So what happened?
This week various plot threads seemed to converge to make it look like the proverbial is about to hit the fan for Tommy Shelby. Campbell finally played his hand and revealed he and the Irish Republic supporters from episode 1 have reluctantly joined forces to make the head of the Peaky Blinders assassinate someone who’s proving a headache for both the British crown and the separatist cause. Refusing to be pushed into it, Tommy informs his cane-wielding nemesis that he won’t undertake the mission unless the mouthy male Republican he’s just been goaded by, who just so happens to be a spy, is dealt with. Sure enough, the man soon turns up dead in a pile of coal, and Murphy’s character begins his troublesome surveillance of the target’s home.
Again both Arthur and new member of the family, Michael, proved to be problematic. With his cocaine habit getting out of hand, to the point he’s dipping into the petty cash to fund it, the eldest Shelby brother takes a gang along to one of Sabini’s clubs, and after cracking several skulls, declares the venue now belongs to the Peaky Blinders. This in turn precipitates a sit-down between the head of the Italian gang and his Jewish counterpart, Alfie Solomons, which worringly for Tommy, appears to result in a tentative agreement to rid London of the new kids on the block and their ‘savage’ ways. Polly’s son also manages to elbow his way into the family business this week, by swaying his Mother with the threat of him leaving to find work in London if he’s not allowed to become the family’s accountant, and appealing to his cousin’s wish to make the company 80% legal within two years. With the new job under his belt, he begrudgingly heads out for a drink with the preacher’s son, and ends up in a brawl with a racist patron and his friends. When the two young men head back to The Garrison and explain what happened, Arthur and John take it upon themselves to smash up the pub where they were attacked, before setting fire to it and the man who started the altercation, all to protect the family name.
Posh horse wrangler, May Carleton, also makes a reappearance this week. Apparently Tommy’s taken her up on her offer to train the horse he bought at the auction, but he’s curious to know if all she’s interested in is the animal. She says no at first, but predictably after he takes a detour to her positively huge estate, she bemoans the loss of her dead husband and they end up getting jiggy after he escapes the guest wing and goes to her room. All a further, unnecessary complication as Grace turns up in London and looks on expectantly as Tommy finally makes the call to her, but puts the phone down when her husband answers.
Knowing that it’s likely he won’t make it through the next few weeks alive, our troubled anti-hero starts to put his affairs in order, informing Ada that if anything should happen to him, her son and his other nieces and nephews will receive the bulk of his wealth. In the final scene, Tommy meets Campbell in a church and seemingly outmanoeuvres him by promising the Major that if anything happens to him whilst he’s undertaking the dangerous mission, then he too will meet a grizzly end.
For me this was the best episode of the series so far. Seeds that had been planted over the weeks finally began to sprout in all the areas that are threatening to bring down the fledgling Shelby Empire, and there was real tension as we begin to see just how close we are to Tommy’s potential downfall. The scene where he originally refused to be blackmailed by Campbell and the Republican sympathisers was a great example of how Steven Knight revels in making his main character the smartest, most collected man in the room, and how could anybody not love the cringe-worthy yet amusing sit-down between Solomons and Sabini? Hardy is perhaps a little underused so far, but whenever he’s on-screen he really shines as this psychotic, Jewish gang leader with a sadistic sense of humour. I’m inclined to believe that the Jewish/Italian agreement isn’t all that it seems, but I could be wrong. It strikes me that Solomons likes to keep his cards very close to his chest, even with someone he’s apparently alternated between friend and foe of since childhood. It was equally good to see a flicker of uneasiness in Micheal’s eyes when his cousins took matters into their own hands after he was attacked. Yes, we’ve come to realisation that, like the rest of his family, he’s quite handy with his fists, but he’s still way, way out of his depth and he’s slowly coming to know that. Almost certainly too late for him to escape unscathed. The big ‘shock’ of the episode was of course Grace’s arrival back in England, and I’m 95% certain that the reason she’s been so eager to get in touch with Tommy is because she left Birmingham ‘with child’. I’ve suspected as much for most of the series, but him telling his sister that he had no children of his own to leave his fortune to sealed the deal for me. With Sophie Rundle also being under-utilised up until now, I can’t help but feel her character will end up being a much bigger threat to Grace than Tommy or Campbell are. Cue one pissed off Ada when she finds out there’s another heir to the Shelby fortune. On the whole, a great, involving hour of TV and I’m waiting with bated breath for the last two episodes.
Reviewed by Danielle.