Peaky Blinders: Episode #1.6

"I think what it is: You're bad men, but you're our bad men."

We've reached the end of the first season (or series) of Peaky Blinders. This show is about a lot of things. It's a stylish tale of a gang of street hoods on the rise to becoming an organized crime family. It's a gritty depiction of the disorder in England following World War I. It's a biting examination of the tyrannical law enforcement of the early 20th century, which would go on to saturate future generations. But the story mainly concerns the conflicted heart of Thomas Shelby.

What started out as gangsters trying to outwit the government and the IRA on top of other gangsters is eventually whittled down to a bittersweet love triangle. Thomas Shelby and his adversary Inspector Campbell are both in love with Grace. Grace only loves Tommy, but she ends up breaking both men's hearts when they each make their own revelations about her. Specifically, Campbell learns that his beloved Grace has fallen for his criminal rival, and Tommy learns that Grace had been working with Campbell the entire time. Not only that, but she's given Campbell information that nearly ruins his plans to take down Billy Kimber.

This led to a scene that didn't really make sense to me the first time I watched it. After Thomas learns the truth, Polly tells him she'll handle Grace, because she claims if Tommy sees her he'll kill her. As soon as she confronts Grace, Polly acts like she's about to murder her right in the middle of The Garrison, and states that, because Grace deceived them, she'll murder her even if Tommy forgives her and welcomes her back. Seemed a bit harsh and over the top the first time I saw this. In hindsight, though, I think Polly just did this to ensure Grace and Thomas stay apart. Why? Because I get the feeling she knows that these two are star-crossed, doomed to tragedy if they ever try to be together. She's very protective of Thomas, after all, especially where his heart is concerned.

She should be. Tommy nearly gets a bullet straight through his heart during the showdown with Billy Kimber. It's rare that I'm a fan of anti-climaxes, but I feel like in this case it was necessary. If Ada hadn't shown up with that creative yet ridiculously stupid plan to diffuse the situation (i.e. her own baby) and things had devolved into a shooting war, I think half the cast would have ended up killed off. So in the end only the lovable lunatics Billy Kimber and Danny Whizz-Bang got killed, and all of Campbell's attempts to screw over Thomas only end up working in his favor. Why? Because Peaky fuckin' Blinders!

And in spite of everything, Thomas and Grace are still in love and have hope for a future together. Unfortunately, Grace knows she will likely never be accepted by his family and that he will likely never abandon his family in order to be with her. This leaves their relationship up in the air.

Even more so due to Campbell's disintegration in the wake of their love. The good inspector pretty much loses all credibility as a force of justice in this episode. At the start of the episode, he nurses his broken heart over Grace by having violent sex with a young prostitute; this is juxtaposed with Grace receiving his letter in which he states that she "should be ashamed" of herself. He later ordered all of his policemen to stand down and allow the gang-war between the Peaky Blinders and Billy Kimber's outfit to go down in the streets, with no concern for law and order or innocent bystanders. Petty vengeance he hoped would result in the downfall of Thomas Shelby, but only made him and his family more powerful and made Campbell himself look like a fool. You'd think he'd just count his losses and take solace in the awards from Winston Churchill and the crown, but...

Following the Peaky Blinders' apparent victory, the season ends on a note of uncertainty. After composing a letter to Grace, Thomas hinges the future of their relationship on a simple coin toss. At the same time, Grace is about to board a train to London when she is confronted by Campbell, who prepares to kill her with his pistol. The coin lands. A gunshot is heard. This would be the last and most meaningful method Campbell would have of getting some kind of revenge on Thomas. He did promise him that his heart would be broken before the day was done.

So it seems the condition of Thomas Shelby's heart and soul will remain the focus of this series, even if other aspects do present themselves. How will this crafty Byronic hero preserve his family and reconcile his own tumultuous existence? We shall see.

Gangster's Paradise

* Grace is a very meaningful name, since this seems to be what attracts Thomas and Campbell to her. She is their grace, someone who they feel brings harmony to their dark, twisted lives.

* I really like the powerful yet fragile love between Thomas and Grace. That scene where she, on the verge of tears, tries to tell him the truth in the backroom of the Garrison and he's forced to leave her and deal with Billy Kimber before she can. Powerful stuff.

* As much as I like seeing people chew Campbell out, I did not take that police sergeant seriously when he started berating him for being as corrupt as those who came before and acting like he's sickened by it all. The dude didn't seem to mind being a crooked piece of shit at any point beforehand.

* Tommy mentions the "Sabinis and Solomons" while getting drunk with his brothers. Without going into too much detail, Sabini and Solomons end up being quite prominent in the second season.

Quotes

Polly: Dear Lord, make this day pass well. Let none get hurt, and make them that do be not Shelbys. Watch John, because he has so many depending on him. Watch Arthur, because he's as likely to hurt himself as anyone else. Watch Thomas... I know how he is, but he does what he does for us... I think. Amen.

Campbell: (to Thomas) One thing I have learned is that you and I are opposites, but also just the same. Like an image in a mirror. We hate people, and they, in turn, hate us and fear us.

Freddie Thorne: Holy shit! Danny, you're dead.
Danny Whizz-Bang: No, I've been living in London. Same thing.

Thomas: To Danny Whizz-Bang. May we all die twice.

This season finale left me feeling a bit more satisfied than I remember when I saw it the first time. Four out of four coin tosses.

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