Back for its fifth season, Peaky Blinders returns with Tommy on top of the world. Of course, in true Blinders fashion this happens to be short-lived as the Shelby’s face the toughest challenge of their lives, while Tommy continues to grapple with demons of the past. It’s fast-paced, gripping, endearing stuff and much like the previous seasons, Peaky Blinders gets off to a very intriguing and dramatic note.
With Tommy winning the parliamentary vote and continuing to suffer from demons of his past, we continue our gangster’s journey in the heart of London in October 29th, 1929. Riding a horse across the barren wasteland, Tommy heads toward a solitary red phone-box, where Arthur reads a letter from the Angels Of Retribution. Burning the letter, Arthur hangs up while Tommy flips a coin and contemplates what to do next.
We then cut across the pond to The Shelby Company in the US, where Polly oversees business with Michael. Unfortunately they receive the worst possible news – the Wall Street crash has caused business to plummet and finances to go into disarray. Instead of flying to London, they collect their stuff up as quickly as possible, heading to the airport to fly out to Birmingham.
Meanwhile, Ada returns home and has some strong words for Finn after a shoot-out leaves him wounded, while Tommy finds Charlie pulling away from him following the bloodshed and shooting surrounding his life. As he looks over the grave of Dangerous, he holds back tears as he reminisces the moment he killed the horse.
Arthur catches up with Tommy out in the country and it’s here we see first-hand the news about billions being lost in Wall Street. Tommy’s empire is coming crashing down as Arthur relays the story that Michael was advised the market would bounce back. As Tommy realizes he held on rather than cashing out, he appears to snap. He calls a full meeting with the Board Of Directors for the following day before telling Arthur to explain to Charlie sometimes death is a kindness.
In the light of the raging fire infront of him, Tommy has visions of Grace who embraces him, reminding him that their love will never die. Beginning without Tommy, Arthur begins the meeting with the entire crew together. Never one for speeches, he stumbles his way around explaining the crash which leads to many sideway glances and impatient looks. Tommy does eventually arrive though and Linda immediately bites back at him about stocks outside the books. Despite Arthur being head of the board, Tommy is the real one running the show here and this prompts Linda to storm out.
With the contents of their meeting unknown for now, the rest of the Shelby family walk into the familiar arena of the pub, greeted by an empathetic crowd. After paying them off, leaving the pub to themselves, fractures in the family unit come to light as secrets are spilled. Determined to ride the wave of the stock market crash, Tommy tries to convince the others that they need cash flow, prompting Ada to run out, leaving Arthur, Polly and Tommy to discuss matters alone where it’s revealed that Ada is pregnant.
Given Tommy is now an MP, the action cuts back to the House Of Commons as he arrives back to the political snake pit. Learning to play the game, Tommy’s way with words leads him into a conversation with Oswald Mosley, a man who takes a fancy to him after his eloquent speech regarding the stock market. However, more important matters lie at hand as Tommy gives an ultimatum which is met with hostility. It’s a dangerous game but one that Shelby is prepared to ride out, especially given his evident lack of disregard for the rules.
Tommy agrees to meet with a reporter from the London Times in the climactic finale to this episode. Tommy stares daggers through the man as he nervously fumbles around his questions. Knowing his name and past reputation, he asks Tommy a question regarding his criminal history which prompts our MP to use his own methods to stop the journalist from probing further into his history. “I’m old fashioned Michael”, Tommy coolly mutters, as wisps of white smoke curl into the air from his cigarette, “Private lives should remain private, don’t you think?”. It’s a sharp, stabbing reminder that Shelby knows exactly what he’s doing and this seems to work in shutting the man down.
Heading back to his manor, Tommy returns with a purposeful swagger, one that sees him asking about a snap election before having a heart to heart with Charlie in the stables. He tells his Father he’s not God to which he replies “Not yet”; an arrogance matched by the Blinders following the journalist into his hotel and gunning him down. No one disrespects the Peaky Blinders.
In true Peaky Blinders fashion, the critically acclaimed BBC series continues to showcase some gorgeous cinematography. From the opening panning shot of the desolate wasteland to the masterful use of lighting throughout the episode, there’s no denying that the scene composition and use of colour here continues to help this crime drama stand out next to so many others in the genre.
Of course, the usual eclectic mix of rock music continues to stand out in the show, with some really interesting choices that certainly accentuate the action. With little in the way of plot development aside from the Wall Street Crash and the mysterious Angels Of Retribution reduced to background noise for now, quite where the story will go from here remains to be seen. With the foundations now set in this opening episode, Peaky Blinders leaves the door wide open for a dramatic and tense season to come.