The Case for Tommy Jarvis: What Was Great About Jason’s Nemesis and Why He Should Face Him Again
The Tommy Jarvis “trilogy” of Friday the 13th movies is among the franchise’s most popular. When looking at The Final Chapter, A New Beginning, and Jason Lives, it’s clear that we’re talking about three very different slasher movies—each with its own style.
They utilize the Tommy Jarvis protagonist in three very different ways, and there isn’t a massive character arc that strings them together, but they lend an air of continuity to a series that rarely bothered to have any.
Why does Tommy remain a consistent fan favorite? Examining the popular decisions of other franchises may help bring the issue into focus.
Surely we can agree that Dr. Loomis lends weight to the Halloween series as the boogeyman’s foil. He’s what every villain’s nemesis should be: resourceful, determined, and flawed. It’s this combination that I would argue makes him an enduring character. It’s never easy going after ”evil on two legs”, and yet he remains undeterred—despite numerous failures throughout the series. Loomis fails upward while trying to do the right thing, and it only adds to the history between Michael and him. As we reach the later films in the series, where Loomis has descended into full-on Captain Ahab mode, it feels like a logical progression after everything we’ve seen.
Conversely, most Nightmare on Elm Street fans agree that bringing Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) back into the fray was a wise decision for Dream Warriors after Freddy’s Revenge explored some drastically different avenues. Nancy will forever be remembered as one of the genre’s greatest heroines for her ability to beat Fred Krueger at his own game. And while she might’ve been unceremoniously killed off in the third film as a means of giving its titular heroes a trial by fire, it was nice to see her evolve and progress as a direct result of the events of the first Nightmare.
To be clear, Friday the 13th has never had a problem with likable final girls. Ask five Jason fans which is their favorite, and it’s entirely possible you’ll get five different answers (for the record, I’m team Melanie Kinnaman). But the series sort of refused to bring its heroines back in any meaningful way, and so we never had the benefit of watching how they evolved to deal with the Jason problem again.
But that changed with Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. That’s not to suggest this was the result of meticulous planning by any means, but there was obviously enough potential within Tommy Jarvis to keep him around for a few movies. At last Friday the 13th was about to give Jason his own nemesis, and at the end of the trilogy we’ve got a character with a pretty interesting through-line. No one would ever accuse these films of offering rich character arcs, but Tommy is painted with enough broad strokes to make his arc across all three movies worthy of revisit.
It’s really hard to dislike him in The Final Chapter. He’s a young kid with an affinity for monster masks and video games, not above peeping on the beautiful women parading around in the nude next door, either. In short, he’s us: any young kid who watched these movies before they were old enough. He’s also the only one in his family with an excuse for not knowing that there have been brutal murders occurring on the lake where they live all weekend. Corey Feldman is great in this, and he probably has a lot to do with audiences getting in on the ground floor of the Tommy Jarvis movement. After all, he’s earnest and likable when a lot of kids in horror tend to be whiney and annoying. What’s great about The Final Chapter is that it’s unafraid to put him through some pretty terrifying paces as well. When I first saw this movie, I was much younger than Tommy is in the film, and I was constantly terrified of Jason smashing through my window to take me.
Tommy also figures out how to get at Jason’s psyche, dolling out the most uncompromising besting we’ve ever seen the big guy take. Not only do we like the kid, but the determination with which he protects his older sister is sort of touching.