In the aftermath of the shooting, we learn that John has indeed died from his injuries, but Michael is still clinging onto life and has been rushed to hospital to be treated. Rocked by what’s happened to the family, Polly insists that soldiers, not boys guard her son’s bed, and Tommy and Arthur say their emotional goodbyes to their deceased brother in the mortuary. Esme soon crashes into the room, cursing the duo before they leave her to say her last words to her husband, and removing his rings she tells him she’s taking their children on the road so they can be with the ‘normal’ part of the family. Afterwards, Tommy calls a fractious family meeting where a still inebriated Polly doesn’t hold back, lacing into the Head of the Peaky Blinders, whilst still smarting from his betrayal, and livid that Michael was dragged into all of this in the first place. Meanwhile, Arthur has marked a bullet with Luca Changretta’s name, promising to off the mobster, and Finn is finally allowed a seat at the table. In spite of all their differences, they agree to come together to fight against the imminent threats to all of their lives.
As well as amassing a whole wealth of weaponry, and handing out handguns and bullets to Shelby loyalists, Tommy decides to fight the war by reaching out to Aberama Gold, despite protestations from Johnny Dogs that he and his men are ‘savages’. Even so, the association proves fruitful when Tommy uses himself and the rest of the family as bait during John’s funeral. Whilst the deceased and his possessions are burnt in the informal ceremony in accordance with the dead man’s wishes, gun shots can be heard and the head of the household calmly tells his family not to return fire. Gold has brutally offed two Italian chancers who wanted to make a name for themselves, and who’d been lured into a trap so they could make examples of them for their enemy’s benefit. Polly is furious that their lives could be risked like that, and later goes to see Michael to persuade him to escape to Australia with her. However, her recuperating son convinces her to get clean and sober, because Tommy needs her and they need him to keep everybody alive. Linda is equally unimpressed with Tommy’s dangerous tactic, and informs Arthur that she’s taking their son and heading back to the countryside. In spite of his attempts to put his foot down, it’s left to Ada to direct his wife back to the relative safety of their much humbler abode in Small Heath, and it’s there she fields a late night visit from Inspector Moss who asks her to warn Tommy that intelligence officers are heading to Birmingham to head off the Bolsheviks, and that Ada is amongst their list of people of special interest. Another familiar face also pops up in the form of Tommy’s former love interest, May Carleton, who still appears to be training his horses, and seems filled with disdain when Curly informs her that the American mafia is after her ex whilst she’s collecting one of his animals.
Later on, Johnny Dog’s warnings about Aberama Gold seem to come to fruition as he struts into Charlie’s yard to break bread with the Shelbys, and tries to intimidate Charlie himself into selling the place to him. Tommy deals with the affront by asking his ‘guest’ to flip the sacred family coin, and depending what side it lands on, he’ll either give Gold the yard, or he’ll sleep with one of his daughters. Realising his current ally isn’t joking, the newcomer backs down, but also informs Tommy that someday he’ll use the penny he gave him to buy flowers for his grave. As they all sit down to eat, Tommy approaches a now sober Polly. She tells him she’s prepared to bury the hatchet for Michael’s sake, that he needs to have his prostitutes vetted by Lizzie and that he shouldn’t allow anybody he doesn’t recognise into his factories. His aunt goes on to comment that there’s more to Gold agreeing to an alliance than meets the eye, an assertion that leads him to seek out the other man in the stables. After a discussion about their grandparents, Aberama eventually admits that he wants Tommy to help his son, Bonnie, to achieve his ambition of becoming a professional boxer. Agreeing to see what the lad is made of, Tommy sets up a bout for him at the factory against one of his workers who used to be a champion boxer. Despite the disparity in size, Gold’s son makes short work of the other fighter, leading to Shelby Ltd agreeing to branch out into boxing promotion and Tommy handing Bonnie his very own Peaky Blinders cap.
After all the excitement has died down, Tommy whisks himself up to the office to meet with Jessie Eden. She in no uncertain terms vocalises her disgust that he’s cut the wages of his male members of staff. Firing back that he told her he would do exactly that the last time they went toe to toe over his worker’s salaries, he also implies that he might find it beneficial if she did indeed call his employees out on strike. A little shocked by the admission, Eden nevertheless exits the office and blows her whistle, forcing nearly everyone to exit the factory. A few moments later, a visitor from Paris is ushered into the office. It quickly becomes clear to Tommy that he’s not who he says he is, and as the other man taunts him by comparing the quality of their tailoring, it dawns on him that this is none other than the man who’s vowed to kill him and his family. Spooked by the mobster’s audacity, he pulls his gun, but Changretta takes great pleasure in informing him he’s already had one of his men enter the office and empty the weapon of bullets, going on to pull his own set out of his pocket which are carved with Tommy’s, Polly’s, Ada’s, Michael’s and Arthur’s names. Explaining that his organisation is of a ‘different dimension’ to that of our protagonist, he clarifies that his Mother was the one who didn’t want him to have Tommy killed in his sleep, rather she wants him to watch as each of his family members is picked off before he meets his own end. With Luca imploring the man who brought about the deaths of his father and brother to fight this war with honour, Tommy agrees not to involve children, civilians or the police. Back at his domestic stronghold, he comforts Arthur who’s still distraught over John’s untimely murder and asserts that he’s just ‘not there’ anymore, like Grace, before firing his gun into the void.
It’s hard to know where to start with such an action-packed episode, so let’s begin with the performances. Cillian Murphy and Helen McCrory are so consistently excellent that you almost forget the spells they weave with their craft on a regular basis. In ‘Heathens’, both of them were breathtakingly brilliant as Tommy and Polly worked their way through the gamut of emotions; from grief, to fear, to cold-hard resignation. Paul Anderson was equally spell-binding as he conveyed Arthur’s gut-wrenching heartbreak at losing his little brother. He’s always great at conveying the almost childlike simplicity of the eldest Shelby brother’s emotions and his predilection to wearing his heart on his sleeve, yet he was particularly good in this episode at putting across his confusion, rage and vulnerability. We also need to take a minute to appreciate how awesome Joe Cole has been over the last 3 and a bit series. Alas John, you were destined to adhere to the ‘live fast, die young’ mantra! I can’t help but bring attention to those opening shots where we find out that Michael was still alive as well. Peaky Blinders is notorious for making even the most shocking, blood-soaked scenes aesthetically pleasing, and once again they pulled it off expertly in those initial moments, drawing us into the bewilderment, horror and pain of our chief characters.
Moving onto the specifics of the plot, I’m a huge fan of the way Luca Changretta introduced himself to Tommy. Sure, there is an argument to be made that he took the Bond villain route of divulging his plans before killing 007, however I understood his motivation for the stand-off. The mafia man doesn’t just want to murder the Head of Shelby Ltd, he wants to make him suffer before it finally happens. Infiltrating one of the places Tommy thought he was safest to reiterate his threats is all part of that. Furthermore, Adrien Brody has great presence. In spite of the excesses of some of his character’s mannerisms, he manages to pull it all back before it becomes over the top, in stark contrast to some of show’s previous end of level villains. (Yes Sabini and Campbell, I’m looking at you.) All in all, you get the impression that Tommy might really have found his nemesis this time.
Still though, I can’t shake the feeling that some of the women closer to home might prove to be even greater challenges. In spite of the fact Polly has sobered up and agreed to work with him again, I sense she hasn’t fully forgiven him for his indiscretions at the end of Series 3, which led to her and Michael ending up in jail and almost swinging from a noose. She could well be playing the long game here. Linda isn’t exactly falling in line either, and it’s hard to know what she’ll do with the information she’s been given about Ada. For me, in addition, Lizzie is potentially a dark horse. This whole vendetta began when Tommy took offence to the fact she was dating Angel, Luca’s brother, and her boss/sporadic lover does treat her abysmally. Polly’s advice that she be the one to vet his prostitutes might come back to haunt him. Moving away from the threats posed by the ladies for a second, Aberama Gold and his son, Bonnie, are great additions to the show. Aidan Gillen does creepy exceptionally well, as fans of Game of Thrones already know, and I daresay it’s a case of still waters run deep with his fictional, boxer son too. With all these daggers poised to plunge into his back, Mr Shelby is going to need to grow another pair of eyes in the back of his head. Altogether, ‘Heathens’ was another strong outing, if perhaps a little too densely packed.
Danielle’s Fezzy Score:
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