Since the very first episode, “Ozark” has always been a show about a family trying to stick together under the most extreme circumstances. But for the Netflix series’ final episodes, showrunner Chris Mundy wanted to make the series become even more about family.
The fourth and final season of the show is being split into two halves of seven episodes each, and the first batch – dubbed “Ozark” Season 4 – Part 1 – debut on Netflix Friday, Jan. 21. Speaking with TheWrap recently, Mundy revealed that as he and the writers began plotting out the show’s endgame, they wanted to focus in on the Byrde family. “We really wanted to circle back in on ourselves and have it become more intensely about the family as we go forward,” Mundy said. “I mean, to me the show – for all the crazy situations and death – is most itself when we’re at the Byrdes’ dinner table and they’re having what would be mundane family conversations, yet they’re so crazy because it’s this extreme situation. And so to me that’s kind of the heart and soul.”
The relationship between Jason Bateman’s Marty and Laura Linney’s Wendy is central not only to the series, but to how the writers plot out each season’s story. “We always break the show in terms of the marriage,” Mundy said. “So to me, the more we go forward, it’s more about the family and Jonah’s place in the family and Ruth figuring out her place in the Byrdes’ life, what she wants, are they the enemy or are they the people that kind of pulled her up?”
As for Marty and Wendy’s relationship in Season 4, which picks up immediately after Helen was murdered by Navarro right in front of them, they begin the season closer than ever… at least at first. “There’s sort of the moment where in the finale of Season 3, when Marty basically talks Wendy into getting out of the bed and not falling into a deep depression and says, ‘We’re just going to burrow into the heart of this thing and get out the other side.’ And I think there was this realization that so much of Season 3 was kind of Marty versus Wendy, and it’s not going to work if they’re not together. So I do think it’s the most together they’ve been as we start this season. But because it’s a story about marriage and family, suddenly the Jonah problem is causing a rift in terms of the way they parent. Obviously it’s extreme because of the nature of the show.”
Indeed, the Byrde children become key to this in Season 4 as Jonah, heartbroken over the death of his uncle in Season 3, blames his parents for the tragic situation and begins to pull away. “It’s really about, can the center hold, and Jonah really represented that center,” Mundy explained. “Because Charlotte had doubts and wasn’t really wanting to be part of it, but Jonah was kind of always onboard. So to potentially lose him begs the question of what are we trying to hold onto? That’s an emotional question, so we wanted to dive into it. And those little marriage cracks start to happen. They’re happening as this season goes on and then the second half they continue to happen.”
Speaking of the second half, Mundy revealed that the second batch of episodes – the final episodes of “Ozark” – are locked and completed, awaiting release by Netflix sometime later this year. As for why the final season was split in half, the decision came about as Mundy and his team were trying to decide whether the show would end with Season 4 or Season 5. “Then Netflix hit upon the idea of saying, ‘We’ll [end with Season 4] but we’ll make it long. We’ll split it in this way,’ and that felt perfect,” Mundy explained. “It was a way we could make these seven episodes feel complete and make the second seven feel complete, even though it’s all one continuum. So, I think 10 wouldn’t have been enough to tell the story in the way we wanted to. Any number over 10 and under 20 was going to be good in my book.”
“Ozark Season 4 – Part 1” premieres on Netflix on Jan. 21.