The last few entries I’ve written up for Ozark have focused heavily on how much I want Wendy to be punished since she seems to be more blatantly bad than Marty. Marty isn’t innocent, but he doesn’t seem to be intent on poking various bears, so to speak.
But this episode, the first of the back half, takes a good, solid look at the character that arguably was the real break-out, namely Ruth.
It’s not uncommon for characters that may have only been intended to have a fairly small role in whatever is going on to somehow get a bigger role due to something that an actor brings to the table. For example, the Jesse Pinkman character was never meant to last much beyond the first season of Breaking Bad, but Aaron Paul was so charming and interesting in the role that series creator Vince Gilligan changed his plans for Jesse, and I think Breaking Bad was much the better for it.
I really don’t know if the same was true with Ozark. I am not claiming that it was. But somehow, I can see that at the least Ruth was given more to do as a result of just how damn good actress Julia Garner has been in the role. Ruth is a complex character on a show full of complex characters, someone who has an honor code, stands for her family in ways that arguably no one else does, and above all, is perhaps one of the smartest and most observant characters on the show.
I mean, Ruth was always big on the idea her cousin Wyatt was the smart member of the family. Wyatt had a lot of book smarts, but he sure as hell made a lot of really dumb decisions as his time on the series drew to a close. He was misguided by love for Darlene of all people, and he was loyal to his family. Even if that family was Darlene and an orphan whose custody was being disputed by two different women who both had criminal careers and a tendency to get people killed. Ruth saw that and almost got her cousin away, but he kept making more and more dumb decisions until they finally caught up to him.
So, really, this is Ruth on a quest to bring down Javi. Javi, arguably, deserves it more than anyone at this point. But he’s the rich and powerful nephew of a drug lord. He’s a sociopath, taking time out in this episode to beat up a former business professor of his because, well, the guy asked for a donation without letting it be known who gave it to him because no on in this world isn’t at least a little corrupt.
You know, except for that FBI agent who was continually disappointed by everyone. Maya Miller, you are too good for this world.
What follows here is an hour where Ruth remembers what Wyatt meant to her and she has encounters with the various Byrdes that may or may not determine what comes next.
Jonah and Charlotte, eventually, offer her more help. Charlotte knows where Javi is going to be (at a meeting with her parents and a drug company executive), and Jonah provides a picture since Ruth has never seen him before.
Wendy tries blatantly lying to her. Because of course she did.
Marty tries to talk her out of it. He might care about Ruth. He and Wendy argued about whether or not they should they should have warned Javi about Ruth. Wendy says yes. Marty says no. Javi treats them like hired help anyway.
OK, they more or less are hired help, but you get the idea.
Besides, Marty tries arguing Ruth is a good person, and ignoring that there really aren’t any good people in the world of Ozark, did Marty forget he met Ruth after she scammed her way into their motel room and robbed the Byrdes, and was much harder to convince than the rest of her family to return the money?
Ultimately, not only does Ruth manage to take Javi down using his own greed and short-sightedness, but she also shows just how good she is at reading people, telling Wendy she only cares about her foundation’s power and telling Marty he’s so emotionally detached because that way he won’t feel the consequences of what he’s doing. She isn’t wrong.
Now, if she can actually get away with all this…well, that remains to be seen. Violence begets violence on this show after all. And Javi was talking to his mother before he died…