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This Himbo Shtick Is Losing Me

Tom Jones in the PBS Masterpiece series Tom Jones.

When we were first introduced to Tom Jones (Solly McLeod) in ITV Studio/PBS Masterpiece’s latest adaptation of the same name, he was clearly going to be clumsy with the concept of monogamy. The character is attractive, kind, and charming but doesn’t think of the consequences of his actions. Everything has kinda just worked out for him until it didn’t. However, his promised happily ever after with Sophia Western (Sophie Wilde) feels less desirable with each passing scene. (And it’s not her!)

In the first episode of the minseries, it felt like Tom Jones was mainly a rascal in the silly sense and a free lover second. Even being #TeamSophia, I found his first star-crossed relationship with Molly (Lucy Fallon) fun. It was hard to dislike Molly or their relationship—at least at first. However, in each subsequent interaction with women, Tom’s relationship with Sophia becomes harder to root for. Many issues can be chalked up to his himbo (meaning hot and not bright) status. However, that excuse and core character element is losing its charm.

Spoilers for Tom Jones episodes two and three.

Tom Jones episode 2 sneaking away.

In episode two, we follow Tom and Sophia (with Honour played by Pearl Mackie) leaving the countryside in separate parties. After his adoptive father disowns Tom for continuing to pursue Sophia after her engagement with Master William Blifil (James Wilbraham), Tom turns to the road. Additionally, Sophia and Honour leave, fleeing to London to escape the forced marriage to Bilfil. While Sophia hasn’t lost hope for reuniting with Tom, that faith wanes when his letter never makes it to her. With Sophia still in Somerset, Tom has every reason to believe that Sophia is already married to his adoptive brother.

After that, it’s a little easier to forgive his lack of allegiance to Sophia going forward, to an extent. This includes having sex with Mrs. Waters (Susannah Fielding) later in that episode. This may sound controversial, but it’s very reminiscent of Ross and Rachel’s “on a break” fiasco from Friends. However, while Ross was 100% in the wrong, I’m a little more forgiving of Tom, mainly because Sophia and Tom were not together really at any point. (Tom is also more personable than Ross.)

The “comedy of errors” style of writing and the show’s scoring (with curious string plucking) has influenced this conclusion. Unfortunately, this sex happens (loudly) in a room next to Sophia and Honour, because they’re unknowingly staying at the same inn.

Things change after the third episode, though. After multiple rounds between the sheets with Sophia’s aunt-like figure, Lady Bellaston (Hannah Waddingham), Jones has crossed a line. (Arguably again.) Before one can begin to make excuses for the events of the masquerade party (for which there’s zero), they have similar encounters again. Jones appears to be at a turning point at the end of episode three. He seems to understand that the multi-day fornication with Lady Bellaston was wrong. Not only did he reflect on the wrongness, but he denied her last attempt to have sex with him. However, I’m still not thoroughly convinced Sophia could realistically forgive him. I’m just an off-screen viewer, but I’m not!

Can Tom Jones bounce back?

Look, you’re throwing yourself away on a quarrelsome bastard who’d take advantage of a hole in the carpet.

— Honour spitting.

Tom’s philandering can only be blamed on a lack of situational awareness for so long! Maybe I’m the problem? While not particularly superstitious, most of my zodiacs mirror my personal values of honesty and fairness. Each of these characters is being wronged in various ways that I desire to be resolved. However, ending up together doesn’t feel right, particularly for Sophia. At this point, I just want them to each be happy and as far from each other as possible.

Reading about Tom Jones online (because I looked up the book, and there’s no way I was cracking a 700-page tome between episodes), I had hoped that things would fall into place better at this point in the four-episode miniseries. Jones’ redemption arc on the relationship track should be much farther along, at least for a viewer to feel like the show hasn’t failed Sophia. (This is not in comparison with the book, just the show as it’s own work.) She is a young, naive character who’s doing her best to wade through the societal limitations put on her gender. (And race, in this adaptation.)

Thankfully, Honour is there to provide sense to the situation, but Sophia needs to hold higher standards for Tom. The book/show’s staging is super dramatic and silly, so who knows what how it will play out in the final episode this weekend?

(featured image: PBS)

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(she/her) Award-winning artist and blogger with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. Starting as an Online Editor for her college paper in October 2017, Alyssa began writing for the first time within two months of working in the newsroom. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3, Apex Legends, and CS:GO. Still trying to beat Saxon Farm on RCT 3 (so I can 100% the game.)