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Peaky Blinders: Season Two, Episode Five

“Tommy Shelby is not afraid to die.”

So, do you think “sacrifice” is the Theme of the Week?

A Passover-night dinner turns ugly this week and the Peaky Blinders bear the brunt of the new Solomons/Sabini alliance. I was shocked when Alfie betrayed the Blinders, since I felt like he and Tommy had the mutual respect of two intelligent men. I was even more shocked when the cops picked up Michael, since he’d seemed fairly removed from so much of the family violence.

Not removed enough, though. His connection to the burning of the Marquis pub was enough for Campbell and the Birmingham police to round him up. Arthur, of course, was never removed at all, and his cruelty in managing the London arm of Tommy’s business, as well as his known propensity for violence, make him an easy scapegoat.

But speaking of removal: so much happens in this episode, and Tommy is distant from it all—he never visited his family in jail, and he made John bomb the assassination target’s house. I wonder if he overnighted at May’s house because he guessed how bad things in Birmingham and London might get. Was he hiding out, avoiding the trouble he sensed was coming? Or is his distance from the day-to-day business and risk a sign of what his “80% legal” strategy might look like?

Campbell, although ridiculous, brings up an important point: is Tommy Shelby afraid to die? I’ve ruminated before about Tommy’s goals and motivations, but we’ve seen no evidence that he fears or wants to avoid death. We might even say he courts it. But he is afraid of failure, which for him means powerlessness, and that’s why he hates working for Campbell so much. You can’t win a turf war against the British empire, not even in the 1920s. If you do, you’ll wind up shoveling shit and doing honest work, a fate Tommy hopes to avoid.

Polly and Esme both know that, and both threaten to walk away with their men in tow. Tommy let Polly have her say—she wants Michael out of the family business—but Tommy threatened to “cut” Esme. “Cut” her out of the family, he clarified. But I wonder.

Polly doesn’t have access to that sort of power, the power of potential violence. What she does have is a willingness to do anything to save her son and an understanding of the sort of cruelty men like Campbell enjoy. When Michael was released from prison, he told Polly he knew what she did for him, and it was “funny.” It’s obvious he was beaten, but I wonder if he, too, was sexually assaulted.

Meanwhile—or, rather, somehow in the middle of all this—Tommy and Grace met Charlie Chaplin (sure!) and had some honest conversation and sexy sex. We’ve seen Tommy seduce two women this season with really frank questions about whether or not they want to have sex with him. It’s a strange combination of erotic and weird.

However much chemistry Tommy and Grace may have, their shared attraction is never as straightforward as Tommy’s apparent honesty would indicate. She was using him to test her own fertility. And he was using her to throw Campbell off his game. They were both willing to sacrifice the other in service of their own goals, even though they’re clearly both still in love.

Which brings us back to May, who thought she was getting a sexy gangster toy boy and wound up with a “gentleman” and the ill-will of her social set. It’s hard to imagine that May and Tommy’s relationship could have ended any other way, especially since Tommy spent most of their breakup conversation talking about his horse.

That’s not to say he doesn’t care. Tommy warned May off “men like me,” but he never warns Grace of the threat he represents. It’s easy to forget she was a spy, willing to get her own hands dirty, but at least she, more than May, knows what she’s in for.

Scene of the Week

• The scene between Polly and Campbell was so horrifyingly realistic, so tense and brutal, that it wins this week’s award even though I didn’t have the heart to re-watch it while reviewing this episode.

Random Thoughts

• Goodbye, Billy Kitchen of the Black Country.

• John Shelby is played by Joe Cole. Starting in the second season, John's little brother Finn is played by Harry Kinton. John and Finn's cousin Michael is played by Finn Cole, Joe Cole's little brother.

• It’s a good thing the actress who plays Grace (Annabelle Wallis) is gorgeous, because her blue dress was very ugly.

• This Week in Curly: he looked fairly happy to be shoveling hay with Tommy. Or forking hay. Or whatever it is you do with hay.


• Alfie Solomons: “In order to make it right with God to kill a king, we had to carry out…the ritual sacrifice.” Alfie’s language (“make it right”) is so gangster even as the content is so religious.

• Polly: “We don’t need more fucking men. It’s men that have done the damage.”

Four out of four goats. Or maybe goldfish. But probably goats. And here’s some PJ Harvey to sing us out…

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)


  1. Should I complain about the high level of gore again? Ick.

    At this point, I'm all about Tommy, and I'll admit I'm enjoying his very confusing love life.

    The Campbell/Polly scene made me cringe. It almost felt like Michael didn't deserve it. It takes a lot for me to root for one character to kill another, but wow, did I want Polly to kill Campbell.

  2. Yes, this second season is great but still I prefer the first one. I don't know, perhaps it's because the plot simplicity and the coral work of the characters. His love affairs are interesting too. Although May seems to me very boring and has zero chemistry with him on some points. I love and hate Campbell, he's such a great villain, anyway I hope he die slowly, hehe.


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