BBC’s Peaky Blinders
Season 5, Episode 3: “Strategy”
Directed by Anthony Byrne
Written by Steven Knight
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Black Cats” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Loop” – click here
Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) and Aunt Polly (Helen McCrory) go see some Sisters of Mercy at St. Hilda’s Orphanage for Girls in Moseley. Their Grace Shelby Foundation is the orphanage’s biggest contributor. Abuse is happening at the hands Mother Superior (Kate Dickie) and her staff. A girl hanged herself because she was scared. Tommy’s not “afraid of your prayers or your crosses,” he tells Mother Superior. He blows a bit of cocaine in her face and smashes her glasses, then tells them there’s no more funding coming. Pol makes sure they understand, via a blade: no fucking with the Shelbys or hitting girls.
Later, Tommy’s going to London with Arthur (Paul Anderson) and Michael (Finn Cole). One of the family’s “most trusted men“, Aberama’s (Aidan Gillen) son, was murdered by a lad called Jimmy McCavern (Brian Gleeson), leader of the Billy Boys. They’re going to London to meet someone who’s gotten close to Jimmy. And Michael continues being treated with suspicion. Tom, Michael, and Arthur will meet “the devil.”
Yes, it’s Oswald Mosley (Sam Claflin).
Tommy has a chat with him about McCavern. Mosley keeps focused on the family, never getting a chance to talk to the patriarch by himself. He knows many, many things about all of them. He insults the family’s heritage as Irish Travellers, calling Shelta “wog lingo.” And he’ll only help Tommy once the investigation into the murdered journalist is made to go away. Right now, Arthur can’t stop thinking of what Mosley mentioned— his wife Linda (Kate Phillips) being seen with another man— and Tom’s left contemplating joining forces with a soon-to-be fascist.
A poignant scene involving young Karl, Ada’s (Sophie Rundle) son, starts to show how deeply ingrained societal attitudes were at the time for certain people in England. Colonel Ben Younger (Kingsley Ben-Adir) looks after Karl while Ada is taking Gina (Anya Taylor-Joy) to a doctor’s appointment. He sees how Karl’s perspective on both gender and race is being shaped by prejudiced attitudes at school. The kid rejects Ben as a potential father, telling him: “My dad‘s white.”
Polly gets Aberama out of the hospital, returning him to camp. She urges to let her nephews deal with things. He wishes her happy birthday, handing over a rose, and acts real sweet. That is, until he’s home. He begins to plot revenge, preparing to head for Scotland with fifty bullets for the Billy Boys.
At Ada’s place, Tommy goes to have a chat with Col. Ben. He has a bit of a verbal tussle with Michael, who’s fed up with the family, suggesting his cousin goes to see one of those new doctors who’ll “dig the shit” out of his head. Michael leaves. After that, Tom shows a letter from Mosley to Ben. He wants to use the Colonel’s connections to cause trouble for Mosley. The army’s more interested in rooting out communists, not paying attention to homegrown fascists. He convinces Ben to help, much as possible.
“You don’t get what you deserve,
you get what you take.”
Back at home, Johnny Dogs (Packy Lee) lets Tom know what he’s heard of Aberama going to Scotland on his own. He’s not thrilled to be put to work with sore ribs. He has to go keep an eye on Mr. Gold with Arthur. Elsewhere, Gina gives Polly a birthday gift— a miniature State of Liberty that the birthday girl thinks “feels like a weapon“— and they talk a little of “freedom.” She wants to go to New York with Michael and their coming child. Michael wants his mother to go with them, too. Pol knows it isn’t as easy as moving across the ocean to escape the Shelbys.
“Everything is mine,” Tommy tells Lizzie (Natasha O’Keeffe) as he takes her to bed. He wants to own her as “property.” Quite romantic, eh? Between that and his meeting with a fellow socialist, his true colours continue to be seen. Tommy’s become less and less the Robin Hood-like character he seemed early on in the series. He’s not an evil man, he’s damaged, and his psychological damage— plus resentment of the Crown for what it did to its men who went to war— is bleeding not only into how he treats his loved ones, it’s also seeping into the very social landscape of Birmingham, as he plays socialist while, really, he’s a capitalist like the rest of them trying to use class struggle to line his pockets.
On top of everything, Tom knows about Linda and the widowed Quaker. He’s forced to tell Arthur. The widower and Linda haven’t done anything, though that won’t change a thing. Arthur goes looking for his wife, talking to the Quaker, then beating him ruthlessly until he takes out razor cap and things get horrific. Not smart to leave that hat, either.
Soundtrack note: “Lady Grinning Soul” by Anna Calvi plays here
In Glasgow, Aberama is already hunting the Billy Boys, who’ve come to greet the Irishmen on their roads working to pave it. He offers keys to his truck and the supplies, giving him and his men enough to time to shank+beat the Billy Boys. He tells them to bring a message back to McCavern, that Aberama Gold is coming to crucify him like was done to his boy. He puts that road tar to vicious, pouring it over one man. JAYSUS!
In a field, Tommy meets Mosley. Oswald talks of wanting to “shake the future.” He’s met “Mr. Mussolini” in Rome. He believes Benito, himself, and Tommy are of the same ilk. A plot’s afoot now for Mosley to start the British Union of Fascists in 1930 (in reality, the party wasn’t formed until ’32). Tommy’s playing the part, making sure he’s an official informant on the other end to keep watch over the budding fascist.
McCavern is on the look quickly for gypsies. He believes they’re a “race destined for natural eradication.” Nasty ethnic stuff going on between the Billy Boys and the Irishmen. They find Gold’s camp. Arthur is able to get Aberama out before they arrive, leaving a grenade booby trapped in the camper to greet McCavern’s lads. The scariest part? Jimmy smiles at the destruction. He likes a good war.
“There’s good in my heart,
but these hands belong to the devil.”
Again, another fantastic chapter of this season! The history being brought in constantly to prop up the fictional story / plot(s) is always so compelling. Mosley’s involvement as a character is definitely going to provide more intensity as time wears on, and the Billy Boys plot is a wild one that’ll play out with much terror before it’s over.
“The Loop” is next time.