BBC’s Peaky Blinders
Season 5, Episode 2: “Black Cats”
Directed by Anthony Byrne
Written by Steven Knight
* For a recap & review of the Season 5 premiere, “Black Tuesday” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Strategy” – click here
Naturally, Tommy’s (Cillian Murphy) diving inward to find out what’s going on in his head, reading Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams. Sadly, he’s living in 1929, when PTSD was called shell shock, and all varieties of mental health issues were treated as deviancy, or in other equally abysmal ways.
Tom takes his machine gun out to the field where he sees a scarecrow crucified like Jesus and dressed exactly like a Blinder. There’s a note addressed to Mr. Shelby, OBE. It reads: Look down on Earth and see the seeds you have sown.
Tommy sees a mine near his feet, like a dream where he’s back on the battlefield. This is no dream, though. He hears the ticking of a watch hanging from the scarecrow. He walks slowly away, passing over another mine— a metaphor of his own life, constantly having to dance across a minefield, never able to rest for fear of the next potential explosion, due to his own actions or those of his family.
He stops in the field and raises a hand to detonate a mine. And, again, stops short of killing himself. He hears his boy running out to him, so he rushes to take Charlie back to the house. Tom goes back for his Thompson submachine gun, laying waste to the scarecrow and detonating the mines.
There’s a call from Belfast. Tom hears a captured Michael (Finn Cole) briefly before they’re cut off. On the line is Captain Swing (Charlene McKenna), a rebel leader from Northern Island, referred to as “the Occupied Six Counties.” She claims Michael was making deals with people who want Tommy dead. Tommy asks why they’re doing him a favour. Cpt. Swing’s heard he’s “on the side of the angels” after converting to socialism.
So, they’ll send Michael back to Birmingham.
Tom and Arthur (Paul Anderson) head to the pub. They’re going to have a talk with young Finn (Harry Kirton). They try explaining he’s “a general,” not a soldier to be “near the blood and the puke.” For all their violence, Arthur and Tom want to protect their younger brother from what they’ve seen / done, having experienced the violence of war and the violence of the streets alike. Father Gore worries this is going to spell tragedy down the road. The younger lad obviously wants to be of use to his family, and he’s grown up in the image of his warrior brothers. Likewise compelling to see the older brothers discussing their psychological problems, or trying to, anyway. They can’t break through that shell of violent masculinity in which they’ve been moulded, even if they both want to, and try to, escape it.
At the office, Tom’s already getting questions about Mr. Levitt. He’s getting questions about their meeting. People are suggesting one of the man’s “queer friends” murdered him— another tragic sign of the times. The Shelby clan’s leader is happy to let the journalist’s closeted homosexuality take the rap. This side of his personality makes it hard to root for him. This latest kill was solely to preserve his reputation. And how progressive is he as a socialist while simultaneously persecuting a gay man?
When Michael gets back he’s greeted by Polly (Helen McCrory), and, unexpectedly, Arthur also shows up to make sure he keeps an eye on things. This all sets Michael off. He yells loudly into the streets proclaiming his innocence. After his tantrum, he’s told plainly by Arthur he’ll be treated”like a fucking dog” until they find out the whole truth. Nice way for Gina (Anya Taylor-Joy) to be introduced to the family.
“And in my dream,
someone wants my crown.”
Soundtrack note: “Evil” by Nadine Shah plays in the House of Commons scene
Oswald Mosley (Sam Claflin) keeps watching Mr. Shelby closely in the House of Commons. He also takes notice of the pregnant and dangerous Ada (Sophie Rundle). All three of them sit down together. Mosley doesn’t like that Ada’s there as a “political advisor.” He tries to act all hard and powerful, not impressing Tom and getting a laugh out of Ada. He’s in the process of heading “towards fascism” at this point in time. [In real life, Mosley was actually a Fabian, for a time, but went on to only years later form the British Union of Fascists.] After the meeting, Tom’s paranoia becomes clear to his sister. He rants about those trying to take his throne. Not that he isn’t right. He’s simply not in a good mental space.
At the pub, the Shelby family meets. Tom talks about seeing a “black cat” in his dream, which Aunt Polly once told him means there’s a traitor in his midst. Michael arrives with Gina. Immediately, he tells Tom his wife stopped him from getting a big head and running off with Shelby Company cash. Great way to start out a tense moment!
Michael explains he inadvertently wound up meeting Scottish men who suggested the Shelby leader was “spent in the head” and needs to die. The Scots were Billy Boys— a gang from Bridgeton. Tommy’s still angry at Michael for losing so much money after he advised the market crash was coming. He wants to be paid back.
In the woods, Aberama (Aidan Gillen) takes a shot from the distance. Soon he and his boy Bonnie (Jack Rowan) hear the “Billy Boys” song being sung, and out come the gang. They’ve brought a cross. Bonnie and Aberama are beaten. The Billy Boys are putting the screws to anybody involved with the Shelbys to send a message. Poor Bonnie’s bloodied and strapped to the cross, then shot in the face while his father’s left to watch.
“I’m my own revolution”
Tommy’s personal life with Lizzie (Natasha O’Keeffe) is in the usual shambles. He says they “haven‘t invented the fucking words” for what he and Arthur go through psychologically. Truth, considering PTSD wouldn’t be called as such for decades. He laments going away to war, volunteering instead of staying at school. Problem is, he uses his psychological damage as an excuse, too— for how he treats others and himself. Although if he was able to tell someone exactly what was going on in his head, would there be anybody, at the time, to help him? Maybe. Maybe not.
That night, a vehicle pulls up to the house. Johnny Dogs (Packy Lee) is tossed out. Aberama’s on a rampage telling Tom what’s happened. He believes Johnny gave up where they were camped. He nearly pulls a gun on Tom when Lizzie barges out with her own. She’s kicking her man out of the house. He refuses to go, getting Johnny inside and having Lizzie call an ambulance before Abe loses his arm.
“Everybody needs me”
Another great chapter. Things are getting tough, once more, for the Shelbys, and Tommy specifically. It’ll be great to see where the Mosley storyline goes, as well as how the PTSD stuff plays out the further we go. Also, Michael’s predicament is an interesting one, because we’ve never quite seen the betrayal come so close to the family.
“Strategy” is next time.