The following post mortem includes major spoiler-y details from Ozark‘s swan song — proceed at your own peril
The Ozark writers’ room was split down the middle when it came to deciding the fate of arguably the series’ most popular character, Ruth Langmore.
“There was a debate,” showrunner Chris Mundy tells TVLine. “Half of the writers, or maybe a little under half, felt that there was something nice to knowing that Ruth would be out there in the world and doing well.”
In the end, the other half won: Julia Garner’s plucky, potty-mouthed spitfire was killed off in the closing minutes of Ozark‘s series finale (read recap here).
As Mundy explains it, the argument for not giving Ruth a happy ending boiled down to this: It didn’t feel honest “if everyone just gets off too easily.”
The Byrdes “don’t get away clean karma-wise, but they do get away clean in terms of their lives and their success,” Mundy notes of the conclusion, which saw Marty and Wendy (somewhat literally) dodging one final bullet. “It started to feel like the writers were just imposing a happy ending on things because we’re kind of like surrogate parents of the characters. Are we telling a true story if something [tragic] doesn’t happen?
“We talked about it, we debated it and I knew what each person in the room thought,” Mundy continues. “It was really hard and emotional trying to figure out what the right decision for the show was.”
The EP concedes that there is an “innate cynicism” in having the underdog (in this case, Ruth) pay the ultimate price while the Byrdes get away with murder. “Capitalism doesn’t work unless there is a winner and a loser,” Mundy argues. “And there’s a degree to which the Langmores are going to be the losers of that equation, while somebody else builds their fortune. The Byrdes came in and climbed their way up off the backs of people like the Langmores, and they’re representative of a lot of people. There’s something about it that’s cynical and there’s something about it that’s very, just, true. So we were trying to write into that truth.”
Speaking of truth, considering the fact that we never received official confirmation that the bullet that pierced Ruth’s chest ultimately killed her, is she really dead? Says Mundy: “I’m sorry; she totally, absolutely is.”