So what happened?
Wanting to secure the canal route from Birmingham to London through the Black Country, this week Tommy Shelby forges an entente with fellow ex-soldier, Billy Kitchen (Matthew Akers), and so he and a number of other men become ‘bakers’ at Alfie Solomon’s ‘bakery’, first being subjected to an initiation ceremony that borrows so much from ‘Fight Club’ it’s almost painful. Sabini is still about too, this week inexplicably sitting in a blood-splattered boxing ring, eating a sandwich, plotting Tommy’s demise, and organising the death of a young, innocent man in prison, who’d agreed to be caught by the Police for illegal gambling for a hefty sum of money, in order to send the Peaky Blinders a message. Of course that’s the understated part of the message, and when Tommy, his brothers and his cousin go to the auction to buy a horse, an unsuccessful attempt on the gang leader’s life is made, which one would presume furthers the Shelby’s determination to execute their plan to take the Southern racecourses from the Italians.
Meanwhile arch-villain, Major Campbell, has moved into lodgings. Only his ‘friends’ in the Police Force have seen to it that he’s now living in a den of ill-repute, run by a half-retired madame, which Tommy understandably takes a great deal of pleasure in informing him about. Behaving like the self-righteous coward he is, the law man gets his revenge by humiliating the woman and waxing lyrical about his one man mission to clean up the streets; all the while carrying a picture of Grace in his wallet, which he wistfully refers to whenever he’s feeling particularly lovesick. Speaking of unobtainable women, just before the assassination attempt Tommy encounters May Carleton (Charlotte Riley), a rich horse trainer who shows more than a passing interest in the head of the gang and his horse, although it’s clear she’s more interested in him and the “bad things” he does than the animal. I spy trouble there, unless there’s a double bluff and May actually turns out to be an asset to Tommy and the gang. Who knows? She’s certainly one savvy lady.
Back at the homestead, there continues to be an impending sense of doom for both Aunt Polly and Arthur. Bending over backwards to welcome her son, Michael, into the fold, her requests for him to keep out of their dangerous business fall on deaf ears. Sulking until he gets his own way and is allowed to the auction with the other Shelby lads, when he returns, he keeps her in the dark about the attempt on Tommy’s life, relishing the opportunity to slum it with his gangster relatives. As expected, Arthur is hooked on cocaine and it’s doing little for his temper, beating Sabini’s would-be assassin to a pulp, before attempting to bite the man’s throat out. All of this after the Mother of the boy he beat to death in the boxing ring last week turns up at The Garrison, gun in hand, determined to put a bullet in him. She chickens out, but not before Arthur himself confesses that it would probably be for the best if she did put an end to his and everybody else suffering. In both situations, things are starting to unravel rapidly.
It’s safe to say that subtlety will never be the order of the day in Peaky Blinders. Michael’s death at some point this series, along with Arthur’s inevitable implosion, couldn’t be any more obviously signposted. Without resorting to hiring a by-plane to make the announcement at least. Likewise Alfie Solomons may as well break the fourth wall and announce himself as the all-knowing narrator of the piece, such is the obvious prescience of Tommy’s mistake in hiring ‘big man’, Billy Kitchen, as one of his Captains. Sabini and Campbell continue to rankle a little with their completely over the top personas as well, but I’ve come to the conclusion that they’re just another part of the almost comic-book aura that emanates from this show, divorcing it from any grip on reality, but making it quite comfortable in it’s own violent, smoggy, little world. That coupled with the stellar performances from much of the cast, help to keep this show incredibly watchable. Once again I can’t fault the visuals, and it was a joy to hear PJ Harvey’s haunting rendition of Nick Cave’s ‘Red Right Hand’, which seemed to compliment the eerie sense that the Shelbys are haunted by ghosts of past, present and future this series. I’m also intrigued to see how newcomer May will affect things with the spectre of Grace looming large in both Tommy and Campbell’s minds. It remains to be seen who’ll make it to the end of this series alive, because there will be more blood, gore and soul-crushingly expositional dialogue.