Tommy Shelby has been knocked off balance by so many crises of self in Peaky Blinders, but a new realisation has him really rattled: ‘Am I actually trying to do some good in the world for once?’
Oswald Mosley has been used subtly in season five, and it took until tonight’s penultimate instalment for him to fully show his hand, using Polly’s frankly disastrous engagement party as a chance to reveal his plan to form the (real life) British Union of Fascists. This speech – acted beautifully by Sam Claflin – cemented Tommy’s assessment of Mosley as “the very Devil himself”, and caused him to expedite his plans to assassinate the politician.
In the most unexpected and intriguing scene of episode five, Tommy headed to an insane asylum to visit a friend he fought with in the war. Given that Tommy is constantly on the brink of suicide despite his life of fine silk and finer whisky, I think he fully accepted his straightjacketed friend to accept the cyanide capsule offered to him, but Barney declined. In a strategic move that may not hold up to post-match pundit scrutiny, Tommy instead recruited the man, who it transpires is a hot-shot sniper, promising to break him out of the asylum. Yes, heading into the season finale we have a clinically insane sniper who hasn’t seen daylight in years and has no concept of time or days of the week put at the forefront of the Peaky Blinders strategy. What could possibly go wrong!
And the plan to snipe Mosley has to go wrong, right? The fascist died in 1980 in real life, so having him assassinated in his youth would be a pretty significant shift on the historical timeline, perhaps even affecting the Second World War (Adolf Hitler was guest of honour at Mosley’s wedding). Then again, those of you that saw Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood this summer will know that more flamboyant history rewrites have been staged.
Tommy is too full of self-loathing to accept the possibility that he’s doing England a good turn by trying to decapitate its fascist party, but there does seem to be some sort of genuine moral feeling in play here. We’ve seen so many great TV anti-heroes go down in a blaze of glory in the past, so it would be interesting if Tommy did manage a redemption of sorts before the show finishes up.
Elsewhere in this episode, Colonel Ben Younger was killed in a bombing that suggests Tommy’s position as a government spy isn’t too solid, Mosley apparently having many sympathisers in the establishment. More tragically, for the viewer anyway, Linda survived last week’s shooting. Fortunately though it does look like her time in the show is finally over, and with Arthur’s attempts at being a Good, Honourable Man now kaput, he’s back in one-man army mode for the foreseeable.
The episode closed with Tommy and the Billy Boys leader Jimmy deciding how best to manage their turf around England under Mosley’s new rule (decisions that Tommy has no intention of respecting, of course). This led to quite the tease from Tommy, who said that as far as London leadership goes, “I would suggest the most competent organiser of men in the South is Alfie Solomons.” This suggests that perhaps Tom Hardy’s character didn’t die on that beach after all, news that is sure to get fans extremely excited. I’m torn between thinking ‘really, another character-back-from-the-dead storyline on TV?’ and just not being a killjoy and enjoying a potential Hardy return, Alfie always being so much fun and a magnetic presence.
With a lot of scores still to be settled, the season finale is set to be a busy affair, and one much harder to predict than in previous seasons.