“You promised the doctor not ’til after dark,” the housekeeper reminds Tommy upon seeing a whisky glass in his hand, to which he replies: “It’s pretty dark.” Tommy’s not wrong, as the leader of the Peaky Blinders had a relentlessly bleak episode tonight, facing threats both perceived and real on all sides. Episode two was slotted into the BBC One schedule as a Bank Holiday treat 24 hours after the first episode of season five aired, and wasted no time in hurling us into the thick of the action.
The latest rival gang, the Billy Boys, appear to have a poetic flair when it comes to intimidation tactics, crucifying a scarecrow effigy of Tommy in his grounds and leaving the surrounding field booby trapped with mines. This made for a tense and visually arresting opening scene tonight, with more signs that Tommy – wracked with self-loathing – is suicidal, the gang leader considering just punching one of the mines and later shooting up is own effigy. Peaky Blinders’ anachronistic soundtrack choices don’t always sit right, but Anna Calvi‘s arrangement of FKA Twigs‘ ‘Papi Pacify’ worked beautifully here.
Last season, we saw the Peaky Blinders make enemies of the New York mafia, but this time around the imminent danger comes from closer to home – Glasgow, to be precise. Jimmy (Brian Gleeson) doesn’t look to be as stylised a villain as season four’s Luca Changretta (Adrien Brody) but he’s certainly making his presence felt in his actions, putting Aberama Gold’s (Aidan Gillen) son on the cross and shooting him dead as a warning to Tommy.
Episode two also gave us a better look at Oswald Moseley (Sam Claflin). It’s not clear yet how exactly he’ll fit into this season’s storyline, but Moseley is taking a keen interest in Thomas Shelby MP, in spite of the fact it doesn’t seem to be mutual. Given how the Far Right and Far Left mirror each other in many ways, perhaps the fascist leader thinks that a gangster socialist is exactly the kind of person he can turn. It’s an interesting dynamic for the show to explore in coming episodes, and I find myself looking most forward to Tommy’s Westminster scenes.
Elsewhere tonight, Michael returned to Birmingham and faced a frosty reception from a suspicious Shelby family, including his own mother. Tommy was questioned over last episode’s journalist shooting and the gang set about fixing football matches.
It was another very well-executed episode of Peaky Blinders, though perhaps could have used a little more levity. With this show it’s always the final round and we’re bloodied, bruised and on the verge of being knocked out. It feels like it’s permanently the 11th hour, and sometimes I wish the show would actually take its foot off the gas a little. But hey, I’ll take ‘constantly thrilling’.
The climax saw Tommy have a Tony Montana moments of sorts, standing in his driveway with a submachine gun bellowing: “Everyone fookin’ needs me!” Drunk, high, depressed, his judgment is cloudy and in lashing out hall-of-mirrors style he may be swinging at a few non-existent threats right now. Mob bosses are always convinced someone is after the crown, but given how rough of a time Tommy has had wearing it, he might want to consider (and Lizzie or Polly might want to argue) why anyone would actually want his position.