REVIEW: Peaky Blinders (S5 E3/6)

The charismatic Oswald Mosley (Sam Claflin) this week set out his bold vision for Britain – to make it the greatest place on Earth. Oops, no, sorry, that was actually Boris Johnson. But you can see how the confusion arises.

While Bojo and Cummings staged their coup this week, back in a field in Birmingham in 1929 Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley, 6th Baronet of Ancoats and Labour MP for Smethwick, is trying to lure Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) into helping with his dream to replicate the fascist state created by Mussolini in Italy. 

Tommy realises he’s no longer playing in the local league; his response will affect not just his own family’s future but also that of the entire nation.

 However, before he can even consider how to deal with Mosley and his grand project, Tommy has to decide what to do about the Billy Boys ‘frae Glasgie’ – Jimmy McCavern’s (Brian Gleeson) shipyard gang from East Strathclyde, following the murder of Shelby family stalwart Bonnie Gold, son of chief enforcer Aberama Gold (Aiden Gillen).

Tommy’s nephew Michael Gray (Finn Cole), still in the doghouse after losing the family fortune, wants to take his new wife Gina (Anya Taylor-Joy) to hospital for her pregnancy check-up, but Tommy tells him Ada (Sophie Rundle) can take her. “Because that’s what women do,” sneers Arthur (Paul Anderson), who is still smarting from his dressing-down by errant wife, Linda (Kate Phillips), who has scarpered back to her old Quaker friends. Who wouldn’t?

Still, these tasks should be a piece of cake compared with duffing up the nuns at St Hilda’s Orphanage. Tommy and Polly (Helen McCrory) meet the sisters for a 6.30am working breakfast to confront them over the discovery that girls at the orphanage the Shelbys fund in memory of Tommy’s late wife, Grace (Annabelle Wallis), are being systematically abused.

“Your sins are legion,” says the Mother Superior (Kate Dickie). “Not like beating children with bricks and hoses,” counters Tommy – before blowing coke in her face – and breaking the nun’s spectacles while Polly threatens her with a knife. You have to hand it to Peakies – it is certainly ‘equal opportunities’ when it comes to meting out violence. The upshot is funding is withdrawn and the girls are to be transferred into the Shelby institutions.

Tommy sees serious heft in Mosley’s boys and as the fascist leader is forming relations with McCavern’s thugs, Tommy aims to get in first to avenge Bonnie’s death. He takes Arthur and Michael to his Commons office to meet Mosley. “You’ve both met bad men before; the man you are about to meet is the devil,” he tells them.

Michael tries to play the big man with Mosley, only to hear that slimy Ozzie has done his homework on his misspent time in the US and that unstable Arthur is being cuckolded, causing him to almost lose his rag and break a chair. Mosley describes Tommy’s Romany warning to his brother as “wog language” – what a sweetie. Coming down to brass tacks, he says he can use Tommy, but isn’t going to get involved in the Shelby family’s ‘turf wars’ and won’t help Tommy avenge himself against McCavern’s gang.

But he has made the murder of the gay journalist go away – so he now has Tommy in his pocket.

Arthur is close to the edge after the bruising encounter. “Who the f**k are these people?” he snarls, as he smashes up Tommy’s office.

“I’ve just been invited to become the deputy leader of a brand new political party. These people say they are the future.” Well, not on this side of The Channel, fortunately, Tommy.

Linda is also in search of redemption – she’s moved in with Quaker friends in Bourneville and is having trouble finding a lawyer to divorce Arthur – well, who wants to get their practice torched? Lizzie (Natasha O’Keeffe) also wants to divorce Tommy but she’s going to play the waiting game – Linda has a man friend but Lizzie warns her against pursuing it unless she wants his daughter to be orphaned.

Polly spends her 45th birthday visiting the seemingly indestructible Aberama in hospital. He tells Polly he has one more killing to do “and I’ll be done”. Against Tommy’s wishes, she delivers him to his gypsy family to get up a posse to kill McCavern.

Karl Throne (Callum Booth-Ford), Ada’s son by her late husband Freddie Thorne, is turning into a right little fascist himself. While playing chess with Colonel Ben Younger (Kingsley Ben-Adir) he says he’s glad Ben’s not his dad – “because he’s in heaven and he was white”. The army intelligence officer is the stoic sort, though, as evidenced by the fact that his unit had originally come Birmingham to arrest Ada over her communist past but he’s hung around because he’s sweet on her.

Plus Tommy finds the relationship is occasionally useful. This time because Ben’s commanding officer plays polo with Mosley, Tommy asks him to do a little intelligence work to undermine Mosley, or he’ll go it alone it trying to “bring him down for King and country”. He counts on Ben nurturing hopes of marrying into the Shelby clan.

“I have no intention of joining a family,” Ben retorts. Arthur, in a rare moment of levity, comments: “Thank f**k for that – you’d hate our weddings.”

If you’re a Peakies aficionado you will heartily concur.

Again in this series’ most paranormal twist, Tommy’s dead wife, Grace, again comes to haunt him. Last week it was a spooky cuddle around the campfire, this week it is while he’s in his cups at the pub. Already bit the worse for wear, Tommy had earlier met his communist union contact and on-off lover Jessie Eden (Charlie Murphy). She wants him to address one of her anti-fascist rallies – now for obvious reasons he tells her he can’t. His psyche is more becoming more shattered by the moment. Then again, dead wives may be easier to deal with than grumpy live ones.

Speaking of grumpy, Arthur is on the warpath – and in a drunken frenzy – to find Linda’s man friend and the inevitable happens. Then he goes off to source hand grenades to deal with the Billy Boys in Glasgow. As you do.

Aberama is obviously feeling a lot better as he crosses the border; on meeting with McCovern’s advance party he finds a novel use for boiling tar.

So as Tommy’s PTSD simmers nicely, Arthur and Aberama have created an almighty mess to clear up and have possibly put the kibosh on his plans to rout Mosley’s incipient militia – the ‘Biff Boys’. 

The almost elegant scenes of violence are escalating by the week into larger set pieces but it is getting difficult to see how director Anthony Byrne can up the ante in the tenebrous but strangely beautiful world of the Peaky Blinders. The stakes are so high now that the notion of Polly gouging at the flesh of the nuns with her stilettoes sounds quite piquant.

 Deborah Shrewsbury




6 thoughts on “REVIEW: Peaky Blinders (S5 E3/6)”

  1. was it my mood, or was this a particularly harsh episode?
    Previously there has been a wise balance of beauty physical or emotional to the violence. This time– none. Simply violent from start to finish.


  2. There was a serious historical error. Mosley did not leave the Labour Party in 1930 but in 1931 when he formed the New Party, a party which with its Keynsian policies was to the left of the Labour Government that collapsed that year. It was only after the 1931 General Election that Mosley adopted fascist policies after a trip to Mussolini’s Italy. This prompted several former Labour politicians to leave the New Party.


    1. Time is necessarily truncated in TV series so we could be watching events taking months rather than days. We began the series on 29 Oct 1929 with the Wall Street Crash, however, the New Party was founded on 1 March 1931 and dissolved in 1932. Yes, they are taking this at a fair lick, but it isn’t a BBC4 documentary.


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