Peaky Blinders: Season Three, Episode One

“Despite the bad blood, I’ll have none of it on my carpet.”

Good news, buckaroos. Remember how I called the Season Two finale a perfect episode of television? Well, so is this.

Taking place over the span of just one day—Tommy Shelby’s wedding day—this episode is tense and hilarious, often at the same time. It’s also something of a bait-and-switch. At first, it looks like the biggest conflict will be between the Shelby clan and Grace’s family. Catholic vs Protestant. Wealthy vs working-class. Traveler vs Northern Irish. And, most importantly, foot soldiers and diggers vs the cavalry who were so late to the battle that men died in the trenches.

Indeed, that’s the conflict Tommy is most worried about at first: that the reception will erupt into violence. He tells the Peaky Blinders the rules of the road: “No. No. No. No cocaine. No sport. No telling fortunes. No racing. No fucking sucking petrol out of their fucking cars...No fighting. No fucking fighting. No fighting. No. Fucking. Fighting!”

But just a few minutes later, in television time, Tommy changes his mind. Why?

The Russians.

The second season ended with a threat: Mr. Churchill would have a job for Tommy to do. Now, two years after the events at the racetrack, it looks like the chickens are coming home to roost. Churchill wants Tommy wrapped up in Russian business, supporting the Whites against Reds. And somehow dispossessed aristocrats are in the middle of it, trying to get their hands on a warehouse full of tanks.

But of course it’s never as simple as that, since the man who contacts Polly doesn’t use the correct code word, and so he has to be killed since he works for the Soviets, yet he still has enough info that allows Tommy to make contact with the Grand Duchess Tatiana Petrovna, who obviously isn’t a Soviet, and it’s stuff like this that makes me not really enjoy John Le CarrĂ© novels, but I don’t think the details matter. What matters is that business as usual has become some very dangerous, very unusual, very international business.

Amid all of this, Tommy has just married a spy who doesn’t want to be left out, and with whom he vowed to share everything. Grace calls Tommy out on his grumpypuss behavior, and his response is one of the sweetest monologues in this entire show:

“It’s business. It’s bad bad business all around. And I’m scared…And this is how I am when I’m scared. It’s unfamiliar to you but not to me. I can—I can fucking be scared and carry on. And it’s not pleasant to look at and it’s no joy to be around…I’m sorry for being busy in my head.”

I think this is the first time we’ve really seen Tommy talk honestly to anyone about his feelings and how he’s managing, isn’t it? But he should open up to Grace even more, because he’s not really managing. According to Lizzie, all the girls in the office think he’s going crazy. That can’t be good.

Arthur, meanwhile, has taken the pledge and taken a wife. His attempt at a speech was heartbreaking. He was so excited to be emotionally open, but Tommy shuts him down. Is Tommy worried that Arthur would let slip about Grace’s first husband? Or is Tommy uncomfortable with any sort of public emotional disclosure? Tommy claims that family is his strength, but I think that’s only in business matters. In personal matters, Tommy seems to want some distance between his posh life with Grace and his elder brother’s volatility. Especially when that brother is under Linda’s sway and not Tommy’s.

Polly, of course, is mixed up in the middle of all of this, swapping code-words with the faux Russian and flirting with the more “harmless” looking stranger. It makes sense that Tommy trusts her more than Arthur. She’s both smarter and more self-contained. Selfishly, I’m also excited by the prospect of Polly taking on an even more active role in the Shelby Company’s business dealings. And I’m pure curiosity to see how Grace and Polly are going to clash.

(I am less excited about Michael. I still don’t trust him. And he seemed to enjoy ruining Lizzie’s relationship, which makes him, as a Shelby might say, a right arsehole.)

By the episode’s end, there’s no blood on the carpet, but just barely: the faux Russian’s body is immolated by Johnny Dogs in Tommy’s copious backyard. But what really matters, perhaps, is all the other blood that was spilled and all the other interdictions that were violated. It was the cocaine, the betting, the racing, and the fighting that brought the cavalry and the diggers together. Because violent delights are the only thing that unites these men in this time, and they’re the only thing that allows Tommy to feel remotely confident in his impossible promise to Grace: “I promise I will make us safe.”

Random Thoughts:

•    The bells of Nick Cave’s “Red Right Hand” turned into wedding bells as the credits rolled.

•    Oh, Tommy. Are all of those portraits necessary? Because I don’t think they are.

•    So, Grace’s husband killed himself. Did he really?

•    Tommy and Grace’s son is named Charlie. I assume they named him after Tommy’s uncle Charlie, which is delightfully sweet.

•    Tommy always smokes a lot, but he really took it to a new level in this episode, along with some light hacking coughs. The stress is wearing on him.

•    The sexy painter, Mr. Oliver, who hit on Polly. Russian spy or possible love interest?

•    Ava described her family to Kaledin, the Soviet spy: some of them are Communist, they just don’t know it.

•    This Week in Curly: He didn’t get much to do, but by the end of the episode he seemed to be getting along great with Grace’s family. Curly, master of horses and of horse-riders.

Quotes:

•    Polly: “Some of us know the words.”

•    Arthur: “I am telling you now, we got lost. You really need to do a map, Tommy.” You know you’ve made it when people get lost in your gigantic home.

•    Charlie: “Oh, so this charity of his is for real?” Charlie’s cynicism isn’t just profound. It has no bottom at all.

•    Tommy: “I love you. And I promise I will make us safe.”

•    Tommy: “I’m a gambling man, Pol.”

Four out of four vaults full of money.

Let’s let Radiohead sing us out with “You and Whose Army.” An appropriate title, isn’t it?


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

2 comments:

Billie Doux said...

A wedding with no violence on Peaky Blinders? Inconceivable! :)

The harmless stranger that Polly is interested in is Alexander Siddig, who was once upon a time a Star Trek heart throb. I stood in an incredibly long line at a convention once just to get his autograph. If you want to see what he looked like back then, try doing a Google image search for "Alexander Siddig Deep Space Nine."

Josie Kafka said...

Psychic link intact: I spent about 15 minutes trying to work in a reference to The Princess Bride--Vizzini's two rules, in fact--but couldn't make it work in this review.