Three seasons have passed since unassuming financial advisor Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) cheated death by offering to launder money for a Mexican cartel in the Ozarks. Three seasons of putting out fires, dealing with local criminals, and playing cat and mouse with the FBI. Three seasons over which the Byrdes transformed from an average nuclear family to a quartet of ruthless individuals willing to do whatever it takes to survive.
(Warning: Major spoilers ahead)
“Ozark” Season 3, which aired in March 2020, ended with the Byrdes at the top of their game after cartel leader Omar Navarro (Felix Solis) chose them over his lawyer, Helen Pierce (Janet McTeer). Getting there required numerous sacrifices in the form of money, alliances and lives – and not just from Marty and Wendy (Laura Linney). Major players like Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner), Darlene Snell (Lisa Emery) and everyone else in the Byrdes’ orbit seemed to pay a price last season.
With the first half of “Ozark” Season 4 debuting on Netflix Jan. 21, here’s a refresher on everything you need to remember from “Ozark” Season 3 – its main characters, plot points and that shocking season finale.
Wendy and Marty on the Brink Of War
The Navarro and Lagunas cartels are at war in Mexico, but there’s a battle brewing in the Byrde home as well. After opening the Missouri Belle casino as a new laundering front, Wendy wants to expand the business, but Marty thinks it’s too risky. Wendy and Helen (Janet McTeer) meet with Navarro anyway, and he approves the plan to buy another casino, the Big Muddy, from a couple named Anita (Marceline Hugot) and Carl (Adam LeFevre) Knarlson.
Marty sabotages the proposal by dissuading Carl and then paying Kansas City Mob boss Frank Cosgrove, Sr. (John Bedford Lloyd) to set the Knarlson’s competitor’s boat on fire. Now that her rival has been eliminated, Anita declines Wendy and Helen’s offer.
Once she learns that Marty ordered the fire, Wendy gets revenge by closing the Big Muddy for renovations, preventing him and Ruth from laundering there. She continues pressuring Carl to sell, leading to an argument with Anita that ends with her falling to her death. Marty eavesdrops on a phone call between Wendy and Navarro using monitoring software; when Navarro realizes this, he orders his men to kidnap Marty and bring him to Mexico.
Don’t Mess With Wendy Byrde
Wendy blows through Season 3 like a hurricane, steadily gathering power and obliterating anyone who stands in her way. Her ambition and decisiveness win the respect of Navarro and Helen, allowing her to sidestep and occasionally derail Marty’s objectives. As part of a new laundering tactic, she persuades clueless employee Sam (Kevin L. Johnson) to purposefully lose large sums of money at the casino, which she repays him for in cash.
Season 3 also sees the escalation of a fierce rivalry between Wendy and Darlene Snell, rooted in the latter taking custody of baby Zeke in Season 2. Early in Season 3, Wendy provokes Darlene into hitting her, providing grounds for a custody hearing.
The Odd Couple: Darlene and Wyatt
At the top of Season 3, Wyatt Langmore (Charlie Tahan) turned to petty crime after having a fallout with his cousin Ruth. When he ends up in jail, Darlene posts his bail and hires him to work on her farm. Darlene decides to start producing heroin again, against the cartel’s wishes.
Later, Wyatt lies at the custody hearing, allowing Darlene to retain custody of Zeke. Wyatt and Darlene eventually begin a romantic relationship, which Ruth tries unsuccessfully to stop.
Ben and Ruth
Wendy’s brother Ben Davis (Tom Pelphrey), who has bipolar disorder, moves in with the Byrdes following a violent episode at work. Once the cartel abducts Marty, Ben learns the truth about who they work for. Ruth brings Ben into the laundering operation at the Missouri Belle, and the two strike up a romance.
Ben stops taking his medication after he and Ruth get together, leading to increasingly erratic behavior. He gets drunk at a bar and strikes another customer, then punches Marty at the launch party for the Byrde’s charity, landing him in a state mental hospital. Darlene gets him released on Ruth’s behalf.
Ruth vs. Frank Cosgrove Jr.
There’s another well-matched pair of enemies in Ruth and Frank Cosgrove Jr. (Joseph Sikora), who works for his father. Their fiery personalities clash immediately; Episode 1 ends with Ruth pushing Frank off the Missouri Belle after he acts out at a poker game.
Frank Jr. gets back at Ruth by having his employees kidnap her and rough her up; Ben responds by covering Frank Jr.’s car in birdseed, attracting a flock of birds that inflict serious damage. Frank Jr. then retaliates with an attack that lands Ruth in the hospital, causing Marty to end his business dealings with Frank Sr. Ruth gets the last word when Darlene shoots Frank Jr. in the genitals during the season finale.
Ruth and Frank Jr. also clash over business, as Ruth represents Marty’s interests and Frank Jr. represents those of his father, who facilitates the distribution and cash flow for the cartel. At one of the cash drops, Lagunas cartel operatives blow up Frank Jr.’s truck and kill his men, but he and Ruth survive.
The Cartel and the FBI
Omar Navarro has a lot on his plate between his war with the Lagunas cartel and expanding his foothold in the Ozarks. Wendy and Marty leverage his conflict with the Lagunas to get the upper hand in their relationship with the FBI, which is auditing the Byrdes’ various businesses.
At first, Marty accepts Agent Maya Miller’s (Jessica Frances Dukes) offer to work for the FBI following an 18-month prison sentence, but after Navarro permits Marty to launder on his own terms, he changes his mind. He pretends to go along with Maya while secretly working on a plan to turn Maya into a double agent for the cartel.
Meanwhile, Navarro instructs the Byrdes to purchase a horse farm, where his operatives castrate a horse owned by the Lagunas.
Wild Cards: Erin Pierce and Ben Davis
Ben isn’t the only new person in town in Season 3. Erin Pierce (Madison Thompson), the teenage daughter of Helen, accompanies her mom to the Ozarks for the summer. Helen’s family is in the dark about who her boss is, and she intends to keep it that way, even as Erin spends time with Jonah and Charlotte, who are fully aware of (and participate in) their parents’ illegal activities.
This drives a wedge between Helen and Wendy, who start off on the same side and slowly become rivals as Helen vies to take over for the Byrdes. Helen has the Byrdes’ therapist killed for knowing too much and grows increasingly irritated about their various setbacks. The rift between Helen and the Byrdes reaches a tipping point when Ben tells Erin that Helen works for the cartel, making Erin a potential target. Helen sends her back to Chicago.
Ruth realizes that Ben is in serious trouble and the Byrdes work frantically to hide his location from Helen. Wendy and Ben go on the run; he calls the police on himself, and when they arrive at the scene Wendy convinces the officers not to arrest him. After he tries to call Helen to apologize, Wendy sees the writing on the wall. She abandons him at a restaurant, where Helen tracks their location and has Ben killed. Wendy and Marty reconcile as she suffers a mental breakdown.
A Bloody Season Finale
In the aftermath of Ben’s death, Ruth cuts ties with the Byrdes. In Mexico, the Lagunas execute a deadly attack on Navarro’s son’s baptism.
Helen and the Byrdes make their cases to Navarro. Marty and Wendy demonstrate their value by providing the FBI with footage of the Cosgrove truck attack from Jonah’s (Skylar Gaertner) drone, resulting in the arrest of key Lagunas operatives. Helen counters by obtaining a copy of the confession Marty made to Agent Miller earlier in the season.
Navarro summons Helen, Marty and Wendy to Mexico. In the finale’s final moments, he has Helen shot and killed. Covered in her blood, he embraces Marty and Wendy and welcomes the dawn of a new era in their partnership.
“Ozark” Season 4 – Part 1 is now streaming on Netflix