Content Warning: The following article contains spoilers for the Netflix series Ozark.
Netflix’s Ozark has given fans numerous villains, as the crime-drama series continues to throw one antagonist after another at the Byrdes. From the cunning Helen Pierce to the unpredictable Javi Elizondro, some of these villains are more frightening than others.
The best among them are often the biggest threats to the Byrdes’ safety and security, and will almost always give Marty and Wendy a challenging time. They’re incredibly intelligent, violent, and often downright terrifying. With the recent release of the final few episodes of season 4, it’s the best time to look back at some of the most formidable antagonists the Byrdes have faced over the course of the popular show.
Mel is one of the most recent additions to Ozark‘s impressive roster of villains, and he’s already found ways to make the Byrdes’ lives more complicated than they already were. The former police officer turned to private investigation after being fired from his old job, but still obviously has the same instincts from before.
Based on his story, he was sent by Helen’s family to find her, but in the process of doing so, he’s uncovering some confusing details about her disappearance. He even goes to Wendy’s father to disprove parts of Helen’s story about Ben’s history. That said, he hasn’t done nearly as much damage as other antagonists in the series, and the Byrdes don’t seem too concerned by his presence considering they have bigger things to worry about.
Frank Jr. plays the role of a typical spoiled and privileged criminal who’s set to inherit the throne of the Kansas City Mob. When he’s first introduced, he’s depicted as an annoying individual who has a penchant for petty crimes. He quickly finds himself going against Ruth when she calls him out for taking advantage of the casino’s customers.
The worst thing the character does is beat up the likable Ruth, sending her to the hospital. Since then, though, the two have turned it around and formed a bizarre alliance. He has transformed from foe to friend, so he’s no longer a threat to the Byrdes – he even helps them with a drug deal at one point.
Cade is a memorable supporting character in the series for all the wrong reasons. He’s an abusive, manipulative, and neglectful father, who also happens to have a giant ego. He can’t accept that Ruth has found her own way to success during his incarceration, and insists on pulling her back down to the level that he thinks the Langmores should be at.
He repeatedly blackmails Ruth, using her love for Wyatt against her. That said, he’s not really a major threat to the Byrdes (and to Ruth, for that matter), and the only time he becomes a real nuisance is when he hurts Charlotte. Wendy predictably easily gets rid of him after that incident.
Fans can’t be blamed for not really remembering Del anymore at this point, which speaks volumes about how many more interesting antagonists have been introduced since season 1. Viewers have to give him credit for being the first real big baddie on the show, though, and back then, his actions were genuinely scary.
When Marty challenges him, he doesn’t realize that Del is dead serious about his claims and threats. A violent scene soon follows where he kills all of Marty’s associates in a shocking manner. No one could have expected Darlene’s reaction to the villain’s insult in her home, and Del’s death was more shocking than heartbreaking. It also underscored how much more dangerous and unpredictable the Snells are compared to him.
Between the two Snells, Jacob was arguably the more level-headed and rational one. While, just like his wife Darlene, he also values tradition and family, he’s more willing to entertain new ideas – it’s a trait that will eventually lead to his downfall.
Jacob gave the Byrdes a hard time once he realized they were encroaching on his territory, and things became even more complicated when they insisted on using his land for the cartel’s new casino. He was willing to start a war for a while, even though they were clearly outnumbered. His mistake was giving in to what they wanted from the Snells, as Darlene couldn’t allow that to happen.
Despite being gone for over two seasons, fans probably still remember the spine-chilling scenes with Agent Roy Petty. The FBI agent was one of the Byrdes’ biggest concerns during the first few episodes, as he became convinced that the family would be his way into the Navarro cartel.
Roy wasn’t afraid to use unethical methods to get information about the Byrdes. Viewers won’t soon forget the twisted way he manipulates Russ into falling in love with him, just so he could use him to get to Ruth. There’s also that messed up way he gave Rachel drugs and forced her into getting information from Marty. He’s an antagonist in that sense, but his goals were still for the greater good, in the end.
Audiences meet one of the best characters in Ozark after Del’s untimely death, and they immediately see that she means business. As the cartel’s lawyer, Helen is used to the gruesome methods that Navarro utilizes to conduct his business. Along with her trusty companion and assassin Nelson, they intimidate, murder, and even torture whoever they have to in order to achieve their goals.
Helen is also incredibly smart, which makes her more dangerous than the average criminal. She tries her best to be one step ahead of the Byrdes, as for the majority of the time she’s around, she sees them as rivals and liabilities. She clearly loses the game to Wendy, though, as Navarro makes it clear whose side he’s on.
When he meets the Byrdes for the first time, Javi makes it clear that he means business. As Navarro’s heir to the throne, he treats the cartel as a business operation that needs to be improved and refined, but it’s soon revealed that he’s not as measured and rational as he appears. He’s not nearly as experienced and cunning as Navarro, and he hasn’t done as much as Darlene has in the show.
Javi doesn’t shy away from threats, often intimidating the Byrde family and reminding them he can kill them at any time. Of course, his most memorable decision in season 4’s first part results in one of the most shocking events in the series, as he murders Darlene and Wyatt without hesitation. This action highlights how violent and impulsive he can be, which he may not be for long if Ruth gets her revenge.
The main reason why Darlene is such an effective antagonist is that she really doesn’t care about other people, especially if they get in the way of what she wants. Everything she does is to benefit her and her loved ones, but she’s also shown that she can turn around and kill them without hesitation if they go against her wishes.
This is exactly why Darlene ends her relationship with Jacob, despite having been married for decades. In Darlene’s world, only the strong survive, and there are no compromises allowed. Her hardheadedness is the trait that has gotten her so far, but it’s also what dooms her in the end.
Without a doubt, the most formidable villain the Byrdes have ever gone up against is Omar Navarro. The ruthless cartel leader is willing to kill, torture, and harass to keep his organization alive. More importantly, he’s smart about his choices, which fans see when he sides with the Byrdes instead of Helen, and when he insists on finding a way to get immunity, no matter how impossible it may seem.
If Navarro weren’t around, the Byrdes wouldn’t even be in the mess they’re in, as it’s their debt to his illegal business that has kept them on the hook. He can recognize talent, which is why he develops a relationship with Wendy. It’s his calculated and cutthroat choices that have given him the reputation he has as one of the most dangerous criminals in the world.
NEXT: 10 Best Quotes From Ozark Season 4