Peaky Blinders: Episode #1.4

"My appetite for the work has only increased."

Much like Grace, it was at this point in Peaky Blinders that I got really into it. This is the midpoint of the season, so there are some pretty big developments in this episode.

This one is a perfect showcasing of Thomas Shelby's cunning arts of manipulation and persuasion. He's a really crafty devil, Machiavelli in a trench-coat and newsboy cap, and it's quite entertaining to see the ways in which he can wrap multiple factions around his finger at the same time and capitalize on the chaos to his faction's benefit.

However, in the end, we also witness the downsides of this type of devious behavior: A person cannot hope to account for everything because life is unpredictable, and exercising that sort of heartless pragmatism is not likely to win anyone's trust or endearment in the long run.

The Peaky Blinders exploits at the Cheltenham races only increased the ire of the Lee clan, and they retaliate in the first scene, robbing the backroom bookie operation in the Shelby residence. They also nearly kill the youngest Shelby boy, Finn, by rigging a wire to a grenade pin in Thomas's car. In response, Tommy gains an audience with the Lee family matriarch to negotiate. He proposes that they join forces to edge out Billy Kimber. The Lee matriarch is amused by his boldness, since Tommy has been working with Kimber against the Lees and even just acquired a legal betting license from him, finally securing legitimacy for Shelby businesses. Thomas no longer needs Billy Kimber, certainly not more than he needs to end this blood feud with the Lees.

Amusingly, Thomas tries to turn his problematic siblings Ada and John into diplomatic solutions to the greater issues he's facing.

Ada's dissatisfaction with living in Freddy Thorn's crummy hideout leads her to give Polly and Thomas the address of one of Freddy's communist allies, a way more valuable target than Freddy. Thomas passes the information to Inspector Campbell in exchange for Freddy and Ada's security. Freddy still refuses to leave Birmingham in defiance of Thomas, since his ally doesn't know his location and will be beaten to death for nothing.

He has more success with John, who is having trouble raising his kids and wants to marry Lizzie Starke. The whole family does not take this seriously, since Lizzie is a well-known prostitute. She and John say she has changed, but Thomas quickly finds out this is false. He decides to remedy his brother's situation by arranging a marriage to a daughter of the Lees, in order to peacefully end the war between the two families. John is at first reluctant but brightens up when he meets his bride, Esme Lee. This ends the war and unites the Shelbys and the Lees.

Of course, the most troublesome antagonist is definitely still Inspector Campbell. Here he details to Thomas exactly how he will destroy his entire family if he fails to return the stolen guns and costs Campbell his job, even threatening to subject Tommy's youngest brother to a life of prison rape -- Tommy almost kills Campbell right there, clearly fearing such an outcome. Then Campbell scoffs at the notion of giving his word to someone. The way he lords over the communist agent with smug superiority is also telling. Campbell is a tyrannical scumbag, definitely the most unsympathetic character.

Even his prized operative, Grace, is catching on to his scumminess. Campbell can barely hide his unprofessional jealousy of Grace's close proximity to his rival. Though she is insulted by his distrust, he's not entirely wrong. She is growing extremely close to Thomas. She gains his attention here when she helps Arthur with accounting, showing a skill with numbers. Thomas takes her to the church, where he lays his cards on the table. He knows she's lying and hiding something, but he is obviously very taken with her. the two share their first kiss in the soft light and darkness. She becomes the new secretary for the Peaky Blinders.

Grace may prove to be that one factor amidst all of Tommy's schemes that he didn't account for. As he said in the previous episode, he doesn't know what she is. It appears as if she was the one who blindsided him at the end of this episode.

Ada starts going into labor at the gypsy wedding. The boys hit The Garrison and spread the good news while Polly stays with Ada. Freddy makes it there to see his and Ada's newborn son, but no sooner does he arrive then he's arrested by the police, tearing the family apart just as it begins. Polly angrily confronts Thomas, laying the blame at his feet.

This is what I meant about the consequences of Tommy's manipulative ways. He plays Campbell, the Lees, Billy Kimber, and his own siblings like fiddles all in order to rig a favorable outcome, and the one soft spot he has goes to the woman who could bring his whole family down (and break his heart in the process). What stings the most is Polly's reaction in the end. She assumes Thomas was the one who sold out Freddy. And why shouldn't she? It doesn't seem too dissimilar from anything else Thomas did in this episode.

Being cold, calculating and unfettered may be the way to achieve one's goals or ambitions, but it's also an easy way to lose the trust and respect of those closest to you. That ending is a very poignant moment for our chief anti-hero. Thomas is shocked at his own unforeseen failure, and faced with an existential despair at the same time. Bummer.

Gangster's Paradise:

* I like how Thomas and the Lee matriarch were speaking English and Romani interchangeably during their pow-wow.

* Absolutely loved the look of the church during the scene between Thomas and Grace.

* I'll bet Freddy Thorn's going to be in for some extreme police brutality. What happened to his friend did not look pretty.

* As deplorable as Inspector Campbell is, it seems like Sam Neill is having fun playing such a hammy, self-impressed asshole.

* "Broken Boy Soldier" by The Raconteurs

Quotes:

Polly: Men and their cocks never cease to amaze me! John, Lizzie Starke never did a day's work vertical.
Both of these sentences are hilarious.

Campbell: (to Thomas) I'm in your hands completely. You hold all the cards. But I hope to god my dismissal doesn't come before your decision to hand back those guns. And I say this for your sake, because if I were to be fired and it were your fault... I would do things that would shame the devil. My fury is a sight to behold.

Campbell: The pretensions of these hoodlums is quite breathtaking. Are they not?
Grace: Yes. Quite breathtaking.
Poor choice of words there, inspector.

Grace: May you be in heaven a full half-hour before the devil knows you're dead.

Grace: (reading her contract) "Bookkeeper, Shelby Bros. Limited."
Thomas: I don't like that word. "Limited."

Four out of four wired grenades.

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