- Ben Davis, played by Tom Pelphrey, was a standout in Ozark Season 3.
- Ben is one of the instigators for the events of Season 4 as well.
- Here’s where you have seen the actor before.
Between Marty Byrde, Wendy Byrde, Ruth Langmore, and the rest of the gang, there are a ton of compelling characters in Ozark. Along with some of these series mainstays, there are also a number of compelling characters who enter and exit the series for a season or two at a time. One of those, for season 3, was Ben Davis—Wendy’s brother. Played by actor Tom Pelphrey, Ben showed up to visit his sister and her family, and eventually became central to the moral struggle that envelops the entire series.
Pelphrey doesn’t return to Ozark in Season 4, but his character, Ben, is referenced over and over and over again. If you didn’t quite remember who he was or what his whole story was, don’t worry—we’ve got you covered. Just keep reading a bit below.
Including the exciting role on Ozark, Pelphrey has been on a hot streak. Last year, he played one of the key roles in director David Fincher’s Mank, and has also showed up in Marvel’s Iron Fist. Coming up, he’ll star alongside Josh Brolin in the Amazon Prime Video series Open Range, alongside Elizabeth Olsen and Jesse Plemons in Love and Death, and will lead a serial killer drama called American Murderer.
Pelphrey has been an intriguing actor for a while. Before he played Ben Davis, he’s appeared on other projects that you may have also seen and recognize him from. Here’s a look at his career thus far.
Who was Ben Davis on Ozark again?
Spoilers follow, for anyone who hasn’t watched Ozark Season 3:
In Season 3 of Ozark, Pelphrey played a new character named Ben Davis; we first see him as a substitute teacher, getting into a fight and then promptly fired. We learn from here that Ben is both mentally ill—he takes medication for his bipolar disorder—is the brother of Wendy Byrde (Laura Linney), and Ben comes down to the Ozarks to stay with the family.
From there, Ben goes on a journey; he’s a good guy with a moral center, and bonds quite a bit with Jonah Byrde in particular. After meeting and getting along with Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner), the two begin a relationship; when he can’t perform sexually with Ruth due to a side effect of his medication, he decides to stop taking the pills.
This decision leads to a series of erratic and poorly-thought-out decisions; Ben is doing the right thing consistently, but doesn’t consider the implications. He exposes what Helen Pierce—the dangerous lawyer for the Navarro cartel—does for a living in front of her daughter, and in general makes a big mess of the whole criminal endeavor.
How did Ben die on Ozark?
In the end, Wendy brings Ben out to a diner along the highway, and leaves him alone; as she walks to her car, you see the hitman for the cartel enter the diner. The next episode, we see Marty disposing of his body in a crematorium. RIP Ben, you were too pure for this world. And Pelphrey played him wonderfully all along the way.
….Unless, of course, Ben is secretly alive. There are theories out there that Ben was never really killed, and that someone’s body is being passed off as his to keep the cartel happy. While we saw Marty at the crematorium, and we saw the ashes in the aftermath, it’s worth noting that we never actually saw Ben get killed. He could be alive! Probably not, but just something to keep in your mind in case Ozark really feels like going full Soap Opera.
Tom Pelphrey played a Marvel Villain.
It’s a pretty universally accepted fact that Iron Fist was the weakest of the Netflix Marvel Universe series (which also included Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, The Punisher, and The Defenders), but Pelphrey’s character in the series, Ward Meachem, was one of the few redeeming qualities. Pelphrey played him as sort of a buttoned-up, corporate type of villain—think Ben Mendelsohn in The Dark Knight Rises or Robert Redford in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
He’s also showed up in a few other exciting projects.
Before Pelphrey played Ben Davis on Ozark or even his role on Iron Fist, he had a small role in Banshee, a crime drama that aired on Cinemax to strong reviews. His character on Banshee is Kurt Bunker, a police deputy who was once a neo-nazi skinhead in another life. With this edgy character, you can see a little bit of the DNA that ended up transferring into his role as Ben Davis on Ozark.
Pelphrey has also played roles in single-episode plots on a lot of other TV shows you’ve heard of before, too. He’s been on an episode of Blindspot, an episode of The Following, an episode of The Good Wife, and has even played two separate characters in Law and Order: SVU. He’s worked around the TV dial for sure, and seems to have really made his way up the ranks to the point of gaining bigger and bigger roles as time has passed.
He was also a soap opera mainstay.
For 6 years and 163 episodes between 2003 and 2009, Pelphrey played a character named Jonathan Randall on Guiding Light. His character did all the things you would probably expect a soap character to do in that lengthy a period: get in trouble with girls, fight with just about every other character, try to kill his own mother, and, yes, die in a car explosion (which he would eventually return from. Don’t ask). Pelphrey also appeared on As The World Turns between 2009 and 2010, but a much shorter run—only 26 episodes.
Evan is an associate editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE.
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