The Bleak Reality Of War
After yesterday’s dramatic episode, Peaky Blinders continues with a breathless episode, one that sets up the conflict to come, injects the series with urgency and delivers a stunningly good hour or drama, one wracked with tension and action from the get-go. Boasting gorgeous cinematography and some great character performances, Peaky Blinders continues to impress, even if at the core the story is very much the same arc as what we’ve seen numerous times before.
With a machine gun in tow, the episode begins with Tommy heading out to the desolate wasteland at the foot of his house, where he finds a letter addressed to him on a scarecrow. In black, scribbled writing the note tells him to look down where he sees the wires from a mine planted in the ground. Realizing he’s stumbled into a death trap, he runs after Charlie as he looks set to step foot in the fields, breathing a sigh of relief as he snatches his son up and rushes him to safety. After seeing him safely back in the house, he heads back to the field and fires a volley of bullets into the ground, blowing the mines up.
The drama continues soon after as Tommy learns a rogue group have kidnapped Michael, giving him an ultimatum – allow them to kill Michael or send him home and let Tommy deal with him, given they claim he’s been conspiring against the company and with the enemy. He chooses the latter and the mysterious female advises him that as he’s now a Socialist, he’s on the side of the Angels.
As he heads back to the pub, he catches up with Finn, telling him he’s a General and he needs to get his act together. After a run-in with an investigator at his office, Michael returns to England where Polly and Arthur lay in wait, asking for his side of the accusations. As Arthur and Michael butt heads, Polly interjects and sees he’s telling the truth but brings him to Tommy nonetheless.
Meanwhile, Ada and Tommy meet with Mosley after he ignites the House Of Commons again with another rousing speech. He offers him a proposition, discussing Ireland’s future before taking leave after being offered a promotion. As they walk away together, in private Tommy asks Ada to look into Michael’s story. It’s here she sees her brother’s paranoia rear its ugly head in all its glory.
Sitting down to talk in person, Michael tells Tommy his story, involving the Billy Boys coming to the foreground, preparing to dethrone Tommy during his most unstable moment. He tells them his wife Gina is pregnant and, after a brief pause, Tommy tells him he believes him. Before they leave however, Tommy threatens his unborn child and tells Michael he owes the company money. The exact sum he lost on the stock market to be precise and won’t be free until he pays it all back.
Out in the countryside, Aberama is shot as the Billy Boys arrive to send a message to Tommy, stringing up his son Bonnie on a crucifix while Aberama is forced to watch. They blow his head off, and leave his Son dead on the cross before stuffing a letter in his breast pocket and leaving.
Back home, after a meeting with Billy in a stray pub, Arthur speaks to Linda regarding the company’s future. As glimpses of the old, maniacal Arthur begin to surface, Linda tells him Tommy is going to blow up and they need to take action to prevent that happening. Tommy, on the other hand, simply burns his letter from Lizzy and decides to phone the men responsible for taking Michael.
The aftermath clearly rattles Tommy too, and after wishing Ruby a happy birthday, Aberama shows up at his house, telling Tommy what happened. He throws the letter to Tommy while Charlie listens from the doorway. Lizzy hurries out with a loaded gun and tells them all to leave, before Tommy interjects and tells her everyone needs him. As the situation diffuses for now, the conflict is far from over as the letter “By Order Of The Billy Boys”, blows solemnly in the wind.
With a cold open and a very direct tone, Peaky Blinders delivers one of its best episode in years. Everything from the artistic direction and cinematography, through to the dual-conflict at hand (Tommy’s inner demons and the Billy Boys) is perfectly blended together to form a cohesive and incredibly tense hour of action. When you dive a little deeper into this, there’s a lot going on thematically which really helps this episode shine.
Themes around the First World War and its effect on society are things that have always been a big factor for Tommy’s cool, fearless drive but seeing the other side of the coin really adds an extra dimension to his persona. Haunted by ghosts of the past, this juxtaposing idea of Tommy’s cool exterior and timid, paranoid core make for some fascinating scenes. Cillian Murphy has always been good in his role but this episode in particular, and arguably last season too, he really relishes that challenge of balancing both sides of the man’s personality and he executes this to perfection.
Interestingly, the episode shows a lot of Charlie watching Tommy from afar and seeing this conflict from the innocence of a child is a trick that really works to showcase just how volatile and self-destructive Tommy has become. Gone are the days where our Blinders would shield Charlie from this world and as things appear to be getting more serious, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a casualty in Tommy’s family, possibly with his Son meeting a shocking demise. Whether this is foreshadowing on the part of the filmmakers or just a deliberate motif to show Tommy’s destructive behaviour remains to be seen but it’s an interesting point to debate nonetheless.
Say what you will about the plot development of each season and Tommy’s ability to outsmart and one-up everyone he goes up against, there’s no denying the series has always had a stylish edge to it, as well as managing to remain well written. The fifth season sets things up incredibly well for the conflict to come, with this episode delivering one of the best seen in any show of the year.