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‘Ozark’ Season 3 Ending Explained
Warning the following contains spoilers for Ozark season three.
Before we start, let’s pour one out for our beloved enterprising therapist, Sue Shelby, who might be the greatest character Ozark—or, any television series, really—has ever seen. If she had lived to see Season Four, there’s no doubt in my mind that she would’ve overtaken Helen Pierce and the Byrdes, assuming her rightful place alongside Omar Navarro as a cookie-baking, always-smiling drug lord. Moment of silence. Thank you.
Now, let’s get to it. After three seasons, Ozark finally reached the point it’s been aiming toward since its pilot debuted nearly three years ago, finishing the journey that began with Marty Byrde on his knees, gun to his head, inventing a plan to launder the Navarro cartel’s drug money in the Ozarks. That finish line? It’s the last thing we see in the Season Three finale, with Wendy and Marty embracing Omar Navarro, presumably with the green light to keep dividing and conquering Missouri, with Helen Pierce out of the picture. With that, you can pretty much write Season Four yourself, at this point—Marty and Wendy, dealin’ with Omar 24/7—which might not be the best thing for the series going forward.
First off, if you had any question about it, the Byrdes have finally broken bad. Wendy had her bipolar brother, Ben, killed, Marty choked out whatever part of himself wanted to take the FBI’s deal, Jonah pointed a freaking loaded shotgun at Helen Pierce, and Charlotte can’t hide a smirk when she does her best impression of her mother shaking someone down. It’s something we rarely see in crime stories—what happens when the entire family goes from white-collar to all-in on a life of criminal activity? The Byrdes, in that way, have finally met up with the Langmores, who were like The Incredibles of backwoods crime when we first met them.
Helen Pierce, Navarro cartel lawyer, giver of stone cold stares.
Speaking of, how about the future of the Langmore fam? Is it Langsnells now? Snellmores? After Ruth quits working for Marty and Wendy following Ben’s death, Darlene Snell makes a play at rebuilding her drug enterprise, shooting Frank Jr.’s dick off to earn Ruth’s trust. After mostly being used as comic relief (or whatever purpose the her relationship with Wyatt was supposed to serve) throughout Season Three, the final episode promised a future rival to the Byrdes, built from the fragments of the family’s old rivals, made up of the Langmores, Snells, and the Kansas City mob.
Now, the big question: Why did Omar Navarro kill Helen Pierce instead of one of the Byrdes? First off, even though he said otherwise, it seems like Wendy having her brother killed really did prove her loyalty to Navarro. As for Helen, all of that shiftiness—mainly, trying to reverse everything the Byrdes worked for—probably caused too much trouble for the cartel leader in the end.
The only other major loose end? It’s what Special Agent Maya Miller will do with the information Marty gave her about Navarro’s rival cartel. We last see her in Marty’s office, saying she’ll think it over, and later trying to convince him to not to meet Navarro in Mexico. But really, if we’re going with the show’s thesis—if you’re in the game, anywhere on the court, really—she’s violating some moral principle no matter what she does.
Did that sound like a lot for a finale? It was. But still, something felt off. When Ozark debuted, its twists, turns, and double-downs were genuinely surprising—even with Breaking Bad still fresh in viewers’ minds, which had a similar nuclear-family-goes-rogue premise. When Marty pulled up to the towering apartment building where Gary, the man Wendy was having an affair with lived, only to see him soaring from the building into the ground, that felt out of nowhere. Same goes for when Ruth, in Season One, murder members of her own family to save her money-laundering boss. Ozark, back then, felt new, and it had no rules, so you always felt like anyone could drop at any second, even if it was a niece-on-uncle killing. But the best shows rewrite their rules before you even have a chance to adjust to the old ones.
That’s why, in Season Three, Ozark felt like—to keep this season’s casino theme—it finally overplayed its hand. In the first new episodes, Ozark set up a twist that would’ve fundamentally changed the show: Marty taking the FBI’s deal and Wendy growing closer with Omar Navarro, all leading to the long-anticipated war between the two—on different sides of the law. Instead, Marty returned to Mexico as the Marty we always knew, a cool, calm accountant stuck in the same old shit. And instead of dipping back into whatever humanity she had left, Wendy just became more Wendy. Money, power, the slow and steady increase of the things she’s willing to do to get what she wants.
We knew Wendy would kill her brother, because that’s what the show taught us it would do. For that same reason, we knew someone would die when Marty, Wendy, and Helen arrived in Mexico—and it wouldn’t be Marty or Wendy. Hopefully, Season Four will deliver something truly unexpected. In Sue Shelby’s words: Trust the process.