I don't understand Tom at all. I don't understand what the show is trying to say about him, what his true character is like, why it seems like Trixie was dating a man who can't quite take her seriously For A Year.
Having now seen the BBC cut of the Rose Queen episode and I’m more baffled than ever over Tom’s characterization. Halp, I do not know what to think!
Here’s where I’m at: “Tom” means “twin,” and this seems to be about the twinning of his self: man and Vicar. His fight with Trixie is about his “twinned” self, though I wish they’d gotten the chance to really talk about this since while he charges Trixie with overlooking the Church half of him, it’s really Tom himself who silenced down that half of him throughout their relationship.
There’s evidence of this from the start, made murky primarily by the fact that he was equating the relationship with his own adolescence. Their first date he jumps to allow her to be the grownup and call the mechanic, despite the fact she’s in heels, and runs off to listen to the cricket scores with the young boys. His explanation to Fred regarding lying his way out of the dance sounds like adolescent baggage. It’s nice that he does finally try to address this with Trixie, in the alley outside the club, though again she takes command, showing that he Can and Does sweep her off her feet. From there on he seems rather stuck in that place, partitioning their relationship into that fantasy instead of fully relating to her as the whole man he is now.
This is supported by later moments. Asking if it’s “childish” to be excited by snow on Christmas. He first kisses her when she has a “deep” thought, which reads as though he’s less taking her seriously than prone to considering her a flirt. Then countering her fair point that they know 63 people (I’m quite sure they do, and that very few are simply parishoners or patients) by noting he feels like a teenager. His initial retiscence to ask her to run the Rose Queen Parade, then how he spends the episode sneaking around with her acting, frankly, like a lovesick puppy and rarely even looking at anyone else.
Which is weird because Barbara is in most of those scenes and it ends up looking like we’re meant to conclude that a) Tom just hasn’t seen Barbara, too bedazzled by the flashy Trixie, b) Barbara is the one really doing much of the work while Trixie deals with baubles, c) I don’t even know, except that while I do think that narratively it makes sense for Tom to move past this “first love” relationship with Trixie to have an adult relationship with someone like Barbara, she is a) rather young and still needs to grow into herself so I’d prefer she meet a man her own age, b) it’s super unfair to Trixie, who is framed by this narrative as a flake and c) it fails to charge Tom to become self aware of his underlying issue, which is not itself accepting that his vocation limits his wife-choices, but rather that he never gave their relationship a fair shake Because of his romantic idealism and viewing Trixie from the perspecive of a man playing out a second adolescence.
Which all comes to a head in teh Rose Queen episode, then forms the basis for their argument and break up in the next episode. Despite the fact that Trixie usually is quite involved in Community events, he asks her to take it on with a hesitation which gives the appearance of very low expectations. Not long ago he was arguing over the frivolty of her engagement plans, now suddenly she’s planning a party and he is so into it that he’s hard core flirting. He’s playing house. Since the job is introduced as a Church project, by rights this should be them practicing for married life, yet in the next episode the Bishop calls and Tom doesn’t initially even think about including Trixie. Nor does he have a reason she should not be there, unless we’re meant to understand that he is subconsciously keeping her away.
He would do this because a) he isn’t actually comfortable with her as his partner when he is his Church twin-half. Which explains why in the previous episode he entirely failed to act like a Vicar, and spent the whole time acting like a besotted doof. Does it also imply that b) this is a specific conclusion he drew after her speech about “mean spiritedness” in defense of the gay father?
I presumed he felt a bit ashamed Trixie had to call him out on the issue of forgiveness. She was, in that moment, knowingly stepping outside what he expected of her (why she was standing there in silence twisting her ring whilst everyone else was holding something in front of them - overt shields of silence. But on the other hand she was acting as a moral leader, even using religion itself appropriately.
Here’s the thing: Trixie was dead right, and now I wonder what Tom’s real feelings are. It’s not just that he didn’t speak up. It’s that he was holding a chair the whole time. He does NOT put it down when he confirms sinners should be forgiven. This is symbolically relevant because when Trixie speaks she drops her own “shield” by unjoining her hands. Is Tom playing it safe? Really conservative? Is this a deeper metaphor to the unspoken assumption that he COULD decline the position the Bishop offers, and it is his own choice to go where sent (in permanent fashion) rather than take charge of his own life?
It’s more nuanced considering he already went “outside the rulebook” to create a service for teh dead unbaptized child. And that it was this decision he made which so impressed Trixie, this action which lead her to drop her extravagent plans, say she loves HIM as a man, and take the bootie to the morgue, to support him and be a part of his actions in solidarity. Yet here he doesn’t put down the chair. Is he NOT the man Trixie thinks he is, and :
Is THAT indicative of his current insecurity? If so, precisely what is it? We know what Trixie’s are in the relationship. But Tom just doesn’t talk that much about his inner life. I’m left drawing a conclusion from their last couple of “real” talks: “what are you doing” and “I thought I’d found her.” It’s like he needs someone to be in charge of him, to tell him what to do, and the trouble is he’s too scared to follow where Trixie leads, because she forges her own path and he’s scared to step off the track.
The most active we really see him is when she’d leaving after the Bishop Tea, when he physically runs after her and grabs her by the hand. And then proceeds to talk about The Church, in full on Vicar mode as he asks charges her with the fact he sort of IS The Church but not in a personal way. What he really expects of her, what he needs from her, wants from her, he leaves her to assume, perhaps because he doesn’t know himself?
It’s useful but then mildly out of place that their break up occurs while they’re both mildly out of uniform. Trixie’s top button is undone, Tom’s dog collar is off, top button undone. It implies it’s their vocations which are at odds, but we never get them talking on this level so it’s murky, I can’t remember any discussion about whether Trixie would continue to nurse after married, for one. It’s just Tom stating absolutes about The Church again, while Trixie is forced to be the one who specifically understands, makes personal admittances, and breaks it off. Did Tom really, this whole time, believe their married life would be Trixie falling into some meek line in public duties, playing glamourous wife behind closed doors when he happens to have time?
His inability to compromise on the wedding planning says: perhaps yes. The deep respect Jenny’s beau’s all had for her indicate no, the show wouldn’t pull this, not this way at least. Look at Trixie’s previous love interest: the movie star who got handsy. I can’t believe they’d take the same route with Tom, this time burying it under auspices of validity, at least not without validating Trixie (which I guess is next series so maybe that’s the explaination.)
I just don’t understand Tom. Does he need to sort of woo Barbara, in which he’d be the easy and only leader in the relationship, to realize what an adult relationship could look like? Does he actually NOT want an equal alliance, and I’ve been hoodwinked? What the heck is going on?