REVIEW: Peaky Blinders (S5 E2/6)

Clowns to the left of him, jokers to the right, Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) is stuck in the middle with the familiar feeling that there is someone with traitorous intent in his family’s orbit.

While it is by no means a new sensation for the Brummie Al Capone – after all, erstwhile business associate Alfie Solomons (Tom Hardy) had a most complicated relationship with him and finally betrayed him to the powerful Changrettas – this feels different and much closer to home.

On the one hand, Thomas Michael Shelby OBE DCM MM MP now has a semblance of a clean sheet; his gypsy past, though, can never quite be shed. In fact, to avoid rivals, he often seems comfortable in moving back to his Romany caravan to sit trouble out.

But Tommy’s Romany spidey-sense, substance abuse, chronic insomnia and PTSD have culminated in a ‘black cat dream’ that someone is looking to depose him and he is spoilt for choice as it seems there’s quite a field of runners and riders.

Unsure if he’s in a dream or real life, early one morning Tommy sees what he thinks is a body hung on his land and rips away an almost biblical threatening note pinned to it – only then realising that it has been surrounded with landmines. He manages to railroad small son Charlie (Jenson Clarke) into the house, but the boy’s violin lesson is not an adequate disguise for the explosions as Tommy detonates the mines by machine-gunning them.

His miscalculation in bumping off nosey journalist Michael Levitt immediately comes back to bite him with a visit to his House of Commons office from a rather timid plod. Although he intimidates the detective, Tommy surely can’t hold off police interest in the high-profile murder for long.

On disembarking from his transatlantic journey, nephew Michael (Finn Cole) is abducted from the ship by members of the IRA. Tommy’s agitation at the development is visceral.

Back in the Commons, Tommy offers his support to a schools bill to raise the school-leaving age to 15 in a proletarian tour de force.

Sir Oswald Mosley (a vulpine Sam Claflin) engineers a meeting with Tommy during a break at the Commons’ bar – against the better judgement of his canny political adviser, sister Ada (Sophie Rundle). She takes against him and Tommy warns Moseley she is dangerous. “We adore dangerous,” says Mosley, sounding like a posh Nigel Farage. The Brexit parallels with the Tories/UKIP are all redolent. Mosley’s pitch is that he’s putting together a band and is keen to get Tommy’s Brummie muscle on board with like-minded Irish activists.

Ada sees through the soft-soaping – Mosley knows about Dangerous, Tommy’s late racehorse, and Tommy’s drug-binge parties with the upper-class set. But a Scotch versus Irish whiskey debate finally convinces Tommy that Mosley could be connected with the IRA gang that held Michael captive – further fuelling his paranoia that everyone is after his ‘throne’.

It appears you are moving away from the [Labour] party in a different direction,” says Tommy. Oh, you think so, Mr Shelby?

We are the people and we have had enough,” echoes Mosley from Tommy’s speech.

The aggressive debriefing Michael is given about his kidnapping proves that his floozy Gina (Anya Taylor-Joy), now his protective (and pregnant) wife, is made of tough stuff. Although Michael is absolved of wilful deception, he has been demoted in the family and now expected to carry out more dangerous work – much to the fury of his mother Polly (Helen McCrory).

It’s down to Linda (Kate Phillips), carrying on her Lady Macbeth routine, to make her witless husband Arthur (Paul Anderson) screw his courage to the sticking place. This she does by chucking away all the alcohol and cocaine in the house and bringing him up to speed on how Tommy is losing control of the legitimate family fortune by reverting to their old ways – fixing horseraces and football matches and running narcotics.

It also hadn’t dawned on Arthur that the working-class hero is also making ends meet by selling out the communists to the British secret service. And long-suffering Linda and Tommy’s worried wife Lizzy (Natasha O’Keefe) have done a good job of joining the dots in the murder of the poor gay newspaper hack.

Indeed, things are escalating fast and soon the booby-trapped scarecrow isn’t the only crucifixion around. Faithful family retainers feel the usurpers’ power. By the end of the episode it all goes so horrifically New Testament that Judas is invoked – along with more than a dash of The Long Good Friday.

Deborah Shrewsbury


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