Fascists with friends in high places. Glaswegians with grudges. Wives waving divorce papers. We’ve already reached the midway point of the fifth series and the Peaky Blinders are besieged from all sides. Here are all the talking points from the plot-thickening third episode…
Oswald Mosley turned Tommy to fascism
“We’ve met bad man before. The man we’re about to meet is the devil.” When the Shelby men travelled to Westminster to talk to suavely sinister Oswald Mosley (a scenery-chomping turn from Sam Claflin), it was soon apparent who had the upper hand. With spies seemingly everywhere, the vulpine politician knew a frightening amount about their business and flatly refused to help them broker a truce with Glaswegian rivals The Billy Boys. “Don’t imagine that I will trouble myself with turf wars,” he sneered, before laying out his own proposition.
Mosley had quashed the Met investigation into the gunning down of nosy reporter Michael Levitt (Elliot Cowan) - which Arthur (Paul Anderson) insisted wasn’t their doing anyway (a Mosley set-up for leverage, perchance?) - in return for Tommy (Cillian Murphy) becoming deputy leader of Mosley’s new political party. His Smethwick constituency bordered Tommy’s in Birmingham South and Mosley wanted the city as a stronghold. He planned to resign from Labour and announce his new party on 1st January 1930, the dawn of a new decade, while boasting of having recently met Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.
Former communist Tommy struggled to square his principles with this idea - even meeting union conveyor Jessie Eden (Charlie Murphy), who voiced her disapproval of literal champagne socialism - before agreeing over cigars and pheasant-shooting to join Mosley’s movement. Via army intelligence officer Colonel Ben Younger (Kingsley Ben-Adir), though, Tommy vowed to inform against Mosley and undermine his organisation from within on behalf of the crown. He was playing a treacherous game against a dangerous foe.
Arthur’s demons resurfaced
When Mosley cruelly goaded Arthur that his wife Linda (Kate Phillips) had left him and been spotted with another man, the unstable senior Shelby sibling broke a chair with his bare hands in rage.
He was soon stomping off to the Quaker house in nearby Bournville for a “man-to-mat chat” with Linda’s new friend (Robbie Keane, not to be confused with the former footballer). When he refused to reveal Linda’s whereabouts, Arthur brutally kicked, cut and beat him to death. “There is God in my heart but these hands belong to the Devil,” he bellowed through the red mist. What chance of winning Linda back now?
Lizzie forgave Tommy - for now
It wasn’t just Arthur having marital strife. Tommy’s ice-cool wife Lizzie (Natasha O’Keefe), never one to be underestimated, told Linda she’d consulted a London lawyer about divorce - because Birmingham solicitors were, understandably, too scared to upset the Shelby men.
Thankfully, though, Tommy and Lizzie brokered an uneasy truce. She “decided to balance heart and head”, set her errant husband some strict ground rules and agreed to stay for the sake of their children and the lady-of-the-manor lifestyle to which she’d become accustomed. After all, as ex-prostitute Lizzie drily noted: “I used to **** seven men a day. Now I’m learning to ride a horse side-saddle.” Giddy up, girl.
Call The Midwife this wasn’t
Apart from some textbook Peaky corridor-walking, what precisely was the point of that opening sequence at St Hilda’s Orphanage, a charitable institution bankrolled by the Grace Shelby Foundation? It seemed to have little connection with the major storylines - at least, so far. Was it merely to demonstrate there’s still some good left in the feared family?
In the wake of a mixed-race child’s tragic suicide, Tommy and Polly (Helen McCrory) tackled the Mother Superior (Kate Dickie, aka Lysa Arryn from Game Of Thrones) over reports of nuns beating children with bricks and hoses. Tommy broke her spectacles, Polly threatened her with a hatpin, funding was withdrawn and the orphans rehomed in the Shelbys' own institutions. The Peaky Blinders were saviours. The nuns were on the run.
Aberama Gold disobeyed Tommy’s orders
On her 45th birthday, Aunt Polly visited Aberama Gold (Aidan Gillen) to pass on Tommy’s message that there was a plan in place to avenge the slaying of his son Bonnie (Jack Rowan) by Glaswegian gang The Billy Boys, so not to do anything rash. Fat chance.
After tenderly giving the birthday girl a red rose, Aberama persuaded his old flame to break him out of hospital and take him to a gypsy camp, where his sister could nurse him. The minute he arrived, however, he gave instructions to fetch his hunting rifle and recruit the Fury family to help him on his revenge mission to Scotland. As he’d told Polly: “I’ve dealt death. Now death has dealt with me. I have one more killing to do, then I‘ll be done.” I’ve got a bad feeling about this.
Hell hath no Furies
Heavyweight boxer Tyson “Gypsy King” Fury and little brother Tommy of Love Island runner-up fame are members of the Fury family of Irish travellers. Their broad chests would have swelled with pride when their dynasty got name-checked, even if it wasn’t in the most complimentary terms.
Aberama Gold joined forces with the Furies for his Caledonian mission and when Johnny Dogs was sent after him, he blanched at having to deal with the notoriously tough clan. “They don’t even use words to talk, Tom, just gestures and hounds,” pleaded Johnny. Pretty handy in a scrap, though.
Cousin Michael looks a marked man
Having returned to face the music following the Wall Street Crash, ambitious princeling Michael Gray (Finn Cole) was still being punished. He’d become the butt of endless jokes and was sent on menial errands, much to his chagrin. “By the time this baby draws its first breath, you and I will be done,” the expectant first-time father growled at Tommy.
Meanwhile, Michael’s new wife Gina (Anya Taylor-Joy) told Polly that they wanted to have their baby in New York and live in Long Island, offering to take Polly with them. “We all try to get away but we never do,” warned the wise matriarch. I’ve got another bad feeling about this.
Welcome return for stalwart supporting trio
Among its rogue’s gallery of untrustworthy characters, Peaky Blinders fans have come to rely on the reassuring presence of unsung footsoldiers Johnny, Curly and Charlie. All three made enjoyable cameos here.
When he’d finished charming the pants off Tommy’s housemaid Sandra (Alison Todd) and hamming up his sore ribs, the relucatant Johnny Dogs (Packy Lee) was dispatched to the Lothian border to head off Aberama. Curly (Ian Peck) was busy arranging Bonnie Gold’s funeral wagon and supplying grenades to Arthur, while surrogate father figure Charlie Strong (Ned Dennehy) sagely advised: “Find a way of getting Linda back, Arthur, because without her you’re as good as dead already.”
Together with Tommy’s ever-loyal housekeeper Frances (Pauline Turner), such supporting characters provide welcome solace in the turbulent West Midlands world.
Classic covers on soundtrack
This week on Peaky Blinders’ anachronistic but strangely right indie-rock score, Anna Calvi covered a pair of bona fide classics in David Bowie’s Lady Grinning Soul and Johnny Cash’s Ain't No Grave. Quick, somebody compile a Spotify playlist.
Gypsies struck blow against Billy Boys
Glasgow Protestant razor gang The Billy Boys made a murderous entrance last week but now suffered casualties of their own. Aberama Gold’s men ventured into Scotland to set up some fake roadworks. When the Billy Boys rolled up for a “routine border inspection”, they were brutally ambushed with blades, shovels and iron bars. The roadside stramash culminated in a wince-inducing scene which saw Gold pour boiling tar onto the face of the local Billy Boys leader (River City’s Douglas Rankine, doing his best Dougray Scott impression).
The Billy Boys, led by Jimmy McCavern (Brian Gleeson, who played a similarly unhinged villain opposite Aidan Gillen in underrated Irish gangster drama Love/Hate), raided the gypsy camp to avenge the attack - except Arthur and Johnny had got there first. The Billy Boys found only a booby-trapped caravan, which duly exploded in a spectacular fireball.
“So, Tommy Shelby, it’s war you want,” muttered Jimmy, a sly grin spreading across his face, flames dancing in his eyes. “It’s war you shall have.” A sectarian showdown is a-coming…