Netflix’s Ripley: Is Tom Ripley a Psychopath?

With Netflix’s ‘Ripley’ living up to its title in every way conceivable, we get a psychological thriller that can only be described as equal parts baffling, intriguing, haunting, and thrilling. That’s because it revolves around New York career criminal and conman Tom Ripley as he gets hired by a wealthy businessman to bring his vagabond son home, only for things to take a drastic turn. He actually becomes obsessed with his target Dickie Greenleaf, following which he takes his life to assume his identity before going as far as to ruin his relationships and kill one of his old friends too.

Tom Ripple is Indeed a Psychopath

Since this Netflix original has been inspired by Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 novel ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’, as well as its series sequels, we know for a fact Tom doesn’t have a conscience or a moral code. In other words, he’s a true psychopath who was rarely troubled by guilt over his actions, which the author actually made clear in her third piece of the “Ripliad” saga, ‘The Boy Who Followed Ripley’ (1980). Within this, the character concedes he sometimes feels shame about his earliest killings because they were youthful mistakes more than anything else, but it wasn’t enough to stop him.

Image Credit: Philippe Antonello/NETFLIX

In fact, Tom classifies his murder of Dickie as a “dreadful” error prior to adding it was also “stupid” and “unnecessary” of him to kill his friend Freddie Miles in cold blood, yet what’s done was done. Though what makes the biggest impact is the way he said it in a rather casual tone, just to then state he has committed so many more murders over the years he can’t even remember the total count. After all, in the published book just preceding this 1980 one, ‘Ripley’s Game’ (1974), he himself had vehemently asserted he detests killing unless “absolutely necessary,” making the audience wonder precisely where he tips the scale for capital punishment or utter mercy.

Moreover, it’s imperative to note Tom is a nightmare for a few other reasons too, with the primary one being that he knows his charm enables him to lure anyone into his lies, and he takes full advantage of it. That’s actually how he manages to kind of mask his antisocial personality disorder, self-indulgence, as well as narcissistic traits — by the time people around him realize his truth, it’s often too late. Then there’s also the fact he’s unapologetically selfish in every sense of the word; if there’s something he wants, no price or life is too high for him, and that’s socio-psychopathic through and through.

However, the most terrifying aspect about Tom is that he’s weirdly likable — while there’s no denying he has done terrible things and deserves no forgiveness, he is also relatable to a massive degree. His awkwardness, desperation for care and affection, desire for some stable luxuries, plus strongminded opinions all make him human, so we somehow end up hoping he doesn’t get apprehended by the end. And that’s the scariest part, especially since his level of selfishness is the kind we wish we could possess too — not every single day, but in some special circumstances when it comes to one’s boundaries.

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