Netflix's next addictive drama premiered on July 21. Ozark doesn't waste any time in amping up the drama, immediately throwing the central Byrde family into an elaborate survival scheme after patriarch Marty Byrde (played by Justin Bateman) is very nearly murdered by the drug kingpin whose money he launders. The stakes are high, and Marty is dealing with some dangerous people. So does Marty die on Ozark? (Spoilers for Ozark through Episode 3 ahead.)
He's the protagonist of the series, so his death would be unexpected. But even compared to other characters who live risky lives — such as Walter White and Frank Underwood — Marty really seems like he could be taken out at any moment. The first episode is about how close Marty comes to death — all of his associates are killed by the kingpin they're stealing from, and as he's on his way to confront his wife, the man she is having an affair with falls to the pavement right in front of him. Even after he's able to convince the Langmores to return his cash, Ozark native Ruth asks Marty, "Why do I have this feeling that we both know you'd be better off dead?" So Marty's eventual death — and how close he is to losing his life — is an omnipresent Ozark theme.
Bateman's performance is such that Marty is surprisingly confident whenever he's in a crisis, as though he's daring whomever is threatening him — be it the feds or a group of local lowlifes — to go through with it. Marty frequently puts himself in situations where he could die and openly invites his own death, but always pulls back just in time to save himself and his family. The arc of the season (or the series, should it continue) could end with Marty finally accepting death, perhaps as a sacrifice, or with the man finally realizing he has something to live for — both would be thematically appropriate.
Here's a bit of a non-spoilery spoiler: Bateman told Collider that he's interested in returning for Ozark Season 2, "if people like it enough." When asked if he was "game to further explore where this guy could go and where that might take his family next," Bateman said, "Yeah." While he doesn't explicitly say that Marty won't die, Bateman's comments also underline that the breakdown of this "typical" American family, and their frequent close brushes with death are a huge focus of the series. "It’s an interesting thing, or at least it’s interesting to me, to explore how much a family can take on and justify," Bateman told Collider. "The danger is that it just starts to decay the typical family dynamic [...] We’ll see how all of that unravels, if we go back."
Bateman's comments demonstrate how integral the family unit is to how he sees the show — without Marty, the family will no longer be whole. So while Marty could die by the end of Ozark Season 1, he certainly doesn't need to in order for the series' themes to still carry through.