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The Best Ozark Episodes According To IMDb

Whether it's a chemistry teacher getting increasingly pulled into the world of methamphetamine production or a soccer mom-turned-pot-dealer, there's just something mesmerizing about the idea of an everyman venturing into the dangerous world of criminal enterprise. There's something almost Faustian about the idea of a typical, almost boring American trying to dabble in crime only to get pulled in deeper and deeper. But as the Byrde family in Netflix's "Ozark" learns, stepping into the world of organized crime is like stepping into quicksand.

The story follows financial advisor Marty Byrde's failed attempts to break free of a cartel after a years-long money laundering venture goes south thanks to his sticky-fingered partner. Starring Jason Bateman and Laura Linney as a couple trapped in a hellishly toxic marriage, the series weaves Southern gothic elements through a tale that explores the American dream gone wrong. 

With its grim, cynical worldview, "Ozark" stands out in its exploration of the erosion of the American family, serving as an apt metaphor for the despair so many Americans feel as they clamor to survive in a world where very few hold true power over their lives. Over the course of the show's first three seasons, the series earned praise for its powerful performances and suspenseful writing. These are the best Ozark episodes from the drama's first three seasons, according to IMDb.

Sugarwood (Season 1, Episode 1)

"Sugarwood" begins the dark, brooding storytelling of "Ozark" with a look into Marty Byrde's worldview: "Money is, at its essence, that measure of a man's choices." As a picture of financial manager and family man Marty unfolds, it is the portrait of a deeply unhappy man. Marty obsessively watches a sex tape of his wife Wendy and another man while conducting business in his office, frets over utility bills while looking for new office real estate, and suffers through miserable family dinners with his wife and kids. But even that is nearly pulled from his grasp when Marty's partner Bruce (Josh Randall) unexpectedly calls him into a meeting.

From there, it quickly becomes apparent that Marty and Bruce launder money for a cartel, and after years of working under this arrangement, their honesty has come into question. Cartel lieutenant Del (Esai Morales) leads an intimidation audit, killing everyone present right in front of Marty. At the point of a gun, Marty spews out a plan to launder money for the cartel in the Ozarks. The plan works, but at a price, with Del giving Marty a week to have the operation up and running. The story jerks from one intense moment to the next as the Byrde family reacts to the news, setting up an impossible scenario.

Coffee, Black (Season 1, Episode 9)

As in the penultimate episode of "Ozark" Season 1, the many entanglements and plot points of the first season start to pay off in "Coffee, Black." Now that a smitten Russ Langmore (Marc Menchaca) has started to make future plans for an out-and-proud life with Agent Roy Petty (Jason Butler Harner), the sleazy agent decides to finally stop toying with him and hit him with the cold, hard facts. Petty plays Russ a recording of the Langmores promising not to kill Marty Byrde again. Master manipulator that he is, Petty knows Russ won't question for a second whether the recording would be admissible in court. Russ's response is emotional and heartbreaking as he lashes out at Petty, accusing the agent of turning him gay. They struggle physically, and Petty threatens to out Russ to the community if he doesn't cooperate.

When Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner) sees through Russ's attempts to coerce her into admitting she tried to kill Marty, Russ comes up with a helluva Plan B, enlisting the help of his brother Boyd to kidnap Marty, steal his money, and kill him before taking off with the boys. Predictably, things only get worse from there, with Ruth sniffing out her uncles' plans and thwarting them with the old electric marina trick. With Ruth torn between her continually shifting loyalties, the father-daughter dynamic with Marty starts to become clearer for this tragically abused character.

The Toll (Season 1, Episode 10)

As the drama with the Langmore brothers fades away, the Snell problem only increases in the "Ozark" episode "The Toll." Aware of what the Snells are up to, Brother Mason (Michael Moseley) refuses to continue supporting their heroin business, and true to their word, the Snells kill his wife Grace. In one of the most horrifying moments of the series, Mason comes home to find his pregnant wife gone and a newborn baby in her place, showing that sometimes terror is as much about what isn't shown as what is. The action ramps up even more as cartel henchman Garcia catches Wendy trying to flee with the kids and Buddy is forced to shoot him. There's a moment of absurd humor as Marty struggles with the instructions on the cremation oven at the funeral home while he presses Buddy about his own funeral plans.

When Del comes looking for Garcia (Joseph Melendez), Marty's fast talking comes to the rescue again, and before long, he and Del are at Casa Snell making an elevator pitch on a cartel-Snell heroin merger. Just when it seems like they've got a good deal in the works, there's one shocker left in the episode as Darlene's impulsiveness and racism take over and she kills Del for calling her a redneck. As Jacob (Peter Mullan) and Darlene (Lisa Emery) casually argue over her poor judgment, this scene is a prime example of what "Ozark" does best, weaving the darkly absurd into a tale of Southern tragedy and horror.

Game Day (Season 2, Episode 5)

Another solid episode that serves to move the plot along, "Game Day" sees Agent Petty trying new angles with the Byrde family by raiding their home and pressing Marty with more bluffs and manipulation. Recklessly wielding his utter lack of professionalism, Petty sets up Ruth to be targeted by the cartel and continues to keep Rachel strung out on oxycodone. Throughout the course of events, Jonah Byrde (Skylar Gaertner) reveals that he has been experimenting with money laundering and seems to have an aptitude for the family business.

While cartel lawyer Helen (Janet McTeer) and Marty deal with concerns about the FBI stumbling into the Snells' opium crop, Ruth and Rachel discuss the implications of possible fallout from the heat. As the episode progresses, the action builds beautifully with the seed Petty planted germinating as the cartel comes to torture Ruth. Elsewhere, Wendy and Buddy find a DIY solution to the Snell problem, with Buddy burning down the opium fields while Wendy distracts Darlene with a ruse about adopting a baby. The image of Buddy standing before the burning field is wickedly triumphant, only to be replaced with the emotional emergence of a sobbing Ruth, leaving viewers with the sense that nothing in "Ozark" is handled for long.

Outer Darkness (Season 2, Episode 6)

Immediately following the events of "Game Day," "Outer Darkness" begins with the death of Buddy, who dies quietly on the way back from his arson adventures with Wendy. As promised, the FBI descends on the Snell farm, where they uncover no poppies but do happen upon a fair amount of human remains, much to the delight of Agent Petty. After Jacob Snell is arrested, Darlene reacts in a characteristically unhelpful way, demanding that the Byrdes get him out of jail while refusing to offer any information about the bodies they found.

Jacob is just as useless, waxing poetic when Marty comes to see him in jail instead of working on a strategy to save his own skin. Despite the heat, Marty manages to pull off a DNA bait-and-switch with the Snells' family burial grounds. Ruth begins to question her loyalty to Marty when Jonah's academic dishonesty business gets Wyatt (Charlie Tahan) suspended. The episode's handling of Jonah's grief is mournful and lovely as the teen takes over Buddy's funeral with a fitting tribute to his dear friend, culminating in the beautifully dark burning of the deer's head.

One Way Out (Season 2, Episode 7)

In "One Way Out," the situation with Mason finally reaches a fever pitch when the former minister loses custody of his child for keeping baby Zeke in unsafe conditions. Blaming the Byrdes for his wife's death and the number of other tragedies that have befallen him, Mason abducts Wendy. When Marty comes to her aid, Mason's increasingly unhinged behavior leads to Marty shooting him. Jason Bateman's depiction of Marty's reaction to killing someone is sincere and heartfelt as the couple works together to deal with what has to be done to dispose of Mason's body.

Fortunately, they know someone who owns a funeral home, wink wink. But despite the heavy Byrde plotline, the interactions between Ruth and Cade (Trevor Long) are the best part of this episode. Ruth's attempt to placate her father by helping him steal a boat turns bad when the owner catches them in the act, forcing them to hide in the water under the dock. The scene to follow is devastating to watch as Ruth begs her father to give her another chance, especially knowing the hold he has over her. In a series about family trauma, this episode is a gut-punch from start to finish.

The Badger (Season 2, Episode 9)

"The Badger" is one of those "Ozark" episodes that uses up a lot of space with exposition but makes up for it with the big moments and accompanying emotional weight. The psychology and love story of Jacob and Darlene's relationship are what makes this episode one of the best in the series. The episode begins with a flashback that offers some insight into their life together before picking up moments after Jacob and Darlene's car is shot by the cartel. In the past, Darlene crashes a date between Jacob and an apparently typical young woman, sliding into a diner booth and telling him to leave his date and follow her, telling him, "I promise I'll at least make it interesting."

The next scene finds the pair skinny-dipping in the lake to the tune of Glen Campbell's "Wichita Lineman" before flashing to the present, where Darlene begs him not to die. By the end of the episode, her impulsivity has turned on him. As the couple takes their morning walk together, Jacob comes to realize she has poisoned him, falling down as she tells him she used cyanide from ground cherry pits. "I never could keep up with you, Darlene," he tells her as she holds her dying husband under the Ozark sky. The camera pans out to the beauty of the mountain scenery as he draws his last breaths.

The Gold Coast (Season 2, Episode 10)

"The Gold Coast" brings everything that makes "Ozark" masterful together with plenty of gorgeous cinematography and dark twists. While Marty frantically plots his family's escape to the Gold Coast without Wendy's knowledge, the wheel of fate keeps turning around the Byrdes. Seemingly unaffected by Jacob's death, Darlene is ready to move on, telling Wendy that she can move forward with the casino if Wendy will give her baby Zeke. When that doesn't work, Darlene abducts Jonah and shaves part of his head as a warning.

Elsewhere, Agent Petty meets a fitting end when despite all of his machinations and shady dealings, he is finally brought down by a sucker punch from Cade Langmore's toolbox in a moment of rage. In a panic, Cade tries to force Ruth to give him Wyatt's tuition money or he'll tell Wyatt that Ruth killed the Langmore brothers. Ruth calls his bluff, revealing the awful truth to Wyatt in a devastatingly emotional scene. After a violent encounter with Cade and Charlotte Byrde (Sofia Hublitz), Ruth tells Marty and Wendy that her father will keep coming back and threatening what they've got going on. Since Ruth is no slouch, it stands to reason that she understands the implications of what she's telling them. Wendy arranges a hit on Cade, solving the problem once and for all in one of the episode's final surprises.

Civil Union (Season 3, Episode 2)

"Civil Union" kicks off with the introduction of Wendy's volatile brother Ben (Tom Pelphrey), when his workday as a substitute teacher goes horribly wrong. Ben's violent response to teenage bullying is just one of many signs in this episode that foreshadow trouble ahead for the inhabitants of "Ozark." Throughout the rest of the episode, Ben comes across as affable and quirky, but this scene lingers over his character like a bill waiting to come due.

A highlight of the episode is the chemistry between Ben and Ruth. Ruth's rough edges are a perfect complement to Ben's too-easygoing nature. The chemistry between Helen and Wendy is another highlight as the two women work together to push the Big Muddy Casino owners into a deal, with Helen's failed marriage and family problems serving as both foreshadowing and a foil for the Byrde family issues. As Marty continues to undermine Wendy and Helen's efforts to purchase a clean casino, Ruth perfectly executes a plan to sabotage the Big Muddy's slots. The picturesque image of the Byrdes' lakeside home is juxtaposed against the chaos of Ben's strange behavior, Helen sending goons to violently attack her ex-husband, and the KC mob sabotaging a casino's fireworks display for Marty, all leading up to the episode's final revelation that the casino purchase triggered an FBI audit.

Kevin Cronin Was Here (Season 3, Episode 3)

As Marty and Wendy learn in "Kevin Cronin Was Here," the road to hell is paved with good intentions and the musical stylings of REO Speedwagon. Framed with Speedwagon's frothy rock ballad "Time for Me to Fly," this episode leans into the strange, dreamy surrealism that is a signature of "Ozark" even more so than usual, exploring the dark psyche underlying Wendy's cool exterior. Of all the forces that threaten to tear the Byrde family apart, it is the power struggle between Wendy and Marty that poses the most imminent threat, seeping into Wendy's dreams through dark visions of her killing Marty or sending him away.

While Wendy and Helen work on taking over the Big Muddy Casino, Marty comes up with a plan to keep moving money right under the watchful eyes of the FBI. The quiet terror of Marty's existence underlines the episode, with Marty's characteristic self-emasculating obsessiveness threatening the entire venture as he listens in on Wendy's conversations with cartel kingpin Omar Navarro (Felix Solis). Marty's seething intensity gradually mounts until he unexpectedly agrees to take an FBI job in exchange for 18 months of jail time. The shock is visceral when, moments later, Marty is nabbed by cartel thugs in broad daylight from the Speedwagon concert and shoved into a Ford Expedition. Moments of subdued humor placed throughout the episode add to the offbeat terror and the sense that everything in Marty's life is spinning violently out of control.

Boss Fight (Season 3, Episode 4)

After three seasons of watching Marty's mental health quietly and internally spiral while working to undermine the efforts of Wendy and the cartel, a reckoning has been a long time coming and finally arrives in "Boss Fight." In the Ozarks, the Byrdes and Helen scramble to deal with the implications of Marty's abduction, and Helen's view is a bleak one. Down in Mexico, Marty's extreme BS is no match for Navarro, who sees through it all, asking him directly, "What do you want, Marty?" After days of subjection to stadium lights, maggoty food, and death metal, Marty has an epiphany, telling Navarro, "I don't trust my wife, and I fear you. You scare the f***ing sh*t out of me, the both of you do," admitting that he hopes Navarro loses the cartel war and ends up with his head chopped off.

After a brief scare with the Panamanian account, Marty tells Navarro he wants to compromise an FBI agent so they can launder safely. This episode takes a long-overdue look into Marty's psychology, giving new meaning to the concept of safety in numbers. As one IMDb reviewer noted, "He's a man who always runs always from his problems by escaping into his safety net of solving financial problems," where solutions are easy and rewards are numerical. This is beautifully underlined with flashbacks to his childhood, as he obsessed over a video game while his father lay dying in the hospital.

Su Casa Es Mi Casa (Season 3, Episode 6)

This just-past-halfway-point episode of "Ozark" Season 3, "Su Casa es Mi Casa," starts off with a fantastic Marty and Wendy scene as the power struggle between them bubbles to the surface in a therapy session with Sue. Both have been bribing the therapist, using her as leverage against the other, and ethically flexible Sue finds the situation wholly amusing. When a therapy session goes completely off the rails, both Marty and Wendy end up saying too much in front of Sue, going off about Navarro, the FBI agent, and the hit on Cade as if Sue isn't there. It's classic Byrde selfishness, with both of them fully aware Sue is still in the room but too wrapped up in their own drama to rein in their speech. And in classic Marty style, he solves the problem with a number, paying her off with "a s***load" of cash.

Another highlight of the episode is the depiction of Ben's struggle to balance a romantic relationship with his mental health issues, causing him to go off of his medications and setting up a future disaster. Like so many episodes, "Su Casa Es Mi Casa" goes out with a bang as Ruth's drop is compromised, with a helpless Ruth looking on as the rival cartel kills everyone at the drop site and sets the truck ablaze.

BFF (Season 3, Episode 8)

In "BFF," the Byrdes' self-absorbed M.O. and poor decision-making once more bring about very real consequences for someone in their periphery, specifically Sue, who Marty realizes the cartel has decommissioned the way the cartel decommissions people. Now well off his meds, Ben's mental health issues rapidly begin to escalate under the pressure of the circumstances and Ruth is too vulnerable to see how dangerous that is until Ben drives to Kansas City, harasses the KC mob, and gets arrested for assaulting a stranger. Marty and Wendy struggle over what to do about Ben while putting together their Byrde Family Foundation gala on the Missouri Belle.

Everything is going swimmingly until Ben shows up yelling publicly about Wendy and Marty's cartel activities, all under Helen's watchful eye. Ben's response as Helen breaks the news that the Byrdes are having him committed is devastating and one of the finer performances of the season. As he sobs to Ruth in the institution, it's easy to wonder if Ben is the only person with humanity in the Byrde clan. While his reactions seem extreme, they're the only thing that makes sense in the face of the horrors the family is immersed in. It comes as little surprise that when Darlene gets him out of the facility, Ben shows up at Helen's house and tells her daughter everything, sealing his fate.

Fire Pink (Season 3, Episode 9)

After Ben's heartbreaking unraveling, "Fire Pink" picks up in the middle of the madness as Ben monologues manically in the back of a cab about his mental health issues. When Ben shows up at Ruth's place, he immediately reveals what happened with Helen, much to Marty and Ruth's horror. The relationship between Helen and the Byrdes was already beginning to sour, and it quickly becomes clear that they've got big trouble afoot.

The episode is fraught with tension as the Byrdes, Snells, and Langmores shuffle Ben around trying to keep him alive. In one profoundly disturbing scene after another, the Byrdes dance around Helen and Erin confronts her mother about the family business. But despite their best efforts, Ben can't help being his own worst enemy and shows up at the casino. The dramatic tension escalates as Wendy drives Ben around, aimlessly trying to come to terms with what has to be done. Fans and critics praised Pelphrey's and Linney's emotional performances in this all-around exceptional episode.

All In (Season 3, Episode 10)

The season finale of "Ozark" Season 3, "All In" is hands-down the most intense episode in the series up to that point. In the wake of a cartel attack on Navarro's family, Helen makes a power move against the Byrdes, moving in on the casino business and setting the Byrdes up to look like FBI rats. Fully aware of what Helen is capable of, Wendy starts to believe Helen plans to have the Byrdes killed. As things reach a breaking point between Ruth and the Byrdes, Ruth calls Wendy a "f***ing b***h wolf" and quits her job. After Wyatt tells Darlene about Ruth getting attacked by Frank Cosgrove, Jr. and the Byrdes' refusal to do anything about it, Darlene handles the situation herself by shooting off Frank Junior's Frank Junior.

Under pressure from all sides, Wendy hatches a plot to bring down the rival Lagunas cartel with Jonah's drone video, but she wants Helen out of Byrde Enterprises. As Navarro sends for Helen and the Byrdes, FBI Agent Maya Miller (Jessica Frankes Dukes) confronts Marty about the FBI deal he's supposedly taking, tipping him off to the potential danger he and Wendy are in. As the Byrdes greet Navarro at his estate, Helen is shot in the head inches from them. With lawyer gore entangled in Wendy's hair and all over Marty's shirt, Navarro embraces the pair, telling them that today will be a new beginning.