So what happened?
Forced to recuperate in hospital for three months after the brutal attack by Father Hughes’ henchmen, towards the end of his stay, he’s visited by his cousin, Michael, who implies that he was abused by the priest while he was taken into the care of the parish when Polly was forced to give him up, and then asks if he can shoot him. The leader of the gang quietly agrees and gives him straight forward instructions on how to carry out the assassination; by simply pointing the gun and pulling the trigger. After Tommy is allowed to return home to his country seat, he decides to knock the morphine he’s using for pain relief on the head after it gives him strange dreams that include his housekeeper, Mary, standing by his bed naked and reading portions of the Bible to him. It also affects his ability to interact with his son, Charles, who has stopped calling out for his deceased Mother now and instead wants his Father.
With a much clearer mind, Murphy’s character starts to piece together the plan he formulated whilst resting in hospital, and summons Johnny Dogs to tell him that he and his family will set up camp on a portion of land he’s bought, which will be dug up later to create access to the Russian strong room by expert tunnellers, the Tipton Claykickers, headed up by someone Tommy served with in the army, who the gang later meet. Jewish gangster, Alfie Solomons, also responds to an unconventional invitation to meet with his recovered counterpart and attempts to push all of his host’s buttons to see if his injuries have left him weaker, finding more success with his brother, Arthur, who he offers a half-hearted apology to for having his men leave him practically for dead after their previous dealings, and then goes on to mock him for ‘finding Jesus’, very nearly inciting the eldest Shelby brother to violence.
As it turns out, Tommy has plans for his old ‘frenemy’. While he, Arthur and John indulge in the mores of an orgy at the stately home where the Royals are staying, (complete with accompanying Cossack soldiers and lots of vodka), and indulge they do after a humiliating, naked inspection by Princess Tatiana and Grand Duchess Izabella to check to see if they have any incriminating tattoos that would ally them with the Soviets, Solomons’ hands are tied and he’s taken to the underground room where the Georgians keep their treasure. Once there, after Tommy joins him to keep score, he acts as his valuer and sets about accumulating enough jewellery and jewels to cover the amount the Blinders expect as payment for the robbery and delivery of the tanks to the Georgian rebels, all the while antagonising the Grand Duke and Duchess after informing them his Mother was hunted with dogs by their people, and tripping Leon up when he tries to fob them off with with a paste necklace. When the trinkets, including a Fabergé egg, have been totted up in preparation for them being placed in a box to await the deal taking place, (the Shelby brothers are well aware that it’s unlikely they’ll actually be given it), Solomons is allowed to leave and Tommy returns to the party with Tatiana, shortly after going with her to her room where he engages in a spot of auto-erotic asphyxiation, specifically the ‘Siberian Kiss’, which involves her placing her hand around his throat and cutting off his air supply until he hallucinates seeing Grace. In the meantime, Arthur has consumed enough vodka to get the whole British Army drunk, before self-loathingly removing his wedding ring mid-shag with one of the maids, and John has done everything from sowing his own extra-marital oats to trying his hand at some Cossack dancing; still finding the time to meet with their man on the inside, who’s struggling to deal with the insanity of the household he’s acting as a servant in, and fending off requests for blow jobs from the Grand Duke, seemingly agreeing to hold his nerve for extra money.
Elsewhere, Polly and Michael visit Ada in London so she can sign the papers to officially make her the Head of Property and Acquisitions, and presumably start planning her move to Boston where most of that side of the newly legitimate business will take place. The company accountant’s mind is elsewhere, however, and he persistently asks his cousin if she can use her phone, as it turns out, so he can nervously book an appointment with the local abortionist after getting his heiress girlfriend, Charlotte, pregnant. Something neither of them are pleased about. His Mother’s mind is also preoccupied, and after some encouragement from her niece, she takes the car to see Ruben Oliver under the guise of viewing her finished portrait, when in reality she’s just as interested in starting a physical relationship as he is. Polly finally does give in to the mutual attraction, and they have sex, during which he makes the mistake of placing his hand around her neck and unwittingly causes her to have flashbacks to the time Campbell raped her, understandably killing the moment somewhat. Afterwards she muses over her picture and advises her new lover to call the painting ‘Fuck them all!’, before divulging that she once killed a policeman.
The following day, she returns to Shelby Ltd looking for Michael. When she can’t find him, she ends up going through the drawers in his desk and pulls out a small box, which she initially seems to think is an engagement ring. When she opens it, however, she finds a bullet inside inscribed with Hughes’ name. Planting it back on Tommy’s desk where it originated, she silently, but furiously demands her nephew speak with her about it, subsequently insisting he tell her why her son is going after the priest. He initially refuses, suggesting she doesn’t want to know why Michael is so intent on killing him, but eventually relents and informs her of the abuse he suffered after she gave him up. With stone cold conviction, Polly tells Tommy that she’ll bring his whole empire down if her boy pulls the trigger.
Danielle’s Fezzy Score:
This week, there some really ‘high’ highs, and some extremely low lows, both for the characters and, I suspect, for most viewers. That opening sequence with ‘Lazarus’ aptly playing in the background as Tommy seemed to cheat death once again, all the while having trippy visions relating to his previous occupation as an army tunneller, was a more than a fitting tribute to the late, great David Bowie, who was apparently a huge fan of the show. In fact, one can easily imagine that scene as one of Mr B’s music videos, such was the absurdity, yet beauty of its execution. As ever, the whole thing was beautifully shot, and the music choices were spot on. It was also a joy to see Tom Hardy return as the mercurial Alfie Solomons to continue his uneasy alliance with the Blinders, whilst almost coming to blows with Arthur and instantly divining that he’s a much more dangerous as Tommy’s attack dog with the perception that he has God behind him. He’s not wrong. Perhaps even more interestingly, we got an indication as to why he’d be willing to help the gang screw over the Russians, chiefly that his Mother was hunted by them like an animal, presumably because of her religion. The one niggling issue I have with his animosity towards them is that it’s just as likely she was treated horrendously by the Soviets, who were also responsible for committing atrocities against the Jewish community around this time. Wouldn’t this, technically and potentially, put him on the same side as the Royals who from hail from Georgia and are plotting to overthrow Russian rule in their country? Therefore is it possible that Tommy is having the wool pulled over his eyes, and is being set up for a fall by both of them? We don’t know enough yet, but there’s bound to be another twist.
My favourite part of the episode was Polly’s arc, however. It was gratifying to see her finally throw caution to the wind and let loose with Ruben, if for no other reason than she deserves some levity after the sometimes devastatingly awful life she’s led. I sound like a broken record at this point, but McCrory and Siddig’s chemistry is so easy and believable that a difficult sex scene where she relived her rape didn’t become at all cringe-worthy as it might have with lesser actors. In fact it was downright sensual. (I just hope that moment of unguardedness where she told Ruben about killing Campbell doesn’t come back to bite her.) I guess her momentary rejection of the painter when he put his hand to her throat, whilst her nephew actively welcomed the action from Tatiana in search of a hallucinatory, precious few moments with Grace, further underlines how he’s searching out excitement, danger and escape amidst his grief, just as his aunt is actively rejecting all of that and looking for something grounded in reality and legitimacy in both her private and work life. For her son, Michael, too, who I’m glad we saw fleshed out a little this week. Previously, I found the newest addition to the Shelby family almost completely unsympathetic, but now we know exactly why he has that chip on his shoulder, it’s hardly surprising he behaves the way he does, nor is it surprising he wants to use the bullet with Hughes’ name on it. I was heartbroken for Polly when she found out he’d been abused. She was guilt-ridden enough. I’m also 100% behind her decision to threaten Tommy if he allows Michael to try to shoot the priest. If he, a hardened gangster, finds himself unable to complete the mission then it’s unlikely his cousin will get away with it. It’s also almost unthinkable what the Economic League will do to him if he’s caught, and I can’t bear the thought of McCrory’s character suffering any more. She almost certainly will if he goes ahead with it. Perhaps Tommy has gotten wind of the fact her drunken confession to the priest led to Hughes anticipating his initial attempt on his life, and this is some kind of revenge? I hope not. Like Polly said previously, “A family united will never be defeated.”
In relation to the not so great things about this week’s instalment, about mid-way through the orgy I realised I miss the simpler times back at The Garrison from earlier series. It’s not that I was shocked or offended by all that bare flesh. It’s not even the fact that it was totally over the top either. From the very beginning Peaky Blinders has always had more in common with a graphic novel or a comic book than it has with the gritty realism of so many other British TV shows. It’s rather that I found myself getting a little bored with the whole hammering home over and over of the ‘Otherness’ of those “fookin’mad” Russians. We get that they don’t operate in the same way as the Birmingham massive. We also get that their treasure-clutching genitalia is both fascinating and frightening in equal measure to the Shelby boys. Now can we please move on to the real ‘action’ and let Tommy’s torturous balancing act play out. (To be honest, the only real gem in a sea of paste jewellery amongst that series of scenes was John attempting to ingratiate himself with his fellow Cossack revellers by dancing with them. With limited success.)
Although I’m vaguely irritated that Steven Knight seems to have opted for eye-rolling shock value during segments of this penultimate episode, blatantly searching for a water cooler moment for fans to discuss, instead of faithfully serving his characters or even the plot at times here, I’m still pretty damn keen to see how/if Tommy gets himself out of another fine mess in the finale. Next week can’t come soon enough!
So what did you think to the episode? Let us know in the comments…