BBC’s Peaky Blinders
6×02: “Black Shirt”
Directed by Anthony Byrne
Written by Steven Knight
* For a recap & review of 6×01, click here.
* For a recap & review of 6×03, click here.
Tommy can’t get Polly’s voice out of his head, neither can he stop thinking of Michael’s criticism concerning Polly’s death. Right now, he’s returned home to his Ruby, who’s feeling better; that doesn’t mean the Romani superstitions and folklore have worked their way out of his head yet. He’s taking his daughter to see a doctor, just to be sure all is well. Even that won’t quell his worries. He’s still convinced there’s death coming to the Shelby family, one way or another, and neither a doctor, nor Lizzie, nor anything else can convince him otherwise at the moment. In the meantime, Tommy’s got business to worry about, as well. But Lizzie thinks Tommy’s on autopilot, and he is, like a piece of war machinery rolling onward.
That night, Lizzie wakes up and discovers Tommy having a seizure in the bathroom, his head filled with PTSD memories from the war. She rushes to him and soon his seizure is over. She fixes up the wounds he got from a broken glass while he tells her about the only other time he had a seizure. And still, Tommy can’t stop thinking of business, only because there’s no time to rest until it’s finished. Later, Tommy’s addressing Labour Party members in Birmingham. He talks about starving and unemployed people reduced to silence while the rich and powerful can say, as well as do, whatever they want. As a former soldier, Tommy knows the plight of these folks, however, there’s a bit of irony in the fact that he claims to be socialist while running businesses like a ruthless capitalist. Somewhat of a paradox. That being said, Tommy built himself up from nothing by turning capitalism against itself in a lot of ways; he’s not what you’d call a typical businessman, and he’s often used what political power he has to change things, so it’s a weird, intriguing thing.
After the rally, Tommy and Arthur have a little chat with Laura McKee from the IRA. They want revenge, but they’re not looking to get it yet—business and all. This is the first time Tommy and Laura have met face-to-face. She accuses him of “moral turpitude.” He says he’s trying to change, along with the whole Shelby family and their operations. Then the two of them talk about Jack Nelson (James Frecheville). Tommy’s got his hands on correspondence between Jack and the POTUS. He knows Jack is headed to London on a fact-finding mission about fascism in the UK. In reality, Jack is big on fascism himself, and he’s looking to see how strong fascism is in Europe. Tommy also talks about how sometimes people go so far right and so far left that they meet in the middle somewhere; no good for anybody. He’s kind of making a case for centrism, though in a hilarious way, again considering this is coming from the mouth of Tommy Shelby. Regardless, right now Tommy wants Laura’s help to pull the wool over Jack’s eyes, and they’ve got themselves a pact.
Trivia: The words about Jews attributed to Jack Nelson are, in fact, the words of Joseph Kennedy Sr., a notorious antisemite.
There are other troubles. Arthur continues spiralling downward into drug addiction, and Ada’s left to care for him. Ada’s further troubled by what Tommy’s getting into now, worried he’s using socialism as a way to capitalism for his own gain and that he’s literally selling himself out for the worst kinds of people. Tommy still clings to the idea that he is a socialist, regardless of his capitalist gain. He believes it’s his “mission” to change the world, and sees a way through by courting fascism. What about Oswald Mosley? Surely we’ll see him back in the mix soon.
Tommy takes a trip over to see the presumed dead Alfie Solomons. They have a brief dispute about opera and cigarettes, before getting onto current affairs. Tommy mentions Alfie’s uncle being shot recently; the uncle used to control all the illegal activity out of East Boston. He wonders why Alfie didn’t do anything, whereas Alfie just wants to write an opera called America. So, they talk more about business. Tommy wants to bring Alfie in to mess up the power structure in North America, using his opium and distribution structure. He’d like to use the money gained to then create housing, and more, for the needy. Alfie detours into the “Irish Question” a moment, but he’s clearly interested, not to mention the Irish and the Jews have some common ground when it comes to oppression.
Ah, yes, Mosley has returned to Peaky Blinders. He’s having a rally to further promote his British Union of Fascists. His mistress Diana Mitford (Amber Anderson) is there; she and Mosley later married in 1936 at the home of Joseph Goebbels with Adolf Hitler in attendance. We see Tommy and Lizzie turn up at the rally, and Tommy’s questioned by a reporter about why he’d be there in the first place, giving them a centrist-style answer. After that, Arthur arrives making a scene before he’s let inside, so Tommy has to take care of his brother, as well as slap him around a little. Mostly Tommy’s concerned that Arthur came wearing a black shirt, looking very fascist, indeed. He scolds his brother because he has to move “between left and right, light and shade” in order to do what needs doing. Although Arthur finds it difficult to “stand in the middle” without taking action.After Mosley’s announced by Diana, the latter locks eyes with Tommy, who plans to put on the charm wherever necessary. The two couples meet, introducing themselves. Diana talks about getting married in Germany. Very hilarious to see Oswald and Diana acting like they’re at the forefront of women’s rights when Tommy wants to go discuss business alone with Mosley; same as today, when right-wing groups act like they’re doing more for women than anybody else while simultaneously oppressing them constantly. Thus the couples talk in private. Tommy’s passing around Jack Nelson’s letter to the POTUS again, hoping to put Mosley in contact with the gangster, given their shared antisemitism.
Finally, Tommy and Jack meet in a church. Uncle Jack talks about treatment of Catholics making him angry. Tommy’s generally angered by power and its oppression. Then they speak about murder, something which they’ve both committed. Tommy says the last man he killed was himself—his old self. Afterwards, they move onto business. Jack isn’t a fan of the drug business, apparently. Yet Tommy says dealing in liquor’s no different. Jack’s mostly concerned with “labels.” Clearly not just the kind on liquor bottles, either. Jack likes social labels, and racial ones. He also wants to meet the well-dressed fascists on the other side of the pond. Tommy offers to connect Jack to the fascists, plus reports on Winston Churchill’s anti-fascist strategies, in exchange for selling opium to the Jews. Everybody wins, right? Uh, I guess. Just more capitalism, not care for the working class, even if Tommy thinks he’ll use his wealth to help people. Besides that, Jack hasn’t agreed to anything just yet.
Then there’s Ruby, continuing to feel a spectral presence at the Shelby home. She says she hears the voice of “the Grey Man” in the chimney. Are these more premonitions? Or just feverish dreams? While Lizzie rushes to get a doctor for her daughter, her husband’s at the House of Commons trying to “build a new Jerusalem” by bringing different sides together. Soon, Tommy gets word that Ruby isn’t doing well, and he worries it’s actually Ruby foreseeing a dark future for the Shelbys. But when Tommy goes back to his office he’s attacked by someone. He fights the mysterious man off, only to realise it’s all a PTSD vision and he’s passed out on the floor. He wakes to another call from Lizzie, urging him to rush home; Ruby’s fever keeps climbing. The doctor thinks Ruby may be contagious after coughing up blood. Tommy sees only one solution: his Romani roots.