Peaky Blinders, series five, episode three recap: paranoia in the face of fascism
The Shelbys continue to collect enemies as if they are going out of fashion
Is Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) overreaching himself with this plan to infiltrate Mosley’s political party? Photograph: Robert Viglasky/BBC/Caryn Mandabach Productions
A very happy 45th birthday to Ms Polly Gray (Helen McCrory), who decided to mark it as only Aunt Pol can by threatening a nun with a hatpin, busting a former lover hellbent on revenge out of hospital and debating freedom with her son’s new wife (not entirely successfully, it should be noted).
Elsewhere, things were getting pretty complicated for the Shelby family, who continue to collect enemies in much the same way 10-year-olds do Match Attax. While Arthur struggled with the monster within (and there’s surely a special place in hell for those who sully a Friends Meeting House with violence), the paranoia of Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) is reaching new heights. He’s been unnerved in the past but he’s usually far better at hiding it. It was also notable that he had to get drunk before facing Jessie Eden (to some extent his conscience) and letting her know that he wouldn’t speak out against Oswald Mosley fascism.
The realities of being a Peaky wife were very much the main theme of a nicely paced episode, with Linda, Lizzie and Gina all coming to very different conclusions about the best way to survive gang life.
For Gina it’s simple: she’s an American, her child will be born in the US and a besotted Michael will fall in line to help her. Yet, given her husband’s increasingly precarious role within the company (and his refusal to simply keep his head down until the distrust passes), how easy is her planned escape route likely to be?
Certainly Linda’s story demonstrated how hard it actually is to cut those ties – although some might doubt the wisdom of letting it be known that you’d already moved on from your ex-husband with a kinder man. That said I found Linda’s examination of the person she wants to be and the person she is with Arthur to be compelling, particularly because Arthur himself claimed he was a good man even as he beat a man possibly to death. Will Linda return to the Shelby fold following that act of violence? I imagine that any reunion will be heavily propped up by drink and drugs.
Lizzie, meanwhile, had arguably the most interesting trajectory of all as she made her peace both with her relationship with Tommy and her role within the family. “I used to sleep with seven men a night and now I’m learning to ride side-saddle,” was an entertainingly blunt way to put it but I think Lizzie has always been a pragmatist at heart and her decision to get the best out of a difficult situation was very much in character.
And while the whole “property” bedroom talk had queasy undertones, it’s probably also worth noting that Lizzie is the only one of Tommy’s women who has never tried to change him. She walks her own path as much as she can. As she told Linda: “I chose this life. It didn’t choose me.”
The Bad Guys
It’s a recurring theme in Peaky Blinders that Tommy will always appear to overreach himself at one point in each series – and that definitely seems the case with his plan to infiltrate Mosley’s new political party and attempt to undermine it from within. For starters Mosley is clearly well enough prepared to know both about the existence of Ben Younger and about Tommy’s relationship to him. Plus there’s also the question of just how ready to step in Younger himself might be. For all that he’s given his backing to Tommy’s plan, he did stress that he still answers to higher powers, and those higher powers are clearly more than chummy with Mosley.
If dealing with Mosley was tricky enough – and I think it is tricky because this is a man with the weight of the establishment behind him and all the carelessness of those who see themselves as born to rule – Tommy has an additional, more overtly violent, front to fight with the Billy Boys.
As expected, Aberama Gold remains hellbent on retribution and not afraid to use extreme methods to achieve said revenge, even if his desire to deliver the final bullet saw him listen to Arthur for now. The trouble is that everything we’ve seen of Billy Boys leader Jimmy suggests that he’s a man who loves the thrill of a turf war. Things are going to continue to be very dirty indeed.
Notes from the Boardroom
- Given that one of the main themes of this show is the innocent bystanders who pay the price for Peaky actions, I presume that the man Arthur attacked may not be the same man that Linda is seeing.
- Hurray, we spent more time with Karl. Boo, he’s a budding racist. Oh, Peaky Blinders, why when you give do you just as swiftly take away? More seriously, the show could have fun with the notion that the child of former communist Ada holds very different views.
- Why is it that TV shows always choose to depict Glaswegians as speaking in a particularly convoluted and florid way? It’s as though the only Scot they have ever heard speak is the sainted Sir Billy.
- I remain intrigued by Gina’s ultimate game – and also will be quite disappointed if her statue of liberty gift doesn’t serve some kind of Chekovian purpose by the series end.
- Congratulations to you if you called it that the Peaky Blinders weren’t behind the assassination of the unfortunate journalist. Nice work (and I presume it’s Mosley who did the dirty deed).
- I was pleased to get confirmation during the pheasant shoot that Tommy served in the cavalry so Ben Younger was indeed his commanding officer.
- Lizzie’s wardrobe is giving me extreme envy. The wages of sin is clearly good fashion sense.
- So Johnny is something of a dirty Dog on the sly then…
- Nice to see the always excellent Kate Dickie pop up briefly as the unpleasant Mother Superior in the opening scenes.
Anachronistic yet strangely right song of the week
While I’m a big fan of The Pearl Harts’ Black Blood, this can only go to Anna Calvi’s haunting cover of David Bowie’s Lady Grinning Soul, which played as Arthur gave in to his darker self.
Quote of the Week
For f**k’s sake the Furys don’t even use words to f**king talk, just hand gestures and f**king howls
– Johnny Dogs lays it on the line with a very cheeky quote that will have tickled fans of boxing and Love Island