Granted, we already knew that he wasn’t close to the seemingly perfect husband and father he appears to be in the series’ first episode. Wildly controlling and, frankly, weird, Tom had a gross habit of sleeping with his wife’s best friends in an attempt to isolate her from them. (Yikes.) This week, we learned his behavior was even more disgusting than we originally thought.
However, though we have definitive proof that Tom is categorically The Worst – well, as awful as it is, we should remember that just because he’s a rapist abuser doesn’t mean he’s a killer. As much as it may feel easier to assume that he is the dark stain on an otherwise fantastic community, well. That doesn’t mean it’s true.
Tom regularly lurked and listened to his Kate’s phone calls, drugged her and forced her into sex before rubbing his affair with Jess in her face. He’s a monster, and there’s no arguing that fact. At some point you’ll probably feel disgusted with yourself for ever having felt a moment’s sympathy for him at all. (I did. Multiple times.)
The thing that’s especially horrifying about all this, though, is the fact that his awfulness didn’t have to be such a secret. People knew – at least some of it. They saw things: His short temper, his weird desire for control, how he treated the women in his life. Kate even told Steve she was afraid he would kill her one day. And yet they all wrote it off, equally sucked in by the picture-perfect veneer that was the Hendricks’ family life, and the way it’s always easier to blame the woman involved for familial failures.
After all, no one seemed to have any problems whatsoever judging and publicly commenting upon Kate’s struggles with depression and post-partum. Isn’t it weird that no one seemed to ever bother to mention Tom’s shortcomings as a husband, father or general human being?
The second episode of Deadwater Fell spun out its story through the prism of Jess’ memories; the third one chooses to do so through Steve’s. And it’s as messy as you’d expect, given that he’s a man grieving his friends, confronting his own responsibility in not recognizing how much was wrong in the Hendricks’ household, and wrestling with his feelings about his wife’s affair. Oh, and the whole he got a witness to lie in order to secure Tom’s arrest thing.
Unfortunately, Steve isn’t the sort of man who knows what to do with all those emotions, nor is he capable of talking about those feelings in any sort of productive way. Hence, the aforementioned coercing a witness to lie thing. Because that’s how he fixes the problem, rather than just admit that had he been more observant, had he listened to Kate when she begged him for help, things might have gone differently.
Steve is just all around messy this week, and his rapid decline is fairly compelling television even as it sort of feels like Deadwater Fell moving the goal posts of the story its telling a bit. In the space of one episode he has a panic attack, attacks a witness, tries to force Jess to have sex with him, admits he can’t forgive her, steals drugs from a local dealer, causes a murder suspect to walk free and ends up on a cliffside drunk, high and possibly contemplating suicide.
The thing is, what Steve really needs is therapy. Like a lot of therapy. But thanks to the world he’s grown up in, the same one that papered over the obvious flaws in the Hendricks’ family with a convenient cover of their visually perfect life, he doesn’t know how to talk about them in a productive way. Thus, his work-appointed counseling session feels largely useless. And given that there’s only one more episode of the show, it feels unlikely that Steve’s cliffside breakdown will get the attention or closure it deserves.
What do you think of Deadwater Fell’s third installment? Do you think Tom is guilty? Or is someone else somehow really the culprit? Let’s discuss in the comments.