And, we're off to the races. No, really, we are actually off to the races -- Cheltenham Races!
Often times, while I am watching Peaky Blinders, it occurs to me that this show is so cool and stylie that the coolness rubs off on the viewer. We're cool just for watching it. (From what I can tell, Vince Gilligan is the only other EP who's capable of this, but the concept manifests differently with him.) For me, with Peaky Blinders, in no particular order, here's the framework: the direction, the music and Cillian Murphy. My god, about the latter, Murphy's face is as angular and symmetric as the razors in his hat brim. It's among the strongest casting of an actor who embodies a character on a molecular level on TV. Even without that, the look of the show is really so lovely and the attention to symmetry in the direction (especially the shot composition) contrasts the twisted and indirect paths Thomas is leading the Blinders (and the Shelbys) through, in very interesting ways. A quick word about the music. It's as perfectly in love with itself as much as the show is -- The White Stripes (and Jack White in any form) is, in its essential nature, dripping with cool. In short, win/win.
With its cool turned up to 11, this episode can more effectively juxtapose the introduction of something that's going to deeply challenge Tommy's. It's not Freddie, or Campbell, or Billy Kimber. Nope, it's Grace Burgess. And it's great fun, really, watching Tommy try to keep a hold on himself during all of their interactions, the ones leading up to the day of the horse race and the fateful event, itself. Their flirtation is so buried in their micro-expressions, I'm sure they're intended to be missed by the naked eye. If the gears are invariably turning in Tommy's head, paving the way for him to be any number of steps ahead of everyone else around him, can you even imagine what kind of effect Grace must have, on his field of vision? And of course since we know more than him about who she is, there's 1000% more dramatic irony watching him figure out where he's going to put her.
While the Grace factor is left very uncertain, Tommy has either successfully fulfilled his goals -- to ice out the Lee family in favor of sidling up to Billy Kimber (the Blinders are offered as protection for the fixed races of Kimber's), or, he has easily pivoted to put things on pause until another sane idea comes to him -- Freddie and Ada are offered NYC to start a new life together but Freddie will not be made to feel intimidated. Elsewhere, Arthur is grappling with a loss of his center and Tommy quickly takes up the task of mitigating his unraveling. The amazing thing with Tommy's plans is that while they're appropriately self-serving, they're totally impersonal. Yes, he makes choices for people along the way when they are not exactly willing participants, and he does so believing he can convince them of the value after the promise has already been made. But he's incredibly detached and we see that he is shrewd beyond measure, without even a tinge of deviousness. I reiterate -- a very compelling protagonist. He's not ruthless, though he's very dedicated.
Even the quasi-loose ends, like Danny's reappearance where he shouldn't be, Sergeant Moss threatening Ada or the IRA stirring about doesn't rattle Tommy like Grace does. He is a man who's exceptional at almost everything, except Grace. This should be interesting.
* Steven Knight is really special. I love Logan's comparison to Michael Mann in #1.2. YES! I'd throw in Chris Nolan and Steven Soderbergh, too. They're all cut from the same cloth, right down to their preferred color palette. (I know Steven isn't directing here but he hired the directors to execute his vision as the show's creator.)
* Lady Sara Of Connemara
* I love the insights into Tommy's character that happen in a quiet moment in the car outside of Kimber's house with Kimber's lady. First he authentically comments that her hat is nice, when she tells him she was a milliner. (He does so without looking at it, because he already noticed it in another moment.) When she asks if Grace is a prostitute, he answers, perfectly frank, God's honest truth, I don't know what she is. It's all especially disarming.
Thomas: "Oh, I don't pay for suits. My suits are on the house, or the house burns down."
Freddie: "You think I can't handle Thomas Shelby?"
Polly: "You can't. I'm having trouble myself these days. And I'm twice the man you are."
Thomas: "Come on, posh girl, earn your three quid."
Three and a half out of four red handkerchiefs.