Succession: The Continual Cognitive Dissonance of Matthew Macfadyen as Both Mr. Darcy and Tom WambsgansPhoto Courtesy of HBO TV Features Succession
I realize I will now divide the room, but to me, there is no dreamier Mr. Darcy than the one played by Matthew Macfadyen in the Pride and Prejudice adaptation starring Keira Knightly. I just adore him, and figured I would easily be able to pick Macfadyen out as the most attractive cast member on any TV show at a moment’s notice.
Then I watched Succession.
I sat and watched for probably 40 minutes before it dawned on me that this bumbling guy, Tom Wambsgans, was my Mr. Darcy. How could he be so transformed to the point where I did not recognize him as a different character?
Instead of dreamboat, he is the exact opposite—as our Paste TV Editor opined, Kendall is really the attractive man in this show. Yes. You heard me. He is more attractive than Mr. Darcy. But Tom’s relationship with Shiv (Sarah Snook) is the opposite of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. While in Pride and Prejudice the couple has a rocky start and fabled happy ending, on Succession, Shiv and Tom seem to have a happy beginning (which we know nothing about) but any potential fairytale ends at the marriage.
I am not alone in missing the signs that Tom is also Mr. Darcy. When I shared this tweet, plenty of people could relate:
I cannot understand why Shiv is with Tom, unless she saw him like this. #Successionpic.twitter.com/V2m4Q4XnhN
— Keri Lumm (@TheKeriLumm) September 16, 2019
So below are all of the ways Matthew Macfadyen’s Tom threw me off, without the use of prosthetics, by being the polar opposite of Mr. Darcy:
He’s Desperate for a Wedding
Yes, I know that Mr. Darcy is desperate to have Elizabeth in the end, but he is secure in himself. When he has to prove his love, he does it in real ways. He does not fawn all over her. He takes decisive action to save her silly sister, even if it means dealing with Mr. Whitcomb. Yet, the choice is always hers. He is clear that he loves her, she can’t doubt it, but he respects her choice.
Tom, good grief, he can’t stop pestering Shiv until she accepts his proposal. It was so uncomfortable to watch. He was so excited and yet I did not want her to accept him. It felt weird, like one of those guys who asks a girl over a jumbo-tron during a ball game. She might only be at the game because he likes it and now she is pressured into accepting a ring in front of a thousand strangers. I felt like one of those strangers while I watched Tom insist that Shiv marry him.
… And then again when she tells him that she is a cheater and wants an open marriage on their wedding night. Worse still, he goes along with it.
He’s a Terrible Friend
Can you even for one minute imagine Mr. Darcy throwing water bottles at Mr. Bingley?
Here’s Tom though, acting like he is friends with Greg and then using him to do his dirty work. The whole time, Greg kind of sees through it, and tries to protect himself, but regardless he keeps going back to this bad friendship. Tom can heave water bottles at him, and ask him to miss Thanksgiving dinner to be the fall guy, and Greg keeps coming back. I don’t know who Tom even really has as a friend. Certainly not Shiv, and not even Greg, who initially falls all over himself in worship of Tom.
Even when Mr. Darcy ruins Mr. Bingley and Jane’s initial engagement, he did it with pure motives to help his best friend. There is nothing pure about Tom.
He Seems To Offer Nothing
This is the part that is unexplainable to me. I sincerely hope that at some point HBO gives us the backstory on Shiv and Tom that we so desperately need. Why do they stay together? Tom seemingly brings nothing to the relationship with Shiv. Is he a leech and just wants access to the money and power? Does he have some kind of secret on Shiv? Whatever the case, she holds all the power and he doesn’t seem to contribute to the marriage. Not even sex!?
Mr. Darcy, however, brings everything to Elizabeth, and yet it is clear that their attraction would be real without the money or power. Their love is in their hearts more than their minds. If all of a sudden they were broke, I believe that they would stay together. The belong together. With a look you can see their connection.
Shiv and Tom don’t belong together, they are just—together. And poor Tom Wambsgans cannot make anyone’s heart melt with a look.
I guess at the end of the day, at least for this heterosexual woman, attraction really is more about personality than looks. Macfadyen looks the same, yet the demeanor and the way he holds himself is so utterly different as to be unrecognizable. Gone are the charms of Mr. Darcy—all we can see is Tom Wambsgans. Give this man an award.
Succession airs Sunday nights on HBO.
Keri is a professional chatterbox who loves watching TV & movies, reading about pop culture, and gawking at any craziness on the internet. You can follow Keri on Twitter.