Ozark: The Byrde Family’s 10 Closest Calls So Far

Things get real tense out in Missouri.

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Cultured Vultures spoilers

The fourth and final season of Netflix crime drama Ozark is halfway done, and things aren’t looking good for the Byrde family. When Season 4 – Part 1 dropped last month it teased that a seemingly fatal car accident is in store for Byrde patriarch Marty, his wife Wendy, and their children, Charlotte and Jonah. We’ll have to wait until Ozark Season 4 – Part 2 arrives later this year to know for sure, but based on the state of their upturned minivan, the Byrdes’ chances of survival look slim, at best.

And yet, this wouldn’t be the first time the Byrde family emerged from a supposedly impossible scenario unscathed. Over the course of Ozark’s 37 episodes to date, this criminal household has repeatedly escaped everything from imminent incarceration to certain death without breaking stride. So, while we wait to see if the Byrde family will sidestep disaster yet again in Ozark Season 4 – Part 2, here’s a round-up of their closest calls in the show so far.


10. Marty Makes A Proposition

Marty Byrde’s very first brush with death comes in Season 1, Episode 1, “Sugarwood”. Here, Marty watches on as Cartel lieutenant Camino Del Rio guns down his business partner Bruce, Bruce’s fiancée Liz, and two of their professional associates – with Marty next in the firing line! The enraged drug runner is convinced that Marty is also guilty of skimming laundered Cartel money to the tune of $8 million, a betrayal which Del Rio intends to reward with a swift gangland-style execution.

Fortunately, quick thinking on Marty’s part convinces Del Rio to grant him a temporary reprieve. Drawing on a crumpled-up brochure promoting the Ozarks for inspiration, Marty sells Del Rio on the idea of using the lake region as the ideal base for a new money laundering operation. Del Rio accepts the deal on the condition that Marty “cleans” $8 million in only three months – setting the stage for pretty much every near-miss the Byrdes have endured in Ozark since.


9. The Snells Kidnap Marty

A leisurely bike ride soon takes a sinister turn in Ozark Season 1, Episode 6, “The Book of Ruth”. While out cycling, Marty finds himself run off the road by a pair of toughs driving pick-up trucks, who then manhandle him into the back of one of their vehicles. When Marty next sees daylight, he’s brought before Jacob and Darlene Snell, an elderly couple who oversee the heroin trade in the Ozark area.

Although Marty’s chances of making it out alive seem low, he’s ultimately released unharmed. Nevertheless, the Snells make it clear they’re at least as ruthless as the Cartel’s enforcers, and Marty leaves knowing that his entire family – along with their unwitting accomplice, pastor Mason Young, and his wife and unborn child – are at risk if he crosses the Snells again.


8. Ruth Kills Russ and Boyd

Ozark Season 1, Episode 9, “Coffee, Black” sees a long-running plot to kill Marty come to a shocking conclusion – literally.

In the episode, career criminal siblings Russ and Boyd Langmore decide it’s finally time to bump off the Byrde family patriarch so they can steal his Cartel cash and go on the lam. But the brothers don’t account for the intervention of their niece (and Marty’s employee), Ruth, who fries them both by electrifying the dock where they disembark on route to Marty.

Ruth’s motivation here? Self-preservation, mingled with a growing sense of attachment to her new boss. There’s a layer of irony to Ruth interceding on Marty’s behalf in “Coffee, Black”, too: she originally intended to kill Marty this way herself in “The Book of Ruth”, only for FBI agent Roy Petty to foil her plan.


7. Wendy Smells A Trap

Being able to wriggle your way out of a sticky situation is a useful skill – but it’s even better to avoid said sticky situation before it even happens. Just ask Wendy Byrde, who saves her family’s collective bacon from a well-laid trap in Ozark Season 2, Episode 4, “Stag”.

It goes down like this: Wendy and Marty meet with state gaming official Tom Beecher, intending to bribe him with Grateful Dead tickets and a briefcase full of cash. But while the concert tickets do indeed change hands, Wendy discreetly prevents her husband from handing over the briefcase too, sensing a trap.

The ever-unflappable Marty doesn’t register his surprise, and immediately follows Wendy’s lead despite not sharing her suspicions. She made the right call, though – earlier in the episode we learn that Beecher is in league with the FBI, so that cash bribe would’ve landed the couple in hot water, to say the least!


6. Rachel Kisses Marty

Poor Rachel Garrison must rank as one of the most hard-done-by characters in Ozark. As if life wasn’t hard enough for this recovering addict, Rachel has the misfortune of ending up in business with Marty Byrde, a partnership that inevitably turns her life upside down.

Yet despite it all, Rachel still shows incredible loyalty to her business partner – especially in Season 2’s sixth episode, “Outer Darkness”. During the final scene of this episode, Marty starts to bare his soul (and reveal his crimes) to Rachel, only for her to cut him off with a kiss.

Marty is caught off guard by this unexpected smooch…until Rachel lifts her shirt to expose the wire she’s wearing! Now aware that he’s under surveillance, Marty wisely clams up, leaving FBI agent Roy Petty with nothing incriminating to use against him.


5. Frank Bombs Marty’s Office

One of several lessons Ozark has to teach us is that in the underworld there’s no such thing as sending a casual message. From unwanted haircuts to jars filled with eyeballs, the members of the show’s criminal community repeatedly air their unhappy feelings via decidedly bold communications – like when Frank Cosgrove blows up Marty Byrde’s office.

The Kansas City Mafia boss orders the unscheduled demolition of Marty’s workplace in the Season 2 finale, “The Gold Coast”, to underline just how frustrated he is over an ongoing labour dispute. Fortunately, Marty, Wendy, and the kids aren’t in the office when it explodes – although considering this happened during office hours, they very easily could have been. And if they had? Let’s just say there probably wouldn’t be an Ozark Season 3 or 4…


4. Marty Answers A Big Question

As we already covered earlier in this list, Marty Byrde is no stranger to being kidnapped. Even so, when Marty is snatched up by the Cartel in Ozark Season 3, Episode 4, “Boss Fight”, it seems like this latest abduction will also be his last.

This time around, Marty is held captive at the home of Omar Navarro, the man who controls the Cartel and who is, effectively, his boss. The Byrde family patriarch spends several days in a brightly lit pseudo-jail cell while Navarro interrogates and tests him – the drug lord repeatedly asking Marty what it is he truly wants.

As more time passes, it starts to look less and less likely that Marty will come up with an answer capable of satisfying Navarro and securing both his freedom and his life. And then, just as the episode draws to a close, Marty admits to Navarro that he wants two things: more autonomy on his part, and more gratitude on Navarro’s. Impressed by Marty’s honesty – not to mention his obvious financial expertise – Navarro finally lets him go.


3. Navarro Fires Helen

Ozark Season 3 keeps us guessing right up to the end whether the Byrdes can continue to keep their uneasy partnership with the Cartel ticking over. In the last episode of the season, “All In”, Marty and Wendy go head-to-head with their former ally, lawyer Helen Pierce – working overtime to convince Omar Navarro they’re more valuable to his operations than she is.

It all culminates with Marty, Wendy, and Helen attending the baptism of Navarro’s son in Mexico, where they meet up with their drug lord boss for an informal chat. Until this moment, it’s not clear if the Byrdes have done enough to win Navarro over, but when Helen’s Cartel-appointed enforcer suddenly blows her brains out, any doubts die with her.


2. Ruth Covers Marty’s Heroin Shortfall

The Marty/Ruth relationship is one of the most compelling dynamics Ozark has to offer. One minute the pair are on opposite sides; the next, they’ve temporarily teamed up again to form the show’s most unlikely – yet effective – criminal partnership.

Take Season 4’s fifth episode, “Ellie”. Here, a tiff with Navarro’s heir apparent, Javi Elizondro, leaves Marty unable to deliver a shipment of heroin he and Wendy promised to supply to pharmaceutical company Shaw Medical.

Faced with blowing the Shaw Medical deal (which would, in turn, scuttle Wendy’s plans to launch a charitable foundation), Marty turns to the only person he knows that can cover his heroin shortfall: Ruth. Together, they manage to amass enough product in the nick of time, narrowly averting disaster.


1. Javi Gets A Phone Call

To say that Javi dislikes the Byrdes is a pretty big understatement. Since he arrived on the scene in Ozark Season 4, Omar Navarro’s anointed successor has made it abundantly clear that he’d welcome the opportunity to terminate Marty and Wendy’s involvement with the Cartel – via a couple of gunshots, no less.

Javi nearly gets his wish in Episode 7 of the fourth season, “Sanctified”, when it appears that Marty has betrayed Navarro to the FBI. In response, Javi lures Marty into a trap, savagely beating him and then preparing to gun him down – and then his phone rings. It’s Navarro on the line, and the elder drug lord promptly sets his nephew straight regarding Marty’s involvement, earning Marty yet another last-minute reprieve.

Like the rest of the nail-biting near-misses on this list, Marty’s run-in with Javi also begs the question: how can Ozark Season 4 – Part 2 possibly top this?

READ MORE: 10 Best Crime Drama Shows On Netflix

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