Picking up straight where we left off, the Italians follow Tommy’s car into Artillery Square, and fully aware that they would be after him, he gets out and finds the machine gun he’d stashed away and fires on them, killing one of Luca’s men. A chase ensues throughout the buildings that culminates in the Head of the Peaky Blinders murdering two more of the mobsters, and facing off with Luca before the police interrupt their imminent duel. Inspector Moss stops the police officers from beating Tommy, and angrily informs him that he’s there to restore the rule of law and that soldiers are coming. Some time later, Polly reminds her nephew of the first time he headbutted a police officer, and asks what they’ll tell Arthur. He decides to tell the truth and ends up admitting he and his aunt plotted for him to use himself as bait after Changretta sent her a letter asking her to give him up in return for Michael’s life. Fortunately, the family don’t seem too rattled by the deception, and celebrate that their enemies are down to eight in number.
Back at Shelby Ltd, Lizzie informs her on and off lover that she’s carrying his baby, adamant that she intends to keep it. Tommy, however, seems far more concerned about who’ll run his office in her absence, and is still shaken from the events earlier in the day, in spite of showing a degree of happiness that there’ll be some life amongst all the recent death. His disappointed secretary is told she’ll have an allowance and be bought a house. Meanwhile, over at the betting office, Arthur drunkenly examines the money in the safe and finds a stash of cocaine, swiftly imbibing more of the substance before washing it down with more alcohol. When he arrives home worse for wear and falls to the floor, he asks Linda to tell him they’ll only be away from their garden back home for one Winter. Polly also seeks reassurance by taking Michael out into the woods and having him taken care of the by Golds and other gypsy families, who move around in their caravans and are therefore hard to find. Her son is reluctant to go with them, but agrees after being reminded of the threat the mafia men pose to him, and subsequent to being rebuked by Bonnie for calling their healers ‘witches’. Polly tells him to get in touch with her, and they’ll make a plan after Tommy deals with Luca. After her son is taken away to safety, she asks Aberama to take the long way back to Small Heath. They stop along the way and whilst Polly lights a camp fire and reminisces about being out in the open with her father as a child, he kills a buck for them to eat. The matriarch of the Shelby family admits she does have ‘second sight’, and that nearly being hung gave her her gift back again. She also informs Aberama that his deceased wife is often around him, but not currently. He subsequently tells her he believes it’s her who’s kept Tommy alive all of these years, but she admits they’ve been keeping each other alive. Reiterating the scope of her gift, she says she’s capable of anything now and that there are no risks, threatening her companion with his own knife if he doesn’t protect Michael, before resuming kissing him and progressing things further by the fire.
Over in Camden Town, a meeting has been set up between Luca and Alfie. When they arrive the Jewish mobster refuses to open his eyes, explaining that his cousin was blind and that he’s been instructed to try and ‘better understand the darkness’. Continuing to psych his visitors out after he’s actually opened his eyes and seen them, Alfie taunts Luca about not having already killed Tommy yet. Changretta reluctantly ignores the mockery and informs him that he wants to use the boxing match between Goliath and Bonnie to sneak his men in to the venue to kill his enemy. In return, his would be associate wants the mobster to run his barrels of rum into New York, as well as a significant sum of money for assassinating his ‘friend’. He also insists on certain stipulations regarding Luca’s men, including that they’d need to be circumcised because the Peaky Blinders would likely check. When they agree to the terms without negotiating, Alfie realises that the Italians intend to kill them all, just as Tommy told them they would.
In Birmingham, Ada fields an unexpected house call from the British army, and ends up being arrested, before being strip searched and humiliated. Afterwards she’s quizzed by Colonel Ben Younger, who turns his back as she gets dressed and tells her he wants to write her family’s future with her help. He knows she spoke to Jessie Eden and that she previously joined the Communist Party, and says it’s irrelevant that she’s no longer a member as that’s what many revolutionaries do when they go to ground. Shooting back that she no longer believes in the cause and that people deserve justice, the officer sees her as uniquely positioned to avert a revolution, and infers that Tommy is already on board. Later, Tommy watches Bonnie spar for a while and then returns to the office to find his sister sitting at his desk, and demanding answers about what he knows about the Colonel who questioned her. Her sibling admits that he knew him from Flanders, and that her arrest was so public so that the neighbours would see and draw their own conclusions. Younger approached him after he was ‘given’ Birmingham by Churchill and the King, and that he plans to use his dinner with Jessie to get the names of her armed revolutionary contacts, who he’ll give up to the crown forces. In recompense, they’ll give him lucrative contracts to supply military vehicles to the army in various commonwealth countries. If he’s to comply with the army, he has to deal with the Italians first though. As Ada leaves the office, she refuses to commit to helping him.
After Curly and Charlie set the table for Tommy and Jessie’s dinner at the metal yard, also providing music at their boss’ request, the head of the Peaky clan asks his dinner date for her opinion on his gin, and cooks a couple of birds that he had poached from someone’s estate. Once more he offers parity between male and female workers in all of his factories, in return for her divulging what she knows about socialism. After impressing her by knowing the names of the suffragettes, Tommy presses her to give information about her armed friends, and states that his ‘natural side of the barricades’ is the same as hers, spurring Jessie to admit that she wants a ‘real fight’. She also goes on to admit to her host that they’ve researched him, and that the government have used him. No matter what he does, social mobility just isn’t for the likes of him. Getting up to put a record on, Tommy charms her with an anecdote about wanting more for his family as a child, leading her to touch upon Grace’s death. Swiftly changing the subject, he puts ‘Blackbird’ on the gramophone, they sway with the music and she asks her dance partner to help the cause. They kiss, but she stops short of having sex with him, as he asks her to set up a meeting with the ‘appropriate people’.
Afterwards, Arthur has the place where the boxing match will take place searched and locked down, and the expectant audience frisked for weapons as they enter the venue. Tommy, Arthur and Finn meet with Bonnie and his father backstage, and the boxer refuses the eldest brother’s offer of drugs, Aberama soon after telling his son that Tommy will give him a twenty percent cut if he puts Goliath down in the fourth round. Out in the arena, Polly, Lizzie and Linda arrive dolled up and the stage is set for the bout just as Alfie arrives.
It was honestly a relief to have an episode that allowed you to take a breath after the last overly hectic installment. Nevertheless, that’s not to say that there weren’t moments that had me on the edge of my seat. Tommy being chased by Luca and his men was exciting stuff, beautifully shot too, and their subsequent one-on-one showdown bore more than a passing resemblance to your average Western shoot-out, until Inspector Moss came along to cut the tension with a butter knife. Where ‘The Duel’ really excelled, however, was in those quieter moments. Lizzie telling Tommy she was carrying his child and somehow expecting him to stop treating her with the contempt he’s continually shown her was heartbreaking, but sadly all too in-character for out protagonist. I also thoroughly enjoyed Polly’s interaction with Aberama Gold, as she in no uncertain terms threatened him from this World and the next should he betray her and her son. Gillen and McCrory have great chemistry, as do, admittedly, their fictional counterparts Tommy and Jessie, which leaves me in two minds about him falling into yet another ‘relationship’. At the very least, I’m pleased that the union ‘rabble-rouser’ stopped short of actually sleeping with him. I don’t doubt that she’s somewhat enamoured with would-be mobster lover, but I almost hope that she’s using him as much as he’s using her. That would certainly make things more interesting, as they tussle emotionally to influence the other.
I saw a few sparks flying between Ada and Colonel Younger too. Wouldn’t it be ironic if she goes from falling for a Communist to having a romance with an officer in the British Army? Judging by their interactions in this episode, it’s certainly a ‘ship I could get behind. What really struck me during this hour long outing was how conflicted the Shelbys appear to be. There’s a Final Destination-esque air about Polly as she straddles reality and the paranormal world. Similarly, Tommy continues to be trapped between his working class convictions, and his quest to further his business empire, just as Arthur longs for his peaceful existence on the farm all the more as he imbibes various mind-altering substances that allow him to be the man his brother needs him to be. Even their sister is being pulled in two different directions. It’ll be fascinating to see where they all fall after all the pieces shake out in the Series 4 finale.
Finally, as much as I always love having Alfie Solomons on my screen, his interaction with Changretta only further underlined how disappointingly lame Changretta has been as an adversary for Tommy so far. Hardy’s character is right: Luca is a failure. Obviously aware that his Italian visitor intends to kill him along with his friend, it’s hard to imagine a situation where Alfie doesn’t pull through for Tommy in the end. I guess we’ll just have too wait and see.
Danielle’s Fezzy Score:
So what did you think of the penultimate episode of the series? Let us know in the comments…