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The Ozark Theory That Has Fans Buzzing About Ruth, Wendy, And Darlene

Contains spoilers for Ozark

If there are two things that Oedipus the King is famous for, then the second is him ridding Thebes of the monstrous sphinx by answering the riddle she posed to travelers. According to legend, the sphinx asked travelers a version of the question, "What walks on four feet in the morning, two in the afternoon and three at night?" and then killed them when they didn't know. Oedipus supplied "man," which crawls in infancy, walks upright as an adult, and uses a cane in old age as he moves through the different stages of life.

One fan of the Netflix crime drama Ozark sees a parallel between that story and the show's treatment of three of its female leads. 

According to the fan's theory, Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner), Wendy Byrde (Laura Linney), and Darlene Snell (Lisa Emery) each represent one part of the same woman's journey, someone driven into criminal activities by her ambition and her changing relationship with power. 

"All three of these women have lives stained with crime," posits Reddit user u/Bolbo97. "All three were brought into the drug money world by another person ... No other characters share these similarities near the level they do. That is why I believe they are simply different ages of one woman, and one arc."

How are Ruth and Wendy on the same journey?

Ruth, the youngest of the women, is on the first step of the journey. At the show's outset, she's enterprising but unfocused, and her crimes are more opportunistic than organized. She's focused on making it day to day. Coming into contact with the Byrdes, being brought deeper both into their schemes and those of her felonious family, has taught Ruth to set her sights higher and to be more deliberate, even though it will require her to be more ruthless.

Wendy, by contrast, has been able to be more intentional about the steps she's taking into criminality. Since she begins by working with her husband Marty (Jason Bateman) on his money-laundering schemes, she doesn't have to work her way up in the same way that Ruth does. Wendy can focus on expanding her power and carving out a bigger role for herself in her and Marty's plot, getting more contact with the cartel and more opportunities for their fledgling Missouri empire. She even rejects the chance to flee in order to stay in the game and keep getting more.

What comes next for Ruth, Wendy, and Darlene?

Third comes Darlene, desperate to hold on to what she has. "Darlene is an older woman who gained control over her own dynasty through the years," the Redditor writes. "She values her control and power over all else, and manipulates whoever she needs to maintain her grip." The intertwined schemes of the Byrdes and the Langmores, the cartels and the Kansas City Mafia, all serve to chip away at the Snells' control of the region and their business profits. To maintain her hold on power, Darlene has to be the most ruthless of all — up to and including poisoning her husband (Peter Mullan) during season 2 in order to save her life and her control of the operation.

Upon reading this theory, one commenter wondered what will happen next to the series' trio of central women. The theory-crafter sees them each progressing along the path laid out by the others — with Ruth turning into Wendy as she begins to find ways to amass her own power, and Wendy becoming a version of Darlene, struggling against entropy to maintain her grasp on what she's accumulated. As for Darlene, perhaps the theory will prove cyclical, and her next step will find her struggling to survive again. Or perhaps it will prove to be the end of the road for her. In that case, the Lake of the Ozarks will be rid of one of its monsters, though the process might have created two more.