‘Ozark’ creates a rich, dark world of crime and emotional turmoil that is as poetic as it is chaotic. The story introduces a host of complex characters that evolve because of the extraordinary circumstances they face in the peaceful yet crime-ridden Ozarks on the show. Ruth Langmore is one of the local criminals who gets inextricably linked with Marty Byrde and his dealings with the Navarro Cartel.
The young Langmore is tougher than most, but dealing with drug cartels and mob bosses takes an inevitable and tragic toll on her. In season 4, Ruth is strangely attached to a goat-shaped porcelain cookie jar. Wondering what that’s about? We’ve got your back. SPOILERS AHEAD.
What is the Significance of the Goat Cookie Jar?
Ruth purchases the goat-shaped cookie to store the ashes of a loved one. The ashes belong to Wendy’s brother Ben, who shared a brief but deep romance with Ruth (in season 3) and seems to be the only one the ill-tempered Langmore cared for apart from Wyatt. The ashes are originally kept at the Byrde residence, but Jonah, realizing the horrific circumstances of Ben’s death, decides that Ruth is the right person to keep the ashes. In the Byrde family, Jonah spent the most time with and was closest to his uncle. He realizes that apart from him, Ruth is the only one that seemed to genuinely care for Ben.
But why the particular goat-shaped container? The reason is especially tragic and harks back to Ben and Wendy’s conversation at a diner. Though he doesn’t know it at the time, this is Ben’s last conversation with his sister, and possibly the last time he speaks to another person, for he is killed soon after. Wendy asks Ben where he sees himself in five years, and he describes having a job, a car, being married to Ruth, and a house with goats. Wendy is surprised at the mention of keeping goats but smiles, saying it sounds like a good idea. She then walks out of the diner, knowing her brother is about to die.
The goat jar that Ruth keeps thus symbolizes Ben’s unfulfilled vision for a simple life with her, and what he describes also seems to be what Ruth would have liked most someday. In a broader sense, Ben’s “plan” symbolizes the simple life that most criminals seemingly dream about but can never have. Even Wendy — a powerhouse of blind ambition — admits that having a simple house with dogs and goats sounds perfect.
The goat-shaped cookie jar that holds Ben’s ashes and sits in Ruth’s trailer is a constant melancholy reminder to the Langmore (and the audience) of all the families on the show that are shattered by the cold reaches of the criminal underworld. When she leaves the trailer, one of the few belongings she takes is the jar of ashes draped with one of her tragic boyfriend’s old t-shirts.
The way Ruth struggles with the weighty container is also quite symbolic and seems to hint at the substantial weight of sorrow and anger that she carries inside. Ben’s death is the last straw in her relationship with the Byrdes, and his ashes seem to be a regular reminder for Ruth about just how ruthless (no pun intended) the Byrdes, especially Wendy, actually are.