “If this was Season 2, we wouldn’t have [killed Wyatt],” Mundy confessed. “But knowing we’re kind of hurtling down toward the end, it helped make the decision to include Wyatt it in that so that the impact on Ruth could be the maximum impact it was in that finale.”
The showrunner said the impact of Wyatt’s death will be addressed in the first episode of Season 4 – Part 2 (a premiere date for which has not yet been revealed), as the finale leaves us with the cliffhanger of Ruth driving furiously to confront Javier.
And Javier will be sticking around, as the Byrdes’ plan to bust up the cartel is sidelined when Maya takes it upon herself to arrest Navarro. Mundy says Navarro will still be a major part of the back half of Season 4, and as for Maya’s decision to ignore her bosses and arrest Navarro, that was borne out of the character’s moral fiber. “Everybody is morally compromised to some degree and some people obviously way more than others, except for Maya,” Mundy explained. “And I think in one way it’s Maya’s strength, and then it’s also Maya’s Achilles heel.”
Read on to find out more about Wendy’s dark storyline, Navarro’s reaction to the Byrdes’ seeming betrayal, that flashback, what to expect in the final seven episodes and if an “Ozark” spinoff is on the way.
First and foremost, I wanted to ask about the decision to kill Darlene and Wyatt. As I was watching the season, I was like, “Man, is Darlene the most dangerous person on this show?” And then she finally gets her comeuppance in this really shocking way.
Chris Mundy: Yeah. As with a lot of things on the show, our goal is always to have something surprise you, but then if you think about it, you’re like, “Oh wait, no, that’s inevitable. Of course.” That was like, “Javi said he was going to do that in the first episode, why am I surprised that he did it in the seventh episode?” If we can pull that off in storytelling, we feel like we’re doing a decent job. So, the Darlene thing we always knew was going to happen. We sort of built it to happen the second that came out of Javi’s mouth in episode one.
What wasn’t a plan, the thing that sort of evolved a bit was the Wyatt part of it as well. And I’d said this once before, but if this was Season 2, we wouldn’t have [killed Wyatt]. But knowing we’re kind of hurtling down toward the end, it helped make the decision to include Wyatt it in that so that the impact on Ruth could be the maximum impact it was in that finale. And obviously that’s the jumping off point for the final seven episodes.
And Julia Garner’s performance is incredible in that moment. You’ve never really seen Ruth like that before. And it’s just really devastating.
I mean, we’ve put poor Ruth through the wringer, but it’s by far the most raw we’ve ever seen her.
You said you guys knew you were going to kill off Darlene. So when did you hit upon the endpoint for these seven episodes would be Ruth driving towards Javier?
Pretty soon in the beginning of the break, I think. We were originally laying it out as 10 episodes and then pretty quickly we were laying it out as 14, and once that gave us the freedom to know that we could reach that as a middle point instead of a later point, that’s when we made the decision, because it really informs a lot of what becomes the first episode of the final seven. So once that happened, which was probably four weeks into the writer’s room – and in those four weeks there were a lot of things we knew. Like, I knew the Jonah thing was going to be a big part of it, but you start kind of blue skying all this stuff and Javi wasn’t originally in the mix on Day 1, but we kind of quickly came to him. And once we realized almost the math of it, that okay, we’re going to be seven in, then that seems exactly right. That’s when we made the Wyatt decision just because of the impact on Ruth.
Then of course you have another surprise, which is that Maya arrests Navarro. What’s she thinking there? How did you guys hit upon that?
For me, I kind of always knew that was going to happen. In our show, everybody is morally compromised to some degree and some people obviously way more than others, except for Maya. And I think in one way it’s Maya’s strength, and then it’s also Maya’s Achilles heel that she has her ideals and she has her code and she’s not going to deviate from it, even if her bosses insist that she does. So I just loved the idea that this world is compromised. The FBI is willing to get in this business and she’s basically being told to grow up and be compromised. The way we built that character from the beginning could not have lived with herself if she didn’t do it. So to me it was like one of the few small victories for the people that aren’t corruptible in the show, and there are not a whole lot those in our show.
It feels like the relationship between the Byrdes and Navarro may be irreparably broken. Was that kind of the goal there? I mean, that final scene between the Byrdes and Navarro is really kind of quietly devastating terms of how it lays bare the lengths to which the Byrdes have gone now into their criminal enterprise and what they’re willing to use as intimidation.
People change incrementally, they don’t change all at one. And obviously Marty and Wendy, in a way there’s a sense of Wendy growing into herself and in another way, Marty changing. I think Navarro recognizes Wendy almost better than Marty does in a strange way. So, I think that’s why there’s such disappointment from Navarro. I will say that he understands. Navarro understands all of it. He was going to take out his own nephew, his sister’s son. So I think he’s as mad at himself as he is at Marty and Wendy, because I think there’s a tiny piece of him that didn’t believe that they might do something that would land him in jail, or keep him in jail. And I think that little piece of humanity in him, in a way, made him take his guard down. So I think that’s interesting, but he will not disappear from the second half of the season.
I wanted to ask you about Wendy’s arc this season as well because it’s very surprising and pretty dark for her as well, to the point that she’s willing to risk her own son going to jail. I was wondering kind of how the construction of her arc came about and if you guys had any conflict about that, and how Laura felt about it.
Everybody was pretty on board with all that, and Laura certainly was. I think there’s a feeling where we operated from and I talked to Laura a bunch about it, and we talked to all the writers talked about it, is with Wendy having done the worst thing that she could ever possibly do, which is let her brother be killed, that with her psychology, she was going to have to have not only success, but almost triumphant success in order to feel like it wasn’t all for nothing. So rather than retreating, she was going to put on blinders and just almost become manic in her need to justify what she did, because otherwise she wasn’t going to be able to live with herself. I mean, it practically would be, I need to succeed or I need to kill myself. And there is absolutely no middle ground. So we just sort of operated from there, so there’s sort of a desperation in everything she does. And even the idea of being willing to get Jonah arrested is out of a desperation to save him in her way. It’s just obviously very messed up psychology.
It felt almost quaint to go back to Season 1 a little bit in this finale with the flashbacks there as Marty is kind of fantasizing about the world before and all the big plans that he had. I was wondering how that touch came about.
It happened in two different ways. One, I just sort of felt like if the goal is to make it back to Chicago in some way, and so it’s circular, then revisiting that and reminding us of that felt right. Even if their life in Chicago was a bit of a lie, they’re chasing getting back to that lie in a strange way. So it just felt natural to physically remind people of that. And then the other thing was, that piece of footage of Marty trimming the tomato plants and calling Bruce on the phone about the office space is literally the first thing we shot day one of “Ozark.” First shot, day one. So there was something really nice about that, because for all of us, we were all getting pretty sentimental as we got to the end of the show. We were all tired and needing the season to be over and also desperately not wanting it to all be over. So there was something about that feeling as a reminder, just to what we’d all been through as a group. So the two things kind of happened, one in fiction and one in real life at the same time.
What can you tease fans about the last batch of the final seven episodes and how far along are you guys on that in post and everything?
We are done. It is locked and gone.
Oh wow. So you’re just sitting here waiting for it to go out into the world.
Yeah. I can say we’re going to dive in sort of the way that I was saying, that Marty and Wendy said they had to burrow into the heart of the cartel to get out the other side, we’re going to sort of burrow as deep into the marriage, and the family, and then Ruth’s relationship with them and whether or not they’re somebody that gave the whole world to her or someone who decimated her world – because in some ways the Byrdes are both. So she’s going to grapple with that and we’re going to get deep into what’s best for a marriage. And hopefully it’s still going to be fun in the way that, to whatever degree, hopefully we’re fun, but I think we’re really going to concentrate on that in the back in the final seven.
Given how popular the show has been, have there ever been discussions about any kind of spinoff or continuation or is this kind of the end of the road?
No, I hear those questions a fair amount, and I know that there are definitely people who have talked about it. I can say truly that there’s nothing definitive, but that it’s been broached by people. But it’s just still in the question mark stages on all fronts.