Ozark Season 4: Why Ruth's Uncle Song Was Deeper Than You Realized
Warning! Spoilers ahead for Ozark season 4.
Throughout the Ozark series finale, Ruth’s visions play a pivotal role in understanding her character – and none emphasizes this more than the one that features Ruth’s uncle, Russ, crooning John Prine’s classic song Angel From Montgomery. As one of Ozark’s most beloved characters, the tragic end of Ruth’s story was as much a part of the series’ end as the Byrde’s survival. Yet Ruth’s uncle’s song had a far deeper meaning than simply being a musical accompaniment to Ruth’s last daydream.
Ozark’s Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner) is the only character outside of the Byrdes’ four-member family to be featured in every episode of Ozark and, just like every other element of the Emmy-winning show, her relationship with the Byrdes is complicated. Ozark season 1 sees Ruth and her family of low-level criminals set themselves against Marty (Jason Bateman), with Ruth stealing cartel money from his hotel room. Ruth and Marty soon become allies, however, with Marty recognizing Ruth’s potential and Ruth identifying Marty as her ticket out of her cursed life as a Langmore. Ruth even goes so far as to kill her uncles Russ and Boyd to preserve Marty and his enterprise. This relationship sours later in the series, though, when Marty fails to reciprocate Ruth’s loyalty and retaliates against the Kansas City Mob after they attack her. By Ozark season 4, Ruth is again set against the Byrdes, taking vengeance into her own hands by killing cartel-leader Javi (Alfonso Herrera) to avenge her beloved murdered cousin, Wyatt (Charlie Tahan).
In a profoundly Shakespearian turn, Ruth spends the last episodes of Ozark haunted by visions of her dead family before she is murdered by Javi’s mother, the new cartel leader, Camila (Veronica Falcon), in the Ozark series finale. In her last vision, Ruth sees her family back in their trailer camp, with her murdered uncle, Russ (Marc Menchaca), strumming his guitar and singing John Prine’s Angel From Montgomery. With lyrics that speak to dissatisfaction and longing, the song encapsulates Ruth Langmore’s story in Ozark, lends deeper meaning to her death, and offers insight into the show’s dark themes.
Written as though an anthem for Ruth’s character, Prine’s song is about a woman that feels older than she is. Prine describes his inspiration for the song (via American Songwriter) by saying the woman in question wants out of her life, that she feels trapped, and she is yearning to become an angel that flies from her prison-like existence. And while the song may not have specifically referred to death, Ruth’s murder affords Prine’s lyrics deeper meaning, with Ruth symbolically becoming the “angel that flies from Montgomery.”
Furthermore, the Ozark series finale seems defined by Prine’s chorus with the show’s final episode titled A Hard Way To Go and significant screen time afforded Russ’ crooning of the lyrics “to believe in this living is such a hard way to go.” The meaning behind this seems two-fold. Firstly, returning to Ruth’s personal arc, the lyrics speak to Ruth’s belief early on in the series that the higher level of criminality offered to her through Marty and the Cartel would allow her a way out of the woes of life as a Langmore. Later in the series, this poetry is furthered in Ozark by Ruth’s character finally breaking free of both the Langmore life and the Cartel and gaining a glimpse of the “living” she has worked for throughout the series, only to have her death come as a result of what she has done to get there.
Secondly, and perhaps most poetically, the series also implies a deeper meaning for the show through Prine’s lyrics. Evidenced by the title for Ozark’s divisive series finale, the series concludes with the idea that each character in Ozark has chosen a “living” that will leave them unsatisfied. Furthermore, their belief in that “living” and the series ending with the Byrdes furthering their life of crime alludes to the idea that, like Ruth, the Byrdes will eventually find their living a hard way to go.
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