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Peaky Blinders: Gold

"He's like a character in a novel."

This is the episode when I realized just how depressing and deadly this season might become.

Ruby?! Ruby died? Of consumption? What the hell?

I mentioned in my previous reviews that this season, surprisingly, focuses on "domestic, familial intimacy," and I love the season for doing that. I really do. Peaky Blinders is reminding us that family is what happens when we're busy making violent plans for gangster deals and revenge.

But Peaky Blinders doesn't pull any punches in making that argument. This season started off with Tommy planning for vengeance against Michael for Polly's death. And in this episode, it takes a sudden swerve into what really matters: curses and family and mourning and being present for the people we love.

This episode makes that point by showing us the opposite, though: Tommy isn't there for Ruby or for Lizzie. He's out hunting curses with Esme. Ada says that "He puts his daughter's welfare before business," but that's not entirely true. He puts his own desire for action before the necessary waiting and presence that would have been actually useful.

As great as it was to see Esme (and it was great), I did resent a bit, especially on rewatch, just how long the Esme portion of this episode is. I mentioned in my previous review that this season is, in part, about delay. This episode's meandering winds up being foreshadowing: we are looking for closure with Tommy out in the wilds, when the real emotions would have been happening in the hospital with Lizzie and Ruby.

Meanwhile, Ada and Diana Mitford are hilarious together. They're saltier than a good margarita. The back and forth of "it's a result of genetics" was perfect. Mitford's line about how she only reads "pornography and politics" is unforgettable.

Ada really gets a chance to shine in general. So far, she's struggled with whether or not she can–or even wants to–fill the void left by Polly's death. In this episode, it's clear that she can put her own spin on Polly's power and hold her own with the pretentious fascists.

Poor Arthur, on the other hand, is getting "the yamps," requests to be locked in the cash safe, and can barely hold himself together. Arthur's usually the tallest Shelby (unless we count Lizzie), but Isiah's taller, and that made Arthur seem truly diminished.

Steven Knight does a wonderful job of dealing with both Tommy and Arthur’s sobriety struggles. Portraying addiction—or rather, the recovery process—prior to the popularization of the AA model of disease and armchair psychology can’t be easy. It’s like trying to talk about Joan of Arc without mentioning schizophrenia, or Margery Kempe without talking about post-partum depression.

The Danish author Tove Ditlevsen describes her own struggles with opioid addiction in the 1940s in her autobiographical Copenhagen Trilogy. In the third volume (“Dependency”), her doctor tells her: “You’ll think you can control it, and before you know it, you’ll be caught again” (355). He’s quite right, and the final words of Ditlevsen’s trilogy are even more haunting: “I was rescued from my years of addiction, but ever since, the shadow of the old longing still returns... It will never disappear completely for as long as I live” (370).

Knight shows us that despair but also gestures at the possibility of optimism. Tommy’s been sober for years (although while his sobriety has quieted the voices, it hasn’t quieted the violence). Arthur is newly sober, and struggling, but Hayden Stagg (the always perfect Steven Graham) offers him some gentle words of encouragement: “I was once where you are now, Arthur... Look at me as the man you can be... Don't count the days. Futile. You get to a hundred and you wake up and it's fucking one again. No, don't build mountains. Walk like it's a flat plain. Easy step by easy step."


It's hopeful, and it’s what Arthur needs to hear, since he’s certainly not getting any real support from anyone else.

Of course, experience has taught us that a hopeful third episode probably doesn’t bode well for what’s to come.

Distilled for the Eradication of Seemingly Incurable Sadness:

• So far, we have respiratory illnesses, opioid addiction, and rising fascism... so, it's 2022 all over again?

• I love Arthur's motivational speech to Isiah and the other young men: "Any man who looked like this before are Peaky Blinders. And a Peaky Blinder still looks like this, after."

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

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