Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Worst Thing Every Main Ozark Character Has Done

Every "Ozark" character has made numerous shady maneuvers to avoid falling prey to the dark machinations that surround them. The show's tragic arc constantly offers ultimatums that consist of a bad choice or an ugly one. The first episode tossed us right into the struggles of Marty and Wendy Byrde, who were in the midst of marriage infidelity and slush fund management. From there the plot has only descended further into chaotic evil. Everything the Byrde family touches turns to ash, which stands to reason — when you are integrated into a powerful drug cartel's ambitious expansion, collateral damage is unavoidable.

Through all of "Ozark," just about every character has made appalling decisions. Since the Byrdes' arrival in the vacation location, few have been able to avoid plunging their fists into the muck. They have bribed, cheated, stolen, embezzled, assaulted, and killed. Government officials are constantly dancing around the ring, looking for an opportunity to spring into action. Meanwhile, cartel mercenaries continue to force virtuous hands to do the devil's bidding. It's hard to decide just who in "Ozark” is the absolute worst, although we can zero in on each character and point to their most heinous actions. There are just so many to choose from. Some actions no doubt come to your mind, but see if they made it onto our list of the worst things every main Ozark character has done.

Ruth Langmore killed her uncle

The scrappy, would-be matriarch of the Langmore family is a dainty figure at first glance. Her blonde curls and youthful features offer up the impression of someone who can be pushed around. We know now that Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner) is anything but a pushover. She possesses a fiery disposition that forces respect from everyone around her. Ruth starts as a local thief who uses her job as a hotel maid to rob guests' rooms and ascends (or descends? It's all perspective) to hotel owner and partner in a massive drug ring.

There are few characters in "Ozark" who haven't gone toe-to-toe with Ruth, including every member of her own family. The circumstances haven't always been a matter of survival or personal gain, but the altercations usually result in her adversary being humbled by her tenacity. However, one of Ruth's decisions takes the cake in terms of being the absolute worst. In Season 1 of "Ozark," Ruth learns of her uncle's plan to kill Marty Byrde in order to steal his cash. The revelation forces her to choose where her loyalties lie and she ultimately sides with the Byrdes. Ruth rigs the boat dock to electrocute her uncle and kills him. This decision visibly torments her and creates a rift with her cousin, Wyatt (Charlie Tahan) — her most important confidant and loved one.

Charlotte Byrde attempted to emancipate herself

Your teenage years are filled with an incredible amount of angst. Many people resort to some light experimentation and hours of philosophical rantings in the basement of a close friend. Unfortunately, Charlotte Byrde (Sofia Hublitz) hasn't been granted the luxury of being a typical teenager. Her family drags her unwillingly to the Ozarks in order to engage in heaps of illegal activity. This results in some teenage rebellion from the elder Byrde child that causes more turmoil than she ever intended.

When Charlotte learns of the reality behind her family's departure from Chicago, she reaches her boiling point. Her response is to take legal action in order to emancipate herself from the family. This, of course, is a cause for concern. In Charlotte's eyes, distancing herself from her parents would help her attain some semblance of a normal life. What she fails to realize is just how dangerous the power players involved are. Anything she would gain with her own sense of autonomy is outweighed by the dangers that would still exist. A lack of legal authority for her parents means nothing in the eyes of the Navarro cartel. Charlotte is still their daughter, and as such, remains in great danger. If anything, she is safer staying with the family. The only thing she winds up achieving is making a tenuous, dangerous situation even more difficult.

Jonah Byrde confirmed Erin's thoughts about what her mom does

The youngest member of the Byrde family engages in a number of dubious actions that are cause for concern. Jonah Byrde's (Skylar Gaertner) animal dissection hints at psychopathic tendencies, while a desire to take up his father's mantle in the realm of money laundering is a dangerous road. We could argue about the right and wrong of it all, but in the murky waters of the "Ozark" plot it all boils down to the ramifications they unleash. While consumed by grief for his uncle Ben, Jonah fails to realize the ripples he indirectly creates which help form the situation that kills the man.

Perhaps Jonah does have these thoughts, which adds to his internal torment. But if these thoughts exist, he hasn't shown them. After Ben (Tom Pelphry) shows up at Helen's house and screams the truth to Erin, she runs off in search of clarity by conversing with the Byrde children. Rather than attempting to remedy the situation (like his sister), Jonah decides to confirm Erin's suspicions. He does this not only once in their initial conversation, but again when Erin confronts everyone in the Byrde household. This choice helps bring down the hammer on Ben and force Wendy into making one of the most horrific decisions of the entire show.

Detective Roy Petty exploits Russ Langmore's closeted sexuality

There are plenty of things to dislike about a mentally unstable FBI agent, but Detective Roy Petty (Jason Butler Harner) elevates himself to a level of disgust previously thought unachievable. A valid argument could be made for Petty being one of the worst characters to exist on "Ozark." His role helps establish the core principle that there are no good people on this show. Despite being infuriatingly hypocritical, Petty possesses an unfathomable amount of self-righteousness. The position of power he holds enables him to fixate on his target and dismantle as many people's lives as he pleases in the pursuit of justice.

Given his ability to run the gamut on awfulness, we had trouble deciding on the most crappy thing Detective Petty has done. We almost settled on hooking an ex-addict on drugs to toss them amongst the wolves for information (poor Rachel), but what he does to Russ Langmore is far worse. Petty senses that Russ wrestles with a latent homosexuality he has been unable to express amid his ruthless, alpha male-riddled family. By opening up an intimate relationship with Russ, Petty locks him down as an unwilling informant. The betrayal of trust involved here is extraordinarily cruel. Russ has already spent his life forced to bury his sexuality behind a gruff demeanor and chooses to open himself up to someone in a truly vulnerable manner, only to have his trust twisted into a bargaining chip. We don't feel a shred of sympathy for any horrors that befall Petty after this maneuver.

Marty Byrde decided to launder money for a ruthless drug cartel

At first we operate under the impression that Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) begins laundering money for the cartel out of survival. His business partner, Bruce (Josh Randall), is discovered skimming money from the organization and is executed. As Marty watches his partner's body collapse next to him, he makes a mad scramble for ideas to save his life. A crumpled brochure for the Ozarks and his wits help piece together a life-saving presentation about moving the operation from the hectic city of Chicago to a lakeside area in the Ozarks. But years before this incident, even his initial involvement with Del (Esai Morales) was purely a conscious decision on Marty's part. Marty's actions are what begin the snowball of mayhem that becomes his family's life.

The argument could be made that Wendy (Laura Linney) influenced him to begin laundering the money. However, the reality is she didn't understand the full picture at the time. Marty did and still made the decision to regularly commit a crime in washing cash for a notoriously vicious drug cartel. Bottom line: Marty is a big boy who makes big boy decisions. This decision and the entirety of his family's dismantled lives are his fault, which makes this move the worst among many. A close second would have to be corrupting a local preacher's altruistic endeavors to launder the money, which ultimately leads to the death of said preacher and his wife.

Jacob Snell murders Preacher Mason's wife

Initially, Marty assumes there won't be much to deal with in the Ozarks other than shacking up by a lake and washing money. Turns out there is already a drug chieftain in the area and he is none too pleased about competition. That man is Jacob Snell (Peter Mullan). Along with his vicious wife, Darlene, Jacob begins making life for the Byrdes extremely difficult. Don't let his calm disposition fool you. Behind that righteous beard lies a man willing to give your kid a very bad haircut.

Jacob doesn't just intimidate by kidnapping a teenager and taking them to Supercuts. His resolve also exists in a far more horrific realm. After Preacher Mason learns that his sermons are used as a way to distribute heroin to local dealers, he refuses to continue delivering his testimony. The Snells push harder and harder for him to continue doing the Lord's work, to no avail. In a ruthless retaliation, Jacob kidnaps the preacher's pregnant wife and murders her in the woods, then leaves the newborn inside her on Mason's front porch. This action ultimately leads to an unraveling of the clergy member's psyche, which results in his death and the orphaning of his child.

Darlene Snell killed her husband

There is no doubt in any "Ozark" viewer's mind that Darlene Snell (Lisa Emery) is just the worst. In her psychopathic eyes, no problem can't be remedied by a shotgun. Numerous difficult situations have been exacerbated by her impulsive decisions and insufferable pride. When it comes to Darlene, it isn't a matter of wrestling with the ambiguity of her nature, but narrowing all her crappy actions down to which one tops the rest. At first meeting, it appears that her husband Jacob wears the pants in the house. But time has shown us that Jacob operated under a constant awareness that there was a vicious woman breathing down his neck, ready to burn down the world.

Many a male viewer recoiled when Darlene unloaded a shotgun shell into Frank Cosgrove Jr.'s crotch. This cruel action pales when compared to poisoning a lifelong companion. Jacob realizes that his wife is destroying everything they built with her unwillingness to compromise. He resolves to remove Darlene from the picture during one of their peaceful strolls through the wilderness. The patriarch is a step behind his wife's ruthless nature though, as he expresses with his dying words, "I never could keep up with you, Darlene." A lethal dose of cyanide in his coffee causes him to collapse just before he is able to turn his intentions into action. As his spirit leaves his body, Darlene curls up next to him and professes her love one last time.

Wyatt Langmore started a relationship with Darlene

Of all the "Ozark" protagonists, Wyatt is the most innocent. It is a quality which, when paired with excruciating naïveté, has caused him to unwittingly create various dilemmas. We want to feel bad for the poor kid, but he fails over and over again to grasp any sense of the grim reality in which he plays a part. Most of Wyatt's criminal misdoings are petty and his punishment consists primarily of paying for the bad decisions made by those around him. While he is a major player in releasing Ben from prison, unleashing the chaos that can of worms contains, it isn't the worst thing he has done.

By far the worst thing Wyatt Langmore has done centers solely on the romantic relationship he starts in Season 3, Episode 5. In one of the most alarming developments on "Ozark," he climbs into bed with the heroin kingpin known as Darlene Snell. Adding insult to injury, after she helps with his release from jail, he delivers testimony in court that allows Darlene to keep baby Zeke — even though she is the reason for the infant's orphan status. We want to believe in love, but how many people can you watch your lover kill before you begin questioning your emotions?

Rachel ran off with cartel money

The first business Marty purchases in the Ozarks for his laundering operation is The Blue Cat Lodge. The establishment is owned by Rachel Garrison (Jordana Spiro), a woman with a sordid past who only wants to live out the rest of her life running a modest business. Rachel and Marty have a healthy arrangement, up until she discovers the whole laundering thing. Even so, she agrees to keep working at The Blue Cat, despite her trepidation. Rachel makes several missteps, but her desire to finally drive off into the sunset eventually leads to her downfall.

When Rachel discovers money hidden in the walls, she loads up several duffel bags full of cash and skips town. Escaping the turmoil of a cartel laundering scheme may look alluring on paper, but it's a terrible decision in reality. Apparently, Rachel has a past riddled with drug abuse and the new influx of cash allows her to relapse. The decision to take off with the money only angers dangerous individuals and leads to her falling into the clutches of Detective Petty.

Wendy Byrde led mercenaries to her brother for execution

Wendy hasn't turned out to be the angsty housewife she first appeared to be. In fact, she is on track to be the most sociopathic character on the show. Over the course of "Ozark" she has embraced her power and stared deep into the eyes of the most dangerous individuals the show has to offer. There are many things Wendy does to tarnish her character, but top among them is what she does to her brother, Ben (Tom Pelphry). Her mentally unstable brother is unable to grasp the grim reality of the family's situation and continually acts in a way that endangers the lives of everyone around him.

It's inarguable that Ben shows up on the Byrdes' doorstep at a terrible point in their lives. What's even more evident is the destruction he causes. There are numerous delicate moving parts in the Byrdes' dangerous lifestyle and any disruption will create ripples. These ripples turn into tsunamis that ruin lives. Ben tosses a gigantic boulder into the family's ecosystem. Even so, Wendy's decision to oust her own brother is a horrific one. In one of the most shocking moments on the show (and possibly all of television), she abandons her brother at a roadside diner and then alerts the cartel as to his location.

Helen Pierce tortured Ruth to test her loyalty

Helen Pierce (Janet McTeer), the statuesque lawyer for the Navarro cartel sent to oversee the Byrdes' plans for the riverboat casino, is a cold, calculating woman with the ability to maintain her composure in tense situations. There is little question as to how she became a big player in a massive criminal enterprise — simply watching her command a conversation alludes to her power. Her eventual demise can be attributed to her ambitious nature: a grim ending which didn't exactly result from the worst thing she's ever done.

As Helen is gathering all the details involved with the Byrdes' operation, she learns about the existence of Ruth Langmore. The loyalty of this lowly cog is a source of concern for Helen. In order to put this quality to the test, Helen rushes into the Langmore compound with mercenaries in tow. Marty and Ruth's father, Cade (Trevor Long), are forced to sit at gunpoint as Ruth is taken inside the trailer to be tortured. Helen stoically questions her in between waterboarding sessions and her poise while she does it is chilling. Her eventual actions regarding the Byrdes and the casino operation are indeed shady, but the pain she subjects Ruth to is definitely the worst.

Ben Davis went off his medication

We meet Ben Davis in Season 3 at one of his low points. He is working as a substitute teacher and when he sees a compromising photo on a student's cell phone, he promptly swipes up everyone's devices, marches out into the school yard, and chucks them all in a wood chipper. Rather than rest on his irrational laurels, he then uses a maintenance worker's skull as a punching bag. You would think this is the worst thing Ben does on "Ozark," but his worst action has more dire consequences than simply getting fired from his job.

Ben's story is difficult to express. His viewpoints are not inaccurate, but in the realm of sinners, virtue is not rewarded — it is punished. Had Ben stayed on his medication he may have been able to maintain enough mental clarity to properly navigate the minefield that is the Byrdes' life. Perhaps he could have even steered them to better decisions in terms of morality. But because he wants to have proper sex with Ruth, he decides to stop taking his medication. The outbursts that result lead to a tumultuous situation that can only be remedied by a terrible sacrifice. Ben Davis' quick departure from "Ozark" is a grave reminder that this world has no place for the just.