Peaky Blinders: 2.05
Peaky Blinders has always had a strong start to the episodes; even if the rest of the episode stumbles somewhat, the beginnings have always been strong. Steve Knight writes a strong hook and the director executes it with punch.
This episode is no different: the commencement of war, as narrated in metaphor by Tom Hardy’s Alfie Solomons. It’s Passover, and he tells Arthur and Billy the tale of the scape goat; the absolvement of the sin of killing the Egyptian king. The gypsy king. Tommy.
War has been declared and it commences all at once, across the land: Arthur is arrested for Billy’s murder, Sabini takes back his clubs and Campbell has Polly’s son arrested for the burning of the pub that refused to serve his friend. With one stroke Campbell, for this is his play, has taken control. He may not have power over Tommy, who does not fear death, but he does have power of the rest of the Shelby family.
And while Rome burns, Nero fiddled.
For while all this is going on, even after he learns of it, Tommy is distracted. Between his attempts to rebuff May, and his attempts to seduce and entertain Grace, his mind seems to be elsewhere. Grace, again, seems strangely passive in all of this, as Tommy manoeuvres and manipulates her to his advantage. But it is May, after been told about Grace, who has the best line: ‘You've told me about her like a gentleman, now kindly behave like a gangster again’.
A lot has been done to increase the role of women in Peaky Blinders in season two, foremost of which is of course of Aunt Polly. I must confess to being sometimes unsure of the trajectory of this increased emphasis. As written, she seems to swing wildly and rapidly between strength and brittleness, power and weakness. This is exemplified in this episode, with her having her son taken from her by the police, and showing she is willing to do literally everything to save him. She allows Campbell to exert his sexual power over her, to make him feel mighty over the Shelbys so she can free her son.
I can see where they were going with this, and I’m in favour of an increase in screen presence of the strong women of Peaky Blinders. And yet season one’s strong women now seem passive, victims, easily manipulated, victims of rape or threats of assault. It just makes me a little uncomfortable.
The next episode will be the last and all things come down to Derby Day at the Epsom racetrack. Last season the final conflict was also to be at a racetrack, but it never transpired that way. This time though, all things converge there: Sabini, the gambling enterprise that’s hardly been mentioned this season, Tommy’s racehorse, May, Sabini… And the Field Marshall that Tommy is to assassinate.
I suspect that come Thursday we’ll experience quite the explosive finale.