BBC’s Peaky Blinders
Season 2, Episode 3
Directed by Colm McCarthy
Written by Steven Knight
* For a recap & review of Episode 2, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 4, click here.
PJ Harvey’s version of “Red Right Hand” plays at the beginning of this episode, and it’s even more haunting than Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
Major Chester Campbell (Sam Neill) is catching his men up to speed about the specialities of the IRA, such as using the garrote; a murder we witness in the opening scene outside a children’s shadow puppet show. This illustrates how close innocence and violence are at all times here, a very on-the-nose representation as death is juxtaposed with a playful show for kids.
Tommy (Cillian Murphy), Arthur (Paul Anderson), John (Joe Cole), they’re looking for lads for the organisation. They need fellas of all kinds, including those whom they can “stand up” – the Shelbys help their friends in the high places to reach quotas, sending people to jail, and someone with no record is perfect because they’ll only do a very short amount of time.
Finally we see Michael Gray (Finn Cole) with his long lost mother Polly (Helen McCrory). They bond over a drop of tea, each with “a million questions” for the other. So much time gone. You can see the light returning to her, though. It’s clear she loves him. And that he wants to be able to love her, too. Not long and he’s introduced to the Shelby brothers, his cousins. To the surprise of Arthur and John, who only remember the lad as a little baby. An awkward reunion to start, but a reunion all the same!
A man named Billy Kitchen (Paul Bullion) that Tom knows from serving in the army comes to see him. He’s got to pass a physical, however, he took a bullet recently. So he gets a week before taking it. Already has the job, as he and Tommy are obviously close enough to go on good faith. Plus, he’s a fine boy to send out recruiting.
Tommy takes Michael down to the Garrison. He’s trying to get a read on the young man. Michael turns 18 soon, then he will decide whether to leave his adopted home. The leader of the Blinders wants his newfound cousin to go back. He tells of the Shelby family business, its dangers. Regardless, Michael is sick of the tiny village where he lives. He wants more out of life.
Over in Camden Town, Billy’s rounded up all sorts to go see Alfie Solomons (Tom Hardy) for work. They’re bakers now, officially. So if the coppers come round, they’ve got proper identification. One man gets cheeky. Alfie pops the fella next to him, then makes clear: don’t fucking joke around. Muffin Man Solomons lays down the law, putting rules out so there’s no further confusion.
Arthur’s dipping deeper into the cocaine, a regular, heavy user. Not the type of guy you relish running into on a regular day, let alone one where he’s snorting hard. Makes a man feel like Superman. Doesn’t mix well with his temper and fists. The mother of the young man he beat to death shows up, pointing a gun at him in the Garrison. She calls him “an animal” and he doesn’t disagree.
She can’t bring herself to kill, so they sit and drink, and talk. He offers money knowing it’s a far cry from raising the dead. Mostly we see how people start resenting the Blinders rather than glorifying their criminality, as it’s really starting to have deadly effects.
Arthur: “If you‘re gonna use it, point that thing at my head. That‘s where the trouble is.”
Tommy is still toying with Campbell. The Major is finding himself becoming more like the man he so badly wants to defeat. It’s brewing to something worse, every episode. Tom says that where he’s staying, the landlord used to be the madam of a whorehouse. Is someone playing a nasty trick on the copper?
Darby Sabini (Noah Taylor) has his own copper on the take, Georgie Sewell (Sam Hazeldine), gathering information on Mr. Shelby and waiting for the proper time to strike him down. The Italian is an impatient man, I gather. He’s a nasty fucking bloke.
Later that evening Campbell tells the landlord at his place to strip, offering money. She does gladly, even if his tact is less than gentlemanly. He only wanted to know that it was true. To know if his men have been playing jokes on him. Moreover, his righteous indignation is never more apparent than it is now; it’ll only get worse.
One of the Blinders’ recruits spending the night in jail gets attacked in his cell. His throat is cut, as a display of authority from Sabini. An innocent casualty in their war. This will happen to any more of the Blinders who are sent inside.
In addition, Tommy himself is threatened. So they’ve got to take action, not the time to appear weak. At the same time, Michael sneaks himself into the family business meeting. He wants to be a part of the gang, to help with the latest plan to fuck Sabini over at the races.
While Polly is reluctant, the lads want to take Michael along with them. Except Tommy, who doesn’t want to bring another young man into a life of crime, death, violence, repeat. Still, mom and her son come together more, and she lets him go on with the brothers. More like a picnic than usual with Pol sending sandwiches and tea.
Polly: “This is a respectable fucking neighbourhood”
The Blinders head to see some horses. One in particular, which Charlie Strong (Ned Dennehy) points out. Tom starts bidding on the animal, across the way a woman watches him. On goes the auction, as Tommy insists on getting the horse, no matter how high the price. Afterwards, he meets the woman bidding against him: May Carleton (Charlotte Riley). She trains horses, and it seems she’s interested in the one he bought. Or him.
Sabini’s man nearly kills Tom, before Arthur knocks the pistol from his hands. Nearly beating him to death in the process. Michael gets a front row seat to the business of his cousins, the risks, so on. Even offers to drive for them once it’s finished. He’s thirsty to be one of the bad boys, as well.
A solid chapter in Season 2, building on some of the show’s central themes such as the loss of innocence, the way war changes people, how others in turn react to the change in them, so on. Lots of great stuff, including more of the battle brewing between Alfie Solomons, along with Tommy, and Mr. Sabini. Excited to see what happens next.