Peaky Blinders season 5 episode 4 review: An intricate web of miscreants

In its previous four seasons, Peaky Blinders has tended to focus on one mortal threat to the Shelbys at a time. But with season 5, the villains have been packed in more densely, and the lines between ally and enemy blurred.

This was particularly true of its very busy fourth episode, which saw the Peaky Blinders strike a deal with a Chinese gang to ship seven tons of opium, then involving the Scottish Billy Boys in the operation and getting the “truce” countersigned by Oswald Mosley.

The introduction of the Chinese made for one of the episode’s most gripping scenes, gang leader Chang ambushing Tommy as he took meetings with his constituents (in his pub, of all places). “Good, the guns are pointing, now we are all concentrating,” Chang said, an apt assessment given how many disputes, or even minor squabbles, are settled at gunpoint in this show.

The most deft scene, however, was between Tommy and Mosley, Cillian Murphy and Sam Claflin getting their teeth stuck into a sharp script. Tommy is very skilled at deceit but he’s in a tricky spot here as he attempts to double-cross the fascist leader. Mosley knows that Tommy wouldn’t gladly partner with him, so Tommy has to show the right balance of collaboration but hesitation. Mosley appears hoodwinked for now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was secretly one step ahead of the Shelbys.

Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy in ‘Peaky Blinders’. Credit: Press/BBC

Peaky Blinders got a very theatrical climax this week, executed with panache. Because he can, Tommy had a ballet company perform Swan Lake at his house, and the death of the White Swan was intercut with that of Linda, who showed up unannounced to try and put an end to a reckless Arthur. I really thought for a second that this might be the end of our Arthur, but fortunately Polly was waiting (well, humping) in the wings, and able to save the day, shooting Linda dead. “Give up on Linda,” Polly had advised Arthur earlier in the episode, and I’m glad that the show finally did tonight as she’s become a bit of an annoying presence of late.

This was perhaps the most impressive Peaky Blinders episode so far this season, which has largely taken a break from all the tearful, introspective whiskey and opium binges of previous seasons to focus on a good old-fashioned web of political and criminal intrigue.

Other observations

I did not expect Polly to yield to Aberama Gold’s advances, though I guess saying “let’s fook” behind a marquee isn’t exactly a sign of undying love.

Tommy’s face is so skeletal by this point it’s slightly terrifying.

Tommy and Lizzie’s loveless sex scenes are maybe the most depressing consensual sex scenes ever seen on television.

Where on Earth is this football fixing sub-plot going?

Was that an amorous look between Mosley and Gina? Strongly suspect she is a low-key fascist at this point.