Review: Tom Pelphrey’s Raw and Unconstrained Performance in Addictive Drug Cartel Drama ‘Ozark’
As the World Turns and Guiding Light alum’s Emmy-worthy arc as a bi-polar man off his meds.
Ozark debuted on Netflix in 2017 and the third season was recently released on March 27, 2020. The gripping series surrounds the Byrde family, who find themselves uprooting from Chicago to move to Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks when financier Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman), his wife, Wendy (Laura Linney) and their teenage daughter and young son become entangled in a money-laundering deal with a Mexican drug cartel. The twists and turns are continual in the addictive drama, which sees the family forever changed by their increasingly dark experiences and the fascinatingly messed up cast of characters they interact with along the way. Soap opera alum Tom Pelphrey, who played Jonathan Randall on Guiding Light and Mick Dante on As the World Turns, joined the Ozark cast in season 3 as Wendy’s brother, Ben Davis. Soaps.com has a review of his role, which contains spoilers…
Ben first appears in episode two of Ozark’s third season, as a seemingly mild-mannered substitute teacher, who snaps over a perceived injustice with an over-the-top and violent reaction. Next, he arrives at the Byrde’s new riverboat casino and quickly finds himself on the wrong side of feisty Ruth (Julia Garner), the Byrde’s tough-talking employee. He’s about to be tossed out for loitering when he reveals he’s Wendy’s brother. At the Byrde residence, it’s clear his appearance is creating an uneasy vibe aside from the fact that he’s running from a warrant.
Ben becomes fascinated with Ruth and begins to pursue her romantically. He’s a charmer, who is adored by his sister and wins Ruth over, but we increasingly see glimpses of erratic behavior until Wendy realizes Ben’s off his bi-polar meds. Things escalate as Ben learns the truth about his sister’s family and their connection to the drug cartel. He becomes uncontrollable and confrontational, which puts himself and everyone he cares about in danger. At one point, Wendy is forced to commit Ben to a state mental hospital, which brings a series of powerfully heart-wrenching scenes between several characters, and Pelphrey’s screaming pleas as Ben is locked away are downright haunting.
After Ruth springs Ben from the facility against Wendy’s advice, his impulsive actions propel the story forward into a crisis which forces Wendy to make an impossible and devastating choice. Through Ben’s story and Pelphrey’s unconstrained interpretation, viewers get a stark look at the crux of living with and loving someone with a bi-polar disorder. I was drawn in by Ben’s charms, his love for Ruth, and moved by his despair, while also being frustrated by the irrational and sometimes-frightening behavior he was unable to control. Watch for Pelphrey’s riveting monologue in episode 9 as a manic Ben rides in the backseat of a taxi – fantastic writing and performance.
You can binge all three seasons of Ozark on Netflix if you’re intrigued and want to check out Pelphrey’s performance for yourself. Netflix will release a fourth season of Ozark at an unspecified date in the future.