‘Ozark’ Creator Says There’s No Ambiguity to the Final Shot in Series Finale: ‘They Get Away With It’

Ozark Season 4
Courtesy of Netflix

SPOILER ALERT: This story contains spoilers for the fourth and final season of “Ozark.”

At the final “Ozark” panel, the series creator and cast finally brought some clarity to the show’s final minutes and the demise of a fan-favorite character.

Speaking at the Netflix-hosted Q&A panel in Hollywood on Friday, the Emmy Award-nominated creator Chris Mundy divulged with his SAG-nominated actors, Jason Bateman and Julia Garner, exactly how and why the series ended with two surprise deaths in the final scenes. 

Mundy explained that finalizing the last 14 episodes brought upon loads of creative strife, as he understood the need to stick to a thematic intention of exploring the Byrdes’ motivation of “building a myth” and how, as a result, they were ultimately “creating a curse.” 

In regards to the final two deaths of the series, first with Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner) and then with Mel Sattem (Adam Rothenberg), Bateman explained, “the Byrdes have to pay a bill of some sort.” After the Byrdes (Bateman, Laura Linney) become liable for the death of their partner, Ruth, the couple watches as their teenage son, Jonah (Skylar Gaertner), kills private investigator, Mel Sattem.

Mundy added, that “it would have been false if there weren’t consequences.” Bateman adds that the finale provided a “bittersweet” ending, that ultimately brought clarity for the audience to finally answer the question, “are the Byrdes going to get away with it or not?”

Bateman says that although “they get away with it,” the Byrdes have received a karmic consequence. Bateman clarifies that the Byrdes have to face how “their son has become a murderer” and how Jonah now has the “scarlet letter.” While the family is free, the Byrdes ruefully end up with blood on their hands.

The final shot of the series has spawned debate on whether Jonah killed his parents along with the private investigator. Mundy clarifies that Jonah murdering a law enforcement agent was in fact the Byrdes’ final punishment and the cinch to the Byrdes’ curse.

Mundy explains that, although the final shot cuts to black with no visual representation of who has been shot, he was still really surprised to hear the audiences’ belief that the final shot was ambiguous on whether Jonah shot his parents rather than Mel.

“Definitively in my mind, and anyone’s free to think whatever they want, but in my mind, he absolutely shot Mel and Mel is dead. And that’s that,” said Mundy. “I just didn’t want to see it. It was over. If you shot him then you’re in the blood and the guts… but the show was over. He did it.”

While the death of Mel was a debate among audiences, the death of Ruth was its own matter for the creator. Mundy wrestled with how to conclude the story of the series’ “favorite character,” revealing that he “didn’t sleep for a week or two,” and “would wake up at four in the morning.” Mundy ultimately concluded that the shocking death “was the right decision for the show,” even though it was difficult for the cast, crew and audience to admit.

“Ruth was almost a stronger character in death than she would have been if she was off living somewhere,” said Mundy. “That was our hope for the show. As everyone’s favorite character — Jason’s favorite character, my favorite character — you just wanted to do it justice.”

Garner adds that she believes the fate of her character was the “best decision Chris could have made.” Clarifying that by part two of season four, “[Ruth] had already died. Her soul died, she was physically here, but in the last four episodes, she was already dead.”

Mundy reveals why one scene from the finale features all of Ruth’s uncles and the dead Langmores. Mundy said he provided the space for audiences to recognize the “feeling of knowing she’s gonna die.” Explaining how he wanted audiences to notice “emotionally, not intellectually” that Ruth would be better off dead because she ends up surrounded by her deceased family members.

“Ozark” was a smash hit for Netflix well into its concluding season. The series hit 78.4 million viewing hours in its premiere week after the release of the final seven episodes. 

“Ozark” has been nominated for four Screen Actors Guild awards. The series previously garnered two SAG awards, one Writers Guild award and four Emmy wins.