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Ozark: The Real Reason Mel Sattem's Death Was Left Unseen

The "Ozark" series finale left audiences with plenty of unanswered questions, mainly centering on the closing moments as we see Jonah Byrde (Skylar Gaertner) approach Mel Sattem (Adam Rothenberg) with a shotgun before the final cut to black. The ambiguous ending to the series finale had fans theorizing about what really happened. Did Jonah shoot Mel in cold blood? Did he turn the gun on his parents, ending their crime spree?

"Definitively in my mind, and anyone's free to think whatever they want, but in my mind, he absolutely shot Mel and Mel is dead. And that's that," Chris Mundy, showrunner, writer, and executive producer on "Ozark," stated to Variety during a Q&A panel following the show's finale. "I just didn't want to see it. It was over. If you shot him then you're in the blood and the guts... but the show was over. He did it."

Mundy was surprised that fans began speculating whether Jonah could've turned on his parents when the screen cut to black, stating that Mel was always the target and he just didn't want to see the aftermath. Regarding the finale, he added, "It would have been false if there weren't consequences." While the Byrdes escape "Ozark" free, they now have to live with the fact that their actions have turned their son into a cold-blooded killer.

Mundy wanted fans to question the ending, just not that way

Jonah Byrde (Skylar Gaertner) executing detective Mel Sattem (Adam Rothenberg) in the finale moments of "Ozark" was always going to be a shocking ending. However, showrunner Chris Mundy didn't expect fans to begin questioning who Jonah killed, hoping the act of violence would spark a different conversation.

"We wanted people to think about the reality of what happened, not just in the context of watching a TV show, but also in whatever reality these characters are going to keep living in," Mundy said in an interview with Vanity Fair. The showrunner hoped audiences would pause after the abrupt ending, processing whether or not Jonah's actions were worthy of cheers. While Jonah effectively brought the family back together, he killed a man, giving into the criminal side of the Byrdes he had avoided all season. How would they handle this? Would Jonah face any punishments? Those were the kinds of questions Mundy hoped to instill in audiences.

As for how Mundy and "Ozark" pulled off the shocking ending, the showrunner revealed to the LA Times how the production team carefully set all the pieces in place. "We had Mel exit in Episode 12 so people wouldn't be thinking about him anymore," he said, misleading audiences into thinking the detective gave up after returning to Chicago. A few episodes earlier, "Ozark" featured a scene with Mel noticing the cookie jar, ensuring the plot point would return in some capacity. The result was a finale that definitely raised plenty of questions regarding the Byrde's fictitious future, even if it wasn't the exact questions Mundy wanted fans to ask.