BBC’s Peaky Blinders
Season 5, Episode 1: “Black Tuesday”
Directed by Anthony Byrne
Written by Steven Knight
* For a recap & review of the Season 4 finale, click here.
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Black Cats” – click here
Two years have passed.
It’s October 29th, 1929— Black Tuesday. In Lickey Hills, Worcestershire, a phone rings in a lonely telephone booth. Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) comes along on horseback to answer it. It’s a call from Arthur (Paul Anderson), reading a letter signed “Angels of Retribution.” Tommy flips his King George V penny, then he calls Finn (Harry Kirton), who sets Isaiah (Jordan Bolger) and Aberama (Aidan Gillen) off to do a bit of business at Limehouse in London’s Chinatown.
In America, there’s a Shelby Company setup now. Michael Gray (Finn Cole) looks after things. He’s married to a woman named Gina (Anya Taylor-Joy). They both enjoy their cocaine and their spirits. He receives a call at the office that doesn’t sound good. Maybe it has to do with the stock market. Elsewhere in Monaco, his mother Polly (Helen McCrory) is living large, gambling and getting wasted, soon on her way back to England.
Michael’s fast realising the family’s “lost a lot” in the recent market mess. Shock waves are starting to go through the family, right to Aunt Polly over in Monaco. There’s going to be more than a little trouble. Speaking of trouble, Aberama, Finn, and Isaiah nearly get shot full of holes when Aberama pulls a bad ass move, so they walk away with only Finn having taken a bullet in the arm. Abe gets the bullet out of young Shelby, though it pisses Ada (Sophie Rundle) off when she gets home to see her brother full of blood. “You‘ve got nothing to prove,” she tells him.
Tommy gets back to Lizzie (Natasha O’Keeffe) and the family. He’s got to explain the death of a horse to his boy. Only the kid is angry, believing his father killed the horse for no reason, not because it was injured. He’s already heard other rumours about his father, how he shoots people. We see Tom’s disturbing memory of putting the animal down— shooting the horse and quickly placing the barrel to his temple, ready to end it all. He receives word from Arthur about the stock market fiasco, plus the Michael “held on” to stock in belief that the prices would rebound, only making everything worse.
By a fire at night, Tommy sees Grace (Annabelle Wallis). It’s only his “little bottle of dope” bringing back those images and the sound of her voice. He’s slipping a bit far off reality, those mental struggles due to shell shock from the war haven’t vanished. That’s something Series 5 will clearly explore further.
“Sometimes, death is a kindness.”
Soundtrack note: Black Strobe’s “I’m a Man” plays here
Arthur meets with the Shelby Company board. He rambles his way through things while Tommy’s late and they get talking about their “very modern company” with all the women present. Soon, Tom turns up and the meeting starts. Linda gets pissy because her husband isn’t running the show, obvious to everyone she’ll be creating further problems as they go. Regardless of that, Tom has a plan.
Down at the pub, Ada talks to her brother about what happened with Finn. This whole thing likewise angers Lizzie, wanting to know what’s happening over in Chinatown. Arthur sees it as “improving the world.” Tom’s mainly attempting to use his new position along with the friends it brings to get things done, which means keeping certain people happy.
Soundtrack note: “The Wizard” by Black Sabbath plays at the end of the board meeting
In Westminster, Tommy visits the House of Commons, his new stomping ground— a perfect time for “Uber Capitalist Death Trade” by Cabbage to play! Wonderfully ironic to see an actual criminal among the white collar criminals in parliament. We watch Mr. Shelby stand to address everybody re: his feelings about “the working man” in the wake of the stock market. Also in attendance is another Member of Parliament, Oswald Mosley (Sam Claflin) whom many will know already, someone we’ll be seeing more of this year. Mosley introduces himself afterwards. He’s taken an interest. Tom goes on to talk to the man he’s looking after Chinatown for, and we see he’s helping to keep important, ugly secrets, all in the name of getting ahead.
people tell me things
without even speaking”
A journalist from the London Times comes to the Shelby Company. Tom sits with him and they chat of “private lives,” which is what modern readers are demanding. Funny to see how the times have changed. It used to be impolite to dig into the personal lives of people in power. Today, we understand it necessary, at least at times.
Of course the interest with Tommy is how he transformed himself from gangster into “socialist politician” when he only wants to project that Robin Hood image. Helps that he’s got dirty on everybody, including the closeted journalist pressing him with difficult questions. Shitty of Tom to use homosexuality for blackmail. Then again, we’ve never been shown that he’s an entirely moral man. Tommy may not be God. He does have immense power. He doesn’t need to use blackmail against the journalist after all. He simply has the man murdered in cold blood. He’s meant to be a socialist, yet he’s acting like a fascist, murdering members of the press— no wonder Mosley is interested in him.
A stunning opener for Series 5.
Tommy’s not putting away his guns like an old cowboy. He’s still as dangerous as ever, likely more so because of his political connections. And he’ll do anything to secure himself at the top. We’ll see more of those mental health issues rear their head, which ought to make everything else all the more interesting and, surely, wild.
“Black Cats” is next time.