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Ozark - The Toll - Review: "Family is Everything"

A lot happened in the last episode of Ozark's first season, as tensions reached their climax and the Byrdes faced immense danger.

Let's make one thing clear before we get into this last episode too deeply. Ozark is not the new Breaking Bad. Sure, it uses similar tropes, but it's no Vince Gilligan-stamped quality. It's good TV, no doubt, and the show is clearly entertaining and a good watch, but let us not scream genius when a show is not there yet. That being said, Ozark's first season is quite effective and offers some great moments, despite an aesthetic that I will loathe forever (enough with the blue filters already!).

Now, a ton of things went down in "The Toll," as all the threats hanging over Marty and his family finally came knocking on their door. Following Russ and Boyd's death, Marty and his family try to support Ruth and her cousins as much as they can within the circumstances. Wendy thanks Ruth for saving Marty while it is obvious that Wyatt suspects that whatever happened has to be related to the Byrdes. Meanwhile, Mason is really having a hard time preaching to a bunch of drug addicts and fails the Snells. That gets him into big trouble and Jacob calls Marty about it, telling him Mason will have to suffer the consequences. That means that when Mason comes home to his wife, he finds a baby but no Grace. Marty figures his family is in great danger too, between the cartel lurking around and the Snells being terrifying (I mean, they tore a baby out of his mother's womb and then got rid of the mom). He tells Wendy to go away with the kids until the situation gets safer. Spoiler alert: it goes way worse before it gets slightly better.

The cartel guy who watches over the Byrdes realizes something is up, and comes into their house asking where they are going. While Wendy and Charlotte are scared, Jonah shows up with the riffle he hid in the woods and threatens the cartel hitman, telling him to leave. The Mexican is not impressed and Jonah pulls the trigger, unaware Buddy removed the ammo from the gun. The hitman gets mad, goes after Jonah, but Buddy saves the day with a shotgun and a good aim. Since the situation is even more dire than before, Wendy and the kids run to the car and take off. When Marty comes home, he finds a dead Mexican in his living room and no family. Buddy tells him what happened and later that night they go to the funeral home the Byrdes now own to cremate the body.

Since Marty knows he is in deep trouble, he works up a plan to satisfy both the cartel and the Snells. On the road, Wendy and the kids meet with Marty's P.I. who, following Marty's instructions, gives them new passport and identities. Meanwhile, Rachel finds the money the Byrdes hid in the Blue Cat, decides to take some of it and leaves town. Between running into a drunk Petty on the dock and into Del in her bar, she has had enough of this life in the Ozarks. Petty sees Del and makes a plan to use him to get to Marty, but that doesn't work out so well. Del visits Marty to find out where his hitman is and tortures him. Marty manages to convince him he has a plan and takes Del to see the Snells. Marty offers to combine their businesses and to build a river casino to wash their money. The tension between the three parties is high and if the deal goes well at first, it all ends with Del calling the Snells "rednecks," which gets him a bullet in the head.

Of course, Marty freaks out, thinking the cartel is going to kill them all and that he'll never see his family again. The Snells argue that now that the deal is a go, the cartel will just "send another Mexican" and that Del's death is no big deal. Marty goes home, depressed that now his life is all going to be about working for the Snells and the cartel, in the Ozarks, with no family. He checks in on Mason, who tells him he is the devil (then we see Mason takes his baby to the lake and for a hot minute it looks like he is drowning the kid but it turns out he baptized him). Marty calls Wendy one last time, tells her she and the kids cannot come home, that it's not safe, and she apologizes for hurting him. But he doesn't know that his kids are not down with the new identity plan. They tell Wendy they don't want to start over somewhere else and argue they should all stick together and not leave Marty behind. In the end, Wendy and the kids go home, choosing family over safety.

That, my friends, was a good finale. It took care of the storylines in an effective manner, leaving them open-ended but not too much. The cast did a great job, Laura Linney in particular being a great Wendy. The show will definitely be worth checking out for its second season, which should again be heavy in drama for the Byrde family.

That's my take, what did you think?

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