Peaky Blinders: 2.01

Major spoilers ahead, you have been warned!

If you couldn’t tell from my gushing recap of season 1, I was immensely looking forward to season 2 of Peaky Blinders. The recap centres on the last scenes of the previous season; the love between Tommy and Grace, his fateful coin toss to decide whether he follows her, and Campbell confronting her with a gun at the train station. The resolution of the latter was one of the most beautifully shot scenes of the show so far, a smoke-shrouded Grace revealing herself to be no victim and coldly shooting Campbell before he has a chance to do the same to her.
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Two years later it is revealed at Freddie Thorn’s funeral that the Shelby family has been doing spectacularly well; so much so that Ada, now living in London, is embarrassed of them. While the country hungers, a theme frequently brought up in the episode, the Shelbys thrive, in their fine clothes, fine cars and pliant police force.

But while the family mourns, while Tommy reveals his plan to expand his business to London, darker forces are at work. The mysterious agitators, acting through widows with prams filled with explosives, blow up The Garrison, the Peaky Blinders’ pub. Instantly suspecting the Irish, Tommy goes on a reconnoitre, onto the turf of the enemy. To his shock, and to ours, it’s not the IRA that bombed his pub… It was the Secret Intelligence Service’s Irish division, now headed up by a hardened man, a man with a bullet in his leg. The grim preacher, the hate-filled Major Campbell ominously limps back into the scene, determined to fulfil his crusade and to hurt Tommy Shelby as much as he can. And making Tommy do his dirty work, executing his targets, is the perfect way to kill two birds with one stone; he intends for Tommy to swing from the gallows by the end.

Season 1 had its strong women, in Polly, Grace and Ada; but they mostly played second fiddle to Tommy and his plans, to Campbell and his crusade. The balance has been somewhat redressed here. Aunt Polly has a more active role, John’s gypsy wife Esme has better thought-out opinions than her husband and overall the women’s storylines are threaded deeper into the narrative. As Tommy says, “This company is a modern enterprise and believes in equal rights for women”.
Except, for all his words, that’s not how Tommy really sees things. Everyone has an equal right to a voice, an opinion, but Polly pulls him up on his mistrust of women; and she is not unaware of why.

“Why don’t you trust women? She was just one woman! Maybe it’s time you forgot about her?”

Grace will forever be in Tommy’s mind, forever the only one, forever the source of the distrust and betrayal he feels. Passionless sex with a secretary is all he has, to satisfy physical needs, while emotionally he is hollowed out.

Finally, the men of the Peaky Blinders head to London, to kick the hornet’s nest. A den of iniquity; more stylish than Birmingham, but no less sordid. And in this milieu, the very presence of the northerners is cause for concern, a breach of gangland protocol.
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Inevitably violence ensues, and the men of London, specifically of the Italian gang led by Sabini, are made aware of the fact that the Shelby’s are in town and they are siding with the enemy. The Jewish gang of Camden is to be an ally of the Shelbys, presumably led by Tom Hardy, and together they intend to conquer London.

Triumphant in their return, they don’t realise they have brought London’s smoke and trouble back with them; and Sabini’s ire. In the end, Tommy is violently assaulted and, if it weren’t for the timely intervention of Campbell, his dark guardian angel, he would have been executed. Worryingly, at the same time, Tommy’s sister is attacked and dragged off, threatened with a gang rape by Sabini’s men. This was a worrying note for me in this episode, the principle sand in the gears. I hope Ada’s fate is not gong to end up as an example of fridging, that would be very disappointing.

As ever, the principle draws of Peaky Blinders are Cillian Murphy, the increased screen presence of Helen McCrory, the beautiful cinematography and the pitch-perfect music choices. As in the first season, this episode starts with fractions amongst the Shelby’s, not everyone is happy to dance to Tommy’s tune. I suspect that in the end it’ll come down to family once more by the end. Family, and Grace.

This was a strong start to season 2, and I can’t wait to see more.

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