So far in Peaky Blinders, the Shelbys’ wars with rivals have been motivated by avarice or revenge, but it seems Tommy (Cillian Murphy) has found a loftier goal in season 5: suppressing the scourge of fascism.
This isn’t to say that avarice and revenge don’t play a part too – new villain Oswald Mosley (Sam Claflin) having ties with the belligerent Billy Boys in Scotland – but there are other ways Tommy could get to the gang, so we have to assume that in facing the fascist leader he’s developed something approaching moral virtue.
A plan emerged in season 5 episode 3 tonight, not to go to war with Mosley and his allies but to infiltrate them and serve as an informant for the King (though I can’t imagine Tommy stopping at mere informing). It could have been fun for this scheme to have been kept hidden from the viewer, leaving us to question whether Tommy is secretly working against the fascists or if he has grotesquely allied with them just for political and monetary gain. But this is 2019, and even our fictional protagonists have to be cleaner than clean lest Twitter go into hysterics. Nevertheless, this ‘Tommy undercover’ storyline should be gripping stuff in the second half of the season.
Elsewhere in the episode, Michael (Finn Cole) was demoted to driver as he continues to pay for his financial failures in Detroit, while his wife Gina (Any Taylor-Joy) tried and failed to convince Polly (Helen McCrory) to move back to the States with the couple. I don’t think Michael has any designs on leading the Peaky Blinders as Tommy seems to worry, but there is definitely trouble brewing in this branch of the family. Linda (Kate Phillips), meanwhile, fled Arthur (Paul Anderson) to pursue divorce, driving Arthur thoroughly off the rails. This gave us the most visually arresting scene tonight – a one-shot in which the elder Shelby brother tracks down Linda’s Quaker friend and proceeds to beat him up with a chair leg, the men moving into shadow and silhouette as the action intensifies.
I’m intrigued by Tommy’s marriage of convenience to Lizzie, which was quite an original step for the show as we’ve seen so many others centre around a devoted mob man and wife. The couple struck a messed up deal tonight, not only cementing the transactional nature of their marriage but appearing to be kind of turned on by it.
It was a very busy episode of Peaky Blinders this week, which it’s hard to believe only has three episodes left to wrap all of this season’s plot strands up. You had to question Tommy’s strategy in the conclusion, which saw a marriage-deranged Arthur get dispatched up to Scotland to talk down a grief-deranged Aberama Gold (Aidan Gillen). When Arthur requested grenades, Curly (Ian Peck) cheerfully responded, “How many?” Charlie (Ian Dennehy) could only remark in astonishment: “Fuck sake, it’s like it’s normal.”
Arthur and Aberama booby-trapped a camp to injure the Billy Boys (a nice callback to the booby-trapping of Tommy’s fields in episode 1) and setting up for fierce battles between the Shelbys and the Billy Boys next episode. I can see Tommy making short work of the Scottish gang’s leader, Jimmy (Brian Gleeson), but it will be interesting to see how Mosley departs the show, as in real life he lived to the grand old age of 84. In this show killing is easy, but repelling is a little more tricky.