BBC Two’s Peaky Blinders
Season 4, Episode 2: “Heathens”
Directed by David Caffrey
Written by Steven Knight
* For a recap & review of the Season 4 premiere, “The Noose” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Blackbird” – click here
In Small Heath, Birmingham, we see the old familiar streets where the Peaky Blinders call home. Last we left the lads, both John (Joe Cole) and Michael (Finn Cole) were gunned down in front of John’s place. John died on the spot, whereas Michael held on, making it to the hospital. Polly (Helen McCrory) stood by his side while doctors tried operating on him.
So, what do the Blinders do now? Tommy (Cillian Murphy) and Arthur (Paul Anderson) see their younger brother, shot up, bloody, dead in the morgue. They lament his being killed right in front of his own home. They also know what must be done, to avenge his death, as well as to protect the remainder of their family. Esme (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) is determined to be finished with the family, she wants her children to be amongst good, decent people, to not grow into the same type of people as the rest of the Shelby clan.
Tommy: “Say it, brother.”
Arthur: “In the bleak midwinter” (reference to Tommy’s earlier uttering of the phrase; popular with soldiers during WWI)
It’s back to the drawing board. Pol’s not wholly confident anymore, plus she has mental health issues that are clinging to her. Tommy tries rallying everybody else to lead a charge against the New York Mafia coming for them, against Luca Changretta (Adrien Brody) and his “vendetta” on their family. For his part, Arthur is well prepared. Only problem is they’ve got to stick together. Wonder how long until that starts cracking, especially with Aunt Pol falling apart. In the meantime, Tommy’s send word to a man named Aberama Gold (Aidan Gillen), they need professional, bad men; Johnny Dogs (Packy Lee) particularly doesn’t like this idea, saying that Gold and his men are “savages.” Either way everybody in Small Heath on the side of the Blinders is being armed.
Out in a field, Tommy and the Shelbys and all their friends gather to serve John’s last wishes, of being sent up in smoke. Here, we finally discover that they were all waiting, during WWI, to be finished off, and Jeremiah (Benjamin Zephaniah) suggested they all sing “In the Bleak Midwinter” together. They did, and they survived, no assault ever came. Thus the tradition, of saying the name in times of madness. of grief, and so on. When a man is ready to shoot Tommy from the distance, Aberama turns up to stab his friend brutally; the gunman is shot, too. The funeral was a trap, to draw out their enemies. Already the family’s crumbling.
Polly wants to keep Michael safe, she wants to go off to another continent, start a new life. But he refuses. He wants her to get better, he’ll get better. They need to get through this latest snag with the family and then he’ll go, off to Australia with his mother. Because Tommy needs her influence around, to not go off the rails, and they need Tommy to survive the vendetta.
Things are getting a bit more involved than Tommy anticipated, in regards to Mr. Gold, who wants to purchase Charlie Strong’s (Ned Dennehy) iron works yard. Problem being the yard has been in the family for ages. So Mr. Shelby offers a coin toss, so long as Mr. Gold puts his daughters on the block for him to have sex with, too. And the coin, for the Irish gypsy clan, is “sacred.” Very much so. The whole thing puts Aberama in his place, for the time being.
Turns out Aberama’s grandfather and Tommy’s grandfather spent time together, though it “ended badly” in a pub one night. Now these men sit together, trying to work as one. They get talking about business. Seems that Mr. Gold’s boy Bonnie (Jack Rowan) is a wannabe boxer, so it’s looking like he wants the lad to get rained down at the local Blinders scrap ring.
Down at the factory, Tommy sets up a makeshift ring to let Bonnie fight an ex-boxer now working for the Shelbys in the forge. They have at it. Doesn’t seem like much of a fair fight, the older fella’s a hell of a lot bigger. Yet after a calculated minute or so, Bonnie starts laying it on him, knocking the big man flat on his ass. Might prove profitable for the Blinders if they take advantage, plus another tough hand to have around when needed.
Meanwhile, Jessie Eden (Charlie Murphy) is there to meet with Tommy again. More union business. Nothing is going as she’d hoped, he’s trying to call her bluff. She’s tough, though. She isn’t immediately going to back down. Jessie blows the whistle, signalling for the strike to commence, and the workers all walk out of the factory.
Later, Tommy has another meeting from the European Council for Trade, hoping to discuss importing and exporting of car parts. Who’s come to see him? Well, it’s Mr. Changretta himself. Although he’s using a false name. The two men sit together, doing quite a tense dance. They talk of WWI, France, and more. Gradually, Tommy figures it out fully. We see the difference between the Mafia and the sort of ragtag gangsters in Birmingham. We also begin seeing the reach of Changretta, who sent someone into the Shelby offices to find Tommy’s gun, disarm it of its bullets; the same bullets Luca counts, naming one for each Shelby to be killed. “None of you will survive,” he explains grimly to Mr. Shelby.