RECAP & REVIEW: Peaky Blinders – Series 3, Episode 2

So what happened?

With Tommy’s underhand dealings with the Russians still at the forefront of his mind, he intimidates the foreman of a local car manufacturer to hand over the keys to one of his warehouses that’s housing a fleet of WWI tanks. On seeing the vehicles, it appears to spark unpalatable memories of his time in the army during the war, which he attempts to wash away before going to meet members of a group who refer to themselves as the Economic League. The only one who turns up is Father John Hughes, a creepy, child abusing priest, who seems intent on utilising the charitable Foundation that the Shelbys are in the process of setting up to legitimize their business and presumably funnel money through, for his own nefarious means. When the MP Patrick Jarvis doesn’t turn up, Hughes makes it clear to Tommy, in spite of his resistance, that he’ll be dancing to their tune and that he expects the deal with the Russians to go smoothly.

Peaky Blinders III Ep2
Paddy Considine made his debut as creepy priest, Father John Hughes.

Elsewhere John and Arthur hold an open-air meeting with Italian gangster, Vicente Changretti, who’s eager for their opposing gangs to continue their peaceful arrangement, but has taken offence to the fact the Shelbys won’t allow Lizzie to step out with his son. To say the two brothers don’t handle the ‘tea party’ diplomatically is an understatement, constantly goading him with snide remarks, and the older man leaves in a foul mood with his fellow mobsters. Later it transpires that Changretti’s son has been making public threats, and in an effort to diffuse the situation, Arthur asks Polly to approach John and try to convince him to apologise, or at the very least, find a way to compromise over their disagreement. Furious that they want him to be perceived as weak, he takes matters into his own hands, beating Changretti Jr and a friend to a pulp when they go to pick up a suit from the Chinese laundry and going to so far as to gouge the son’s eye out. Much to Arthur and Aunt Pol’s surprise, Tommy pats his younger brother on the back for refusing to “lift his heel off their necks” and gives the order for them to take over two of the pubs run by the Italian gang later that evening. Whilst John revels in the task, Arthur still seems completely incapable of reconciling his violent job and his home life with his religious wife, and tensions between the two brothers continue to rise. In the meantime, Changretti is understandably furious about the attack on his son, and ominously sends for someone from Italy to carry out a hit on the same day that Grace has organised a dinner for all the movers and shakers to celebrate the family’s foundation being set up.

Whilst all of this is going on, the Russians still need to be attended to. Except they aren’t really Russians at all. A trip to London and some research at the library where Ada is employed before Tommy goes to meet the Grand Duke, attests that the Petrovnas are, in fact, Georgian nobility. A piece of trivia that the head of the Shelby gang brings up during their conversation, after he’s already paid off the Duke’s debts at the hotel where they eat lunch. Pulling his chair closer, the older man divulges that he’s deliberately pleading poverty and produces a sapphire that was concealed in a ‘delicate’ part of his niece’s person as they fled to England, offering it as recompense for the outstanding portion of the bill for the Shelby’s services. As Petrovna offers Tommy a warning that the Revolution has made his family ‘hard as nails’, Murphy’s character has the huge gem valued and then made into a necklace for his over the moon wife, Grace. Little does he know that the Duke’s own wife, apparently the brains of the operation, has already given the order for her husband to kill him once their dealings are over with.

Peaky Blinders III Ep2
Tommy (Cillian Murphy) desperately tries to get Grace (Annabelle Wallis) to take off her ‘cursed’ necklace.

Things became yet more complicated when a Police raid at the betting office leads to John and Tommy being arrested and thrown into cells. As it turns out, it’s a show of strength by the Economic League, who send Father Hughes along to where they’re being incarcerated, complete with snarling dog by his side. Once there, he explains to Tommy that they don’t appreciate the fact he saw his sister in London because of her links to communists, and that he has to stay away from her. The macabre priest also mentions that whilst the Peaky Blinders may have Birmingham Police in their back pockets, his shadowy colleagues control the Met and have numerous other resources at their disposal. Initially unmoved by the man’s threats, it’s not until Hughes tells him to check under his little boy’s pillow that Tommy finally gets spooked and races home to find a card inscribed ‘R.I.P. Charles Shelby’ under the child’s head. Finally realising the reach this group has, he does his best to allay Grace’s concerns about him barging into their son’s nursery by lying and pretending everything is fine. Later, as the whole Shelby family is mingling with their guests at the dinner, Hughes and Jarvis, (the MP who didn’t turn up to meet him previously), gatecrash and wait for him to join them in an empty room. There he issues them a direct threat; “There is hell and there is another place below hell. I will remember everything. I forget nothing.” Tommy soon realises that it’s not them who he needs to be worrying about presently, however, as after a conversation with Princess Tatiana, where she informs him that she had a gypsy curse the sapphire Grace is wearing, he desperately tries to get his wife to remove the piece of jewellery.  It comes too late though. Before she can take the necklace off, Changretti’s hitman enters the hall where the guests are and pulls out a gun, intending to shoot Tommy, but missing and hitting Grace instead. As she drops to the floor in his arms, Polly runs to get an ambulance and the rest of the gang apprehend the assassin and start to brutally beat him.

The Verdict?

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In stark contrast with the series opener, this week’s episode definitely felt like more familiar territory and it was all the better for it. All three of the senior Shelby brothers are on incredibly shaky ground here, and their involvement in the family business is starting to have real consequences for their private lives. Nevertheless, it’s Arthur I feel sorry for the most. Tommy’s need for him to still be the attack dog he’s always deployed when the proverbial hits the fan is really starting to take it’s toll on his mental health, and now his relationship with his wife; the one person who seems determined to unearth and encourage him to express his better nature. He’s sinking further and further into the mire as his brother persists in using a carrot and stick method to control him. This time Tommy used the stick, berating him for not being hard enough in the situation with the Changrettis. It’s bound to backfire at some point, and the head of the gang shouldn’t be surprised if Arthur eventually becomes about as useful as Father Hughes’ own attack dog.

John’s behaviour is equally troubling as well, except he’s revelling in the violent behaviour his position demands and recklessly going above and beyond what’s required. His attack on the Italian gangster’s son was just plain stupid, and it looks like he’s constantly angling for a fight with Arthur. This threat of implosion is a further dangerous prospect for the gang’s future.  More than that, his hot-headedness brought about the shooting, which may or may not have claimed Grace’s life. Tommy has her blood on his hands too, both literally and metaphorically. If he hadn’t been so distracted trying to keep his finger in so many pies, and enjoying the power his role engenders so much, he may well have taken a step back and realised the same as Arthur and Polly; the last thing they need right now is a turf war in Birmingham. Murphy’s protagonist has two options now. He either takes the calm and considered route, reviewing where he went wrong, or he doubles down and hits his enemies twice as hard, consoling himself with the fact Grace taking the bullet that was meant for him came about as a result of the curse the Princess had put on the necklace she was wearing. I suspect he’ll do the latter, simply because this is Peaky Blinders, and the most dramatic route is always the most likely. In any case, I can’t decide how I feel about Grace being shot. On the one hand, it’d be sad to lose one of the original characters. On the other, they really need to do more with her than just have her write letters, organise parties and be given gifts to keep me invested in her well-being. So far this series, her sole purpose seems to have been as Tommy’s talisman, with them taking rather deliberate (sometimes clumsy) pains to show his idyllic relationship with her and his son. I’m not a fan of female characters, devoid of autonomy, being there entirely to service the plot, so whatever Grace’s fate, I hope that changes are made.

Peaky Blinders III Ep2
Polly’s (Helen McCrory) dalliance with Reuben Oliver is the only ray of sunshine right now.

Major plaudits need to be given to Paddy Considine for embodying the truly grotesque newcomer, Father John Hughes. He’s already a more convincing, shudder-inducing villain than Campbell was in his whole two-series stint, demonstrating the kind of realistic threat to the Shelby empire that Sam Neill’s scenery chewing Major often fell short of previously. I dread to think what he and his cohorts have planned for Tommy and his organisation next. On a lighter note, Polly’s burgeoning romance with Reuben Oliver appeared to gain more steam when, whilst visiting Ada in London and trying on her dress for the dinner, he seemed to be absolutely smitten with her. I just hope that rug isn’t about to be pulled out from underneath her. We need at least one ray of light in an otherwise bleak landscape. Either way, Steven Knight, you have my attention!

What did you think to the episode? Let us know in the comments…

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