Ozark is one of Netflix’s latest brilliant original drama series. In an unusually serious turn, Jason Bateman stars as an accountant who owes a boatload of cash to a Mexican drug cartel, so he moves his family from the city out into the countryside to start raising the funds.
He starts making the money no problem, but he faces opium dealers, an FBI probe, volatile rednecks, headhunters, and a preacher with a conscious who threaten to ruin everything. It is somewhat similar to Breaking Bad, but it could be argued that Ozark is even darker than that groundbreaking AMC show.
Being the irredeemably dark crime drama that it is, Ozark is full of shocking, jaw-dropping moments. Some of them even make you wonder if they’re even allowed to do that. So, here are the 15 most WTF moments from the first season of Netflix’s Ozark.
15. Bruce and friends get quickly murdered
Bruce really screwed Marty over. The whole crux of the show is that Bruce was like Icarus flying too close to the sun on wings of embezzled drug money from a sinister Mexican cartel. As soon as the cartel finds out, they go after everyone who has any association to Bruce. They kill his girlfriend and his dad before going after Bruce himself. And then they want to take out his business partner, who happens to be Marty. Marty, ever the quick thinker and spurred on by the shocking nature of such a quick-fire series of murders, rapidly thinks up a business pitch for the cartel where he’ll pay them back the money they’re owed and solve everything, and in the process, he manages to save his own life and his family’s (but is it a life worth living?).
14. Agent Petty was simply building a case against the Langmores
Agent Petty is the FBI agent working to bring down Marty Byrde, and it seems for a few episodes that while he was in the Ozarks investigating Marty, he meets a man on a fishing trip and falls in love with him. It seems like he just happens to be a member of the Langmore family, the family who have their horns locked with Marty’s.
There’s a whole romantic story arc built around their relationship as Langmore struggles to uncover his sexuality. It looks like a big, sweeping statement about homophobia and how difficult it is to be a gay man in a world where you’re not accepted, and the hardships of falling in love with someone who finds it difficult to express their feelings back to you.
But then it turns out he was basically using him to build a case against his family, and he’s racked up a whole bank of evidence that he can use to blackmail him into complying. Devious stuff.
13. Charlotte’s near death experience
Toward the end of an episode that comes around midway through the first season of Ozark, Charlotte goes out for a late night swim. Since it’s dark out, Marty tells her to only go to the first buoy and back, but even that is almost too far. She’s out in the middle of the lake and she suddenly loses all of her energy.
She can’t keep her head above the surface of the water and she starts to drown. We watch her sink to the bottom of the lake, all intercut with a conversation between Marty and Wendy. That’s the power of this scene – these two parents are having a normal conversation while every parent’s worst nightmare is happening to their child, literally right in their backyard.
Thankfully, Charlotte survives the ordeal, but goddamn, it was certainly close!
12. Jonah pulls the trigger
By the season 1 finale of Ozark, Jonah has become a full-blown gun nut. If he was a little older than the hormone-ridden pre-teen that he is, he’d be voting Republican and loving Congress. Jonah has been getting his mildly disabled friend to go into the local supermarket to buy rifles for him and then going out into the woods for target practice.
Then, when push comes to shove and a Mexican drug runner has arrived at their house to threaten the family, it’s time for Jonah to step up and become the man of the house. He aims his gun at the bad guy and glances over at his mother to get her approval.
Perhaps equally as shocking as what follows is the fact that Wendy nods to Jonah, signing off on her son murdering a man. Then Jonah pulls the trigger. The gun jams and doesn’t fire, so Jonah is spared with the guilt of killing a man – but goddamn, he was ready to do it!
11. What happened to Mason’s wife?
The pastor’s wife, Grace, was threatened without her knowledge. At first, only Marty knew about the Snells’ opium farming business and the consequences that the pastor and his wife would face if their plans to build a church went ahead. He visited their house and made up some B.S. about permits and stuff.
But Mason wouldn’t take that for an answer and went ahead with the church regardless, which angered the Snells to the point where they upped their threat to cutting Mason’s baby out of his wife. So, Marty had to tell Mason about the details of the situation and give him an existential crisis that led to a premature birth for the baby.
Mason comes home one day to find that the Snells have broken into his house and a clean, healthy, newborn baby is sitting on his coffee table. But his wife is nowhere to be seen. It’s suggested that the Snells killed her, but never explicitly explained. What the hell happened to her? Sometimes what you don’t see can be more haunting that what you do.
10. The garbage truck
This WTF moment could be seen a mile off, but it still managed to shock viewers when it did happen. Wendy has been wooing the quirky local real estate agent Sam Dermody in an attempt to convince him to let her get more heavily involved in his business in exchange for a lot more money. Sam is coming around to the idea, but his mother won’t allow it.
Out on the street, as he follows his mother out to convince her that Wendy will make a great business partner, she covers her ears and walks away from him, doing the typical, “La, la, la, I can’t hear you, la, la, la, la,” routine, and then boom! Totally out of the blue, a garbage truck rockets past and turns Sam’s mom into a puddle.
9. It’s Marty’s wife in the sex tape!
The moment that the first episode of Ozark goes from being another generic drama pilot to something else entirely is the moment that the woman in the sex tape is revealed to be Marty’s wife. He’s sitting in his episode, zoning out of some clients talking about business.
He doesn’t care, he’s not really listening. Instead, he’s watching a video on his computer featuring a man and a woman having sex. Maybe he’s just watching porn. But then he goes home to his family and, lo and behold, his wife is the woman from the video!
She’s been having an affair and he knows it. Suddenly things start getting a lot more interesting. Suddenly this is a show that’s different, and it’s something we need to keep watching.
8. Jonah’s new hobby
Both of Marty and Wendy’s kids are a little troubled. Charlotte is chasing guys and having sex way too soon, but it’s Jonah who has the most demons. He plays with firearms and fantasizes about killing. Perhaps most disturbingly, he goes into the woods, finds dead vultures and brings them home, where he dismembers them.
Marty and Wendy are very concerned about this, and so like any good parents — which is not what they are, but they at least have to keep up the veneer — they confront him about it. It turns out he’s just interested in the biology of the birds and he wants to get to know how their bodies work better. But still, it’s pretty darn disturbing.
7. Charlotte loses her virginity
One of the tragic things that happens to so many teenage girls is that they have sex before they are ready. Charlotte Byrde is, sadly, no different. A downside of the rise of internet technology and the aggressively violent content of today’s pornography is that girls feel pressured when it comes to sex.
Charlotte met an older guy who was on his vacation in the Ozarks and, even though she’s only 15 years old, she felt pressured into getting on his boat, drinking some beer, and having sex with him. Because she’s so young and naive and scared, you can see in her eyes while they’re doing it that she’s not enjoying it and it’s really painful.
It makes for a very uncomfortable viewing, but that’s exactly the point.
6. Darlene kills Del
The season 1 finale of Ozark was jam-packed with shocking plot twists, one of which came when Del called the Snells “a bunch of rednecks.” Things finally seemed to be working out for Marty, as he was slowly stepping out of the crossfire of the two crime syndicates whose thumbs he spent the whole season under by brokering a deal between the two of them.
The deal seemed too good to be true as things finally appeared to be working in Marty’s favor. And then Del made the mistake of referring to the Snells as “rednecks.” Darlene asks him to repeat himself, and with a smug grin, he says it again: “a bunch of–”…But before he can finish a shotgun blast goes right through his face. Smoke is coming off of Darlene’s barrel.
The camera work here makes the twist even more shocking, as the cinematographer doesn’t set up the moment; they keep shooting the scene as Del expects it to play out, and then the camera goes all shaky as it scrambles to figure out what happened at the same time the viewer is. It’s phenomenal filmmaking. And it goes without saying that Marty is screwed for season 2.
5. The eyeballs
Del sends Marty a weird little gift in the mail. Marty opens up the package to find two perfectly preserved human eyeballs. So, it’s not really a nice stocking filler – it’s more of a warning. Who do these eyeballs belong to? Only the accountant that worked with Del’s cartel before Marty and his business partner stepped in.
The eyeballs in the mail are a message from Del to Marty that he means business and he’d better not screw with him. The cool thing is that this gets called back to in the prequel episode that goes back to show how Marty got into bed with Del. Marty and Bruce actually witnessed the ex-accountant getting murdered and having his eyes gouged out by Del. That was how Marty knew whose eyes they were.
4. The sex scene
In the second episode of Ozark, Marty makes it clear to Wendy that they are business partners and nothing else. They’re in a predicament that involves all of them with the cartel debts and the murder threats and everything, but for all intents and purposes, their partnership is simply to make the money for the drug barons; they are no longer man and wife.
So, that’s why it’s a surprise when Wendy takes Marty’s pants off and starts giving him head. But one of the most WTF moments of the whole series comes when they start having sex and Marty slaps Wendy’s ass. This was such a huge moment that it came up later in conversation and the pair of them had to discuss it.
Marty only knows she likes that from his obsessive viewings of the sex tape of Wendy and her lover that Marty had a private investigator acquire for him. That’s what makes it so fucked up!
3. The baptism
Pastor Mason Young’s life goes up a creek without a paddle as soon as Marty Byrd shows up. Marty promises him a church and then backs out, in the process getting the pastor, his wife, and his unborn baby threatened by opium dealers.
And it’s the knowledge of their business during his congregation that causes the pastor to freeze up and be unable to do the thing that used to be his livelihood. That’s Marty Byrde for you – he fucks everything up.
The breakdown of Mason Young comes to a head when he takes his baby, who was cut out of his wife by the vengeful drug barons, out into the woods and then carries it into the lake, where he holds it underwater.
He holds the baby down for a good few seconds – long enough for your jaw to drop and for you to start reconsidering giving Jason Bateman’s new drama series on Netflix a go. And then he pulls the baby out of the water and you have to greatest feeling of relief you’ve ever felt as you realize Pastor Young is simply cleansing the baby of its original sin. Phew!
2. Ruth’s strip club audition
This is a great character moment for Ruth, because we know she is a woman who struggles to have her voice heard and get any respect in the male-dominated family she lives in, but she also has a ton of self-respect and dignity, and that comes across in this scene.
As she and Marty are planning a heist at a local strip club, he sends her in to scout out the office, so she goes in under the guise of auditioning to work there. The job would require her to take her clothes off and dance, but that’s not all she’s required to do in the audition. The boss basically tells her that if she wants the job, she has to perform oral sex on him.
There’s an added poignancy and relevance to this scene in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct allegations. The great character moment for Ruth is when she goes down as if she’s about to do it, but then punches the pervert in the groin and storms out.
She doesn’t really want the job. She wants to rob the guy blind. Once she has all the information she wants, she can cling to the shred of innocence she still has.
In the first episode of Ozark, “Sugarwood,” the private eye that Marty has hired to spy on his wife Wendy gives him a video of her having sex with a man named Gary.
Then, as Wendy is gearing up to run away with Gary, Marty storms over to his place for a heated argument, and just as he arrives at the door of his apartment block – bam! Gary’s body comes hurtling to the ground and splatters all over the sidewalk.
This is a watershed moment, where you first realize that if you’re a fan of dark material, then you’re in for a real treat. It was also the first indicator that Marty’s menacing boss Del is always one step ahead of him.