REVIEW: Peaky Blinders (S5 E5/6)

Last week’s episode outlined several rookie mistakes in social etiquette a parvenu should never make when throwing a grand soirée. First, a host must never leave his guests to have sex – even if it is with his wife. Don’t compound this error by reminding the guest of honour that he might have laid the lady of the house when she was a prostitute. And don’t discuss who in the house said special guest can or can’t bed.

But the biggest faux pas is to have a shoot-out in the driveway among family members – even if it isn’t fatal.

What emerges from the Shelby armed standoff is that Aunt Polly (Helen McCrory) is a fantastic sniper and only wings Linda (Kate Phillips). It’s a talent that might come in useful should Tommy’s first choice to carry out the final act in his political strategy not pan out. Arthur (Paul Anderson), increasingly infuriated at forever being the greasy rag to Tommy’s engineer, is sent further round the bend by Linda‘s renunciation of their marriage. This subsequently propels him to exhibit a death wish several times in this week’s episode.

Polly chugs down the opium to celebrate her wedding proposal from Aberama Gold (Aiden Gillen). Arthur gets to be best man as a booby prize.

Back at the party, smoothie-chops Sir Oswald Mosley (Sam Claflin) makes a rabble-rousing speech to party guests at the Shelby mansion. “English people in the very heart of England – there are no people I’d rather be among.” Well, as they are uniformly Anglo-Saxon with a dash of Celt – no surprise there. “I have known the change is coming … in the lives of great nations there are moments of destiny which have swept aside small men of convention and discovered men of the moment, and our host is such a man.” Mosley tells them about his new party, then he rounds on the bankers in an anti-Semitic rant about the International Jewish conspiracy and on the “sweated labour” of the Orient stealing British jobs.

Gina (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Michael (Finn Cole) are clearly taken by the sound of Mosley’s British Union of Fascists and his ‘Britain First’ slogan (if it sounds familiar, Britain First was a 2011 fascist spin-off of the BNP) and his swipe at the press and its “false [fake!] news”.

Tommy’s wife Lizzie (Natasha O’Keeffe) is not impressed. “What are you doing dealing with man like that?” asks Lizzie. “You are going to have to trust me,” he says. Murmurs of “hear, hear” that emerge from the assembled group of self-satisfied wealthy movers and shakers could almost be the affirmation of European Research Group members. Did we spy Mark Francois, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Andrew Bridgen clinking their champagne glasses?

Mosley later chides Tommy over the shooting “it’s very lower-class”, intimating that he’ll never be ‘one of us’. He’s already carved up the country, deciding which of his henchmen will control which region for the party. Jimmy McCavern (Brian Gleeson) should have control of all Tommy’s racecourse rackets north of Wincanton, he says. Mosley’s parting shot to Tommy is that he must drink less, which of course he instantly defies.

When Tommy checks in with secret service contact Ben Younger (Kingsley Ben-Adir) to update him on Mosley’s sedition, the only useful intelligence divulged is that Younger is father to Ada’s unborn child. He is a little tetchy. Information Tommy had been supplying on Ada’s communist friends has dried up, so he’s been getting grief from his bosses in Special Branch and Section D (aka the far-right Economic League).

Ada thinks you have actually started to believe in something,” says Younger.

Please don’t listen to my sister’s opinions of me – they are always hopeful, therefore they are always wrong,” replies Tommy, dourly. Moments later, Younger is blown up in his car. Is it section D’s work? Or is it the IRA – led by the woman dressed like the spy in Allo, Allo – because of Tommy’s lack of co-operation since they kidnapped Michael? And didn’t the IRA’s use of car bombs begin in the early ’70s? Whatever, Ada’s son Karl Thorne (Callum Booth-Ford) is going to have to find a new chess partner.

During a meeting with Chang (Andrew Koji) over the heroin deal Arthur and Aberama are ambushed by an Irish gang – “the Titanic boys out of Poplar”, says Arthur, who insanely runs towards them Scarface-style with his machine gun until they scatter, leaving one body to be incinerated in the Peakies’ kiln. Arthur strides off in triumph to Atmosphere by Joy Division, seguing to the Shelby family following a funeral cortége of a young boy killed in the bomb blast.

Tommy visits a former sharpshooter infantry buddy in the Small Heath Rifles Barney (Cosmo Jarvis) in a harsh asylum. Barney is a pitiful sight, cowering, straitjacketed and almost feral. We are reminded how Tommy’s immense power and charisma, forged as a young NCO in the war, earned him unwavering respect from members of his unit and other veterans and cemented his streetwise reputation. It’s clearly reflected as hero worship – almost love – in Barney’s face. Even though he initially wants to die, when Tommy offers him a cyanide capsule he finds a reason to live; they are brothers in psychological trauma. Well, Barney, wait until Wednesday, when you’ll be broken out of the loony bin to the accompaniment of War Pigs by Black Sabbath to put a bullet through Mosley’s head. The choice of music has been fabulous in this series.

Arthur’s arrival in the bargeful of heroin coincides with McCavern baiting Tommy about his loss of face with Mosely. So what’s really in the 10 sacks of ‘flour’ that Tommy’s boys subsequently load on McCavern’s boat?

Kudos to the BBC scheduler who decided to run this series during the weeks leading up to the UK’s exit from the EU. Forget that it’s a historical costume drama; it’s so apposite to this time of national strife that its themes could have been plucked from the headlines – complete with Nigel Farage as a yobbish Mosley wannabe.

Writer Andrew Knight has acknowledged that the timing couldn’t be better as his vision of 1930s Britain sees rises in nationalism, populism, fascism and racism. And that all led to a world war. Let’s not go in the same direction.

Deborah Shrewsbury






3 thoughts on “REVIEW: Peaky Blinders (S5 E5/6)”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.