So what happened?
This rip-roaring finale began with Tommy writing a letter to the Editor of the New York Times, and requesting that Ada post it for him if he doesn’t make it to the end of the day in one piece, before taking off with her lodger and having a tense meeting with Alfie Solomons that’s been brought about by Sabini refusing to let the Jewish gangster take his bookies to Epsom. Being rail-roaded into signing over his business and threatened with being shot, Tommy reminds Alfie’s associate, Olly, that he bent down to tie his shoelace when he entered the brewery and informs them it was a ruse to plant a grenade on a trip wire that his friend will set off if he doesn’t leave unharmed. Finally they come to an agreement over how much of the business the head of the Peaky Blinders is willing to sign over, and Tommy heads out for his day at the races.
In the meantime things have been arranged for Arthur to be let out of prison and Polly has emptied the company safe, laying the money out in front of Michael and telling him to take the money and start a new life for himself in London. Leaving her son mulling the decision over, the rest of the family head to the Derby where Tommy plans to act as a decoy and draw the police away from Sabini’s bookies when he shoots the target Campbell assigned to him, so that his gang is free to steal and destroy their gambling licenses and grab their takings. Lizzie is also taken along for the ride, not knowing until she’s there that she’s going to be the bait to lure the Field Marshall her boss has been tasked to assassinate to a secluded tent at the racecourse, and reluctantly agrees to go back to temporarily go back to her working girl roots. Things don’t go to plan for a number of reasons, however. Out of the blue Grace turns up at the races, finding her former beau and telling him that not only is she still in love with him, she’s now carrying his child after their recent assignation, just as he’s about to find Lizzie and shoot her trick. The delay, coupled with being made to take the long route around, inevitably leads to him being too late to protect his secretary from the advances from the military thug, and when he does eventually get there a violent scuffle ensues which ultimately leads to him completing his mission.
Escaping and deflecting the blame towards Irish dissidents, Murphy’s character is given the scope to brag about his and his brothers achievements to Sabini which causes the Italian to rage and threaten him with a broken bottle, and when the Police come to arrest someone Tommy is surprised it’s him. Little does he know that Campbell has employed three members of the Ulster Volunteer Force to dress up as Policemen and arrest his nemesis, then take him to a deserted field, shoot him in the head and bury him in a freshly dug grave. As her nephew is transported to his almost certain death, Polly tracks down Campbell whilst he’s on the phone with Winston Churchill bragging about his successes, and aptly shoots him in the heart, but not before hearing him pathetically trying to negotiate himself out of the situation. For once his luck has dried up, and the matriarch flees as he slumps to the ground dying.
Meanwhile after the race, Grace and May wait for Tommy to turn up and find them, but instead find each other and icily reveal what they have to offer the gangster; love and business opportunities respectively. Little do they know that the man they both want is smoking his last cigarette as three men hold a gun to his head. Lamenting the fact he nearly had it all, Tommy gets down on his knees and braces himself for the shot. Two shots are fired, but not at him. Finding himself knocked into the grave seconds later, he realises that one of the men has turned the gun on the other two, and is told that his life has been spared because Mr Churchill has big plans for him. Relief washing over him, he triumphantly returns to the office as his brothers celebrate their victory at the pub, and finds Michael still there. After his cousin tells him he has no intention of leaving when he can make more money by staying in the bosom of his family, Tommy has an interesting announcement of his own: he’s getting married. To who we won’t know until Series 3.
What a finale! Perhaps the only way it could have gotten any better was if Polly had shot Campbell in the balls before she shot him in the heart, but that’s a minor quibble. Having had a few days to mull this episode over, the more I think about it, the more it feels like it was the right time to end the Major’s reign of terror. Where exactly did he have to go, aside from ascending further down the plughole of villainous, period drama caricatures? In spite of the two assassinations, this finale wasn’t the bloodbath I’d anticipated and was all the better for it. Brains prevailed over brawn and we were treated to numerous verbal showdowns that at times made this episode outstanding. The only real misstep might have been the ‘convenience’ of Grace throwing a spanner in the works at the most inopportune moment possible. Her reappearance and pregnancy came across as an all too easy plot device, rather than an organic storyline which seems a shame really for someone who was integral to driving the story forward in Series 1.
As to where things go from here now that we know there’ll be a third series, I’m willing to bet that Tommy’s announcement he’s getting married signals this particular Shelby’s realisation that he can have his cake and eat it. Grace may love him and be carrying his baby. He may even love her back and be willing to provide for his child in some way, but what May has to offer in terms of legitimizing the family business is just too enticing to turn away from. Her contacts in the upper echelons of English society alone are a glittering prospect. Regarding the other members of the family, I’d like to think that Polly will be able to find some sort of peace now that she’s taken care of Campbell, but her overly ambitious son, Michael, may as well have a flashing ‘TROUBLE’ sign above his head. Things aren’t exactly rosy for Arthur either. In spite of his rousing speech to members of the gang after their victory, it’s that final shot of his despairing face in the pub that belies how he’s really feeling. Deep down he knows he’s a ticking time bomb that’s liable to go off at any minute. John, nevertheless, is the dark horse of the family. After Lizzie tells him he’s not like his brother and to get out of the family business, as he comforts her after her ordeal, we’re left with that puzzling shot of him eyeing his wife, Esme, as she flirts with another man. With everything in flux and his continuing discontent with Arthur as second in command, I really believe he’ll be the one to watch in future. Roll on Series 3!
Reviewed by Danielle.