Peaky Blinders – Season 2 Finale

BBC’s Peaky Blinders
Season 2, Episode 6
Directed by Colm McCarthy
Written by Steven Knight

* For a recap & review of the penultimate Season 2 episode, click here.
* For a recap & review of the Season 3 premiere, click here.
Pic 1AMy name is Tommy Shelby, and today Im going to kill a man.”
Before Derby Day, Tom (Cillian Murphy) prepares beforehand writing a letter to the New York Times explaining things, in case of his death. He tells of the government pushing him into an assassination, as well as the IRA involvement. Warning of “civil war in Ireland” upcoming following his firing of the fatal shot. Furthermore, he names Major Chester Campbell (Sam Neill). Then he leaves his note with Ada (Sophie Rundle), scaring her a bit.
Aunt Polly (Helen McCrory) and John (Joe Cole) do their own preparations. But I’ve a feeling nobody is prepared for everything that’s coming next.
Pic 2Arthur (Paul Anderson) is still holed up in his cell. He’s getting out, though. All the witnesses pulled their statements about what supposedly happened. No longer grassed up for a murder he had no part in committing.
At the same time over at the bakery, Tom pops round to have a chat with Alfie Solomons (Tom Hardy), that hard bloke. They’ve made deals on exporting. First the baker would like to sign a few things. Such as having all the business handed to him. But the leader of the Blinders says his man outside is an “anarchist” and will trigger an explosion if he doesn’t see Tom come out the door. They get down to a 35% hand-over of business. I suspect that won’t sit long, though.
Things aren’t so well with Michael (Finn Cole) and his mother. Still, Pol brings him several rolls of money. She orders him to leave for London, start anew. “Everythings an if in this Birmingham life,” she tells him. She has her own business today.
Campbell has a few good Irish blokes ready to kill Mr. Shelby, part of the Red (Right) Hand” of Ulster. They plan to take him out on his signal. Surely, after the assassination is complete. Meanwhile, Tom is briefing all the Blinders on exactly what’s going on. Everyone’s got their role to play, their ass kicking to do.
And so it’s off to the races! At the track, May Carleton (Charlotte Riley) looks after the horse – Grace’s Secret. She knows there’s something not right with Tom, suspecting there are other things going on about which she has no clue.
Screen Shot 2017-06-15 at 12.00.10 AMFrom out of nowhere Grace (Annabelle Wallis) arrives. She tells Tom of her pregnancy, that she loves him and not her husband. He has to rush off but they’ve definitely got things to talk about later. Simultaneously, we watch him manipulating Lizzie (Natasha O’Keeffe) into helping with the plan concerning Field Marshal Russell (James Richard Marshall), target of the assassination.
Campbell and Tom meet just before the race. The copper speaks of a “measure of respect” that’s almost grown between them. I quite doubt that, as does he in the end. But a lot has grown, plenty of animosity and jealousy and brutality. Tom throws the fact that Grace loves him in the Major’s face. This definitely gets to him, whether he shows it doesn’t matter. Tom also reveals he knows what Campbell did to Polly, what was done to Michael in jail. And he’s ready to bring this nasty business to a close.
Lizzie lures Russell away to the designated spot. She waits for Tommy, who said he’d stop anything before it started. The tension of waiting for him to get there is unbearable, as the Field Marshal gets terribly rough with her, raping her. When Tom does show up his pistol doesn’t fire. The men wrestle, before Tom manages to knock Russell backward and fire a shot through his head. This act, along with a a few extra shots, sends the coppers running, many to protect the King. Setting other plans in motion.
Tom meets with Darby Sabini (Noah Taylor) and it’s a fool proof plan. Because anyone who hauls a gun will draw full attention as possibly being ready to kill the King. A few coppers show up to haul Tom off. For the Red Right Hand. He’s being taken away for a last ride to his death.
Screen Shot 2017-06-15 at 12.00.57 AMAt the track, Pol sticks a gun to Campbell. He tries to justify what he did to her. He acts as if he cares for her, which is absolutely crazy. Although he tries his best to ingratiate himself to her. Not enough, of course. Nor should it be. She fires one in him: “Dont fuck with the Peaky Blinders.” Case closed on the rotten Major, left to bleed out while Grace unknowingly sits not far off in the same bar. An amazing, welcomed coincidence.
All the while John and Arthur and Lizzie sit at a table together near the track, Tommy’s being carted to some spot far out in the fields, where no one can hear a thing. Certainly not a gunshot. There, a grave is already dug. Prepared in advance for the occasion. Then one of the men kills the other two, saving Mr. Shelby. He says that someday Winston Churchill will require to speak with him in person. Saved, in the end, by government. Such a strange life the leader of the Blinders leads.
On he goes, still in shock believing he was about to die. At least he’s alive. Always by the skin of his fucking teeth. Next step for the lads and Polly? Only way to go is up, I suppose. Plus it seems Michael’s in it for the long haul, a part of the family proper. Go on, boys! Get to it. Tom says he’s got plans to get married on top of everything else.
Screen Shot 2017-06-15 at 12.23.45 AMGreat fucking finale. Unexpected, exciting, intense. Nice revenge, as well. Season 3 is spectacular, too. Make sure to head on over and check out those recaps/reviews.

Advertisements

Peaky Blinders – Season 2, Episode 5

BBC’s Peaky Blinders
Season 2, Episode 5
Directed by Colm McCarthy
Written by Steven Knight

* For a recap & review of Episode 4, click here.
* For a recap & review of the Season 2 finale, click here.
Pic 1Alfie Solomons (Tom Hardy) receives Arthur Shelby (Paul Anderson) and a few lads down at the bakery. They sit around a table, the baker talks of the persecution of the Jewish people and the “evil fucking Egyptians.” They’ve got a Passover goat for sacrifice. They’ve named him after Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy). All hell breaks loose. Billy Kitchen is shot in the head. Arthur nearly choked to death as a few men hold him back. He’s knocked out and given to the coppers.
At the same time, Major Chester Campbell (Sam Neill) watches as Polly (Helen McCrory) and Michael Gray (Finn Cole) have the house raided during dinner; the lawman presses himself against Aunt Pol up against the car, telling her that “as of tonight Tommy Shelby is done.” Darby Sabini (Noah Taylor) and his boys are out terrorising all of their own sort. All around everything is getting darker, scarier. Not sure who scares me most.
One thing I know, when Tom finds out he will not be happy. He’s busy over with May Carleton (Charlotte Riley) talking about the horse and such, the morning after their passionate night together. Little does he know of what’s gone on concerning the family. So much betrayal.
Pic 1ALater, Tommy meets with Campbell. The copper’s been fucking him over constantly, so it isn’t really a surprise to see him uncaring about it all. The Blinders’ leader finds himself in a tough spot. Lots of charges looming overhead, for everyone from Arthur on trumped up charges to Michael on crimes he’s admitted. Campbell’s a jealous man who’s at the edge of his own sanity and morality. He has power over “life and death” of the Shelby family. An ugly place this relationship has arrived.
Then, to make it all the more difficult, Grace Burgess (Annabelle Wallis) calls to speak with Tommy, right in the midst of his many problems. She’d like to meet with him. Well, after he’s taken care of all the shit raining down on their house.
John (Joe Cole) fills Tom in on the impound of the vans, the lifted whiskey, all their export issues, so on. Aunt Pol is gone mental over her son in lockup. There’s no certain plan going forward, though the leader decides they’ll take Johnny Dogs (Packy Lee) up on his offer to provide men for protection and fighting and the lot. At the same time, their aunt won’t have it. She wants to get away from the family. I imagine that’s just rage talking. If she never left before, she won’t now. The family’s falling apart worse than ever.
Polly: “Its men that have done the damage
She goes up to see her son, but she only finds Major Campbell being a brute. He says he’ll release Michael within the next day. If she does something for him. Then he advances physically on her, and she refuses. Momentarily. When she tries appeasing him, he forces himself further onto her viciously, raping her. She doesn’t tell anybody. Although Ada (Sophie Rundle) finds her at home, bathing, looking as if she’s been trampled. Michael is released the next day… at what price? People are talking about his mother as if she willingly gave herself to the Major, which he himself believes. Fucking tragic, awful stuff.
Pic 2Tommy is down in the barn shovelling shit. To remind himself “where hed be” if it weren’t for who he was, his name, the gang, everything. Trying to keep himself honest. Then later on he meets with Grace, after so much time. He seems bitter, and she does, too. She tells of her husband, that she’s happy. And he tries acting like it doesn’t burn him up inside she’s married. They go out to a party together, where Charlie Chaplin is kicking around; apparently he’s a gypsy from Birmingham like the Blinders.
The jealousy games keep going, as Mr. Shelby calls Campbell to gloat about being with Grace. Sending the copper into a fit of rage. What’s he going to do? Christ. Worries me.
Tommy: “We all have our secrets, Grace.”
Over at the clink, John goes to see his oldest brother. Arthur’s dealing with literal rats, Cockneys, and Sabini’s men crawling around the place. The brothers joke a bit. However, the oldest Shelby is starting to lament about his wasted life: “I used to draw horses.” A bit too late at this point. Nevertheless, Tom won’t let him rot in there.
Pic 3Major Campbell is over at the Shelby offices poking around. He’s plotting something sinister, you can just feel it. He almost wants to BE Tommy Shelby, in a strange way. There’s a streak of jealousy running through him on a lot of fronts. He and Tommy meet once more for a chat. The Major asks about Polly, sly and nasty. He further stresses the importance of the assassination with which he and IRA have tasked the leader of the Blinders. Tom’s making sure he gets to do the kill when and where he can assure he’ll make it out of the damned thing alive.
Screen Shot 2017-06-14 at 10.39.22 PMWhat a lead up to the Season 2 finale! There’s so much trouble about to pop, and I can only hope there are certain resolutions we’ll see. Either way, the last episode of this season is bound to be cracking.

Peaky Blinders – Season 2, Episode 4

BBC’s Peaky Blinders
Season 2, Episode 4
Directed by Colm McCarthy
Written by Steven Knight

* For a recap & review of Episode 3, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 5, click here.
Pic 1Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) visits the freshly dug grave of the young man whose throat was cut for the Blinders in prison. Naturally, he’s met with an angry mother. He pays what cash he has, then leaves; bloody temple and all. Then another clandestine meeting with Major Chester Campbell (Sam Neill), who’s invited a couple people: Irene O’Donnell (Simone Kirby) and Donal (Rory Keenan). All in the same bed of Irish greens. Tommy taunts about their mixing the “personal with the political” and the IRA frowns upon such things. This is one hell of a shaky alliance. Christ almighty! This is what happens when… common interests arise. Or I guess here it’s common dislikes, common problems.
So, Tom needs to kill someone. For the Crown, and for the cause. People not wanting to get their hands dirty. He refuses to do the job. Alone together, the leader of the Blinders tells Campbell that there are darker things at play here, specifically with those two. And what happens next could get extremely volatile.
Irene: “Did you ask why in France?”
Tommy: “Yeah
Pic 1AArthur (Paul Anderson) and some of the lads are in Camden Town. Gearing up for a row. They storm into a club, beating the shit out of any man who steps near. Bashing the place to pieces. The oldest Shelby’s making a statement and sending a message. He stabs the manager in the face with a broken bottle, announcing he’s taking over.
A man finds a body under a pile of coal at the mine. Is that Mr. Duggan?
At the office, Tommy gets a visit from Michael about a bookkeeping job. He wants to be part of the family, the business, he hopes to help in making them legitimate. Best of all, he offers loyalty and pride. Yet the boss is reluctant as always to take him in.
May Carleton (Charlotte Riley) turns up to see Tommy, at the bookies. Only Esme (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) is around, she’s not exactly welcoming. Although they do chat a bit before John (Joe Cole) and Tom arrive. The horse trainer gets to know the place, a feel for the bookie business and the operation in general. Then they go see the new horse, where Curly (Ian Peck) sweetly looks after it.
This woman is very curious about the Shelby man. They go down to the Garrison, where May has a bit of a culture shock over booze and talk of sex. She denies any attraction, which he says it perfect; less complicated. But I feel they’re both lying.
Screen Shot 2017-06-14 at 12.29.18 AMMichael is officially of age! They have a party to celebrate, also letting him in on the business finally after Pol and Tommy chat. So there’s plenty to be celebrating, indeed. They toast and have fun together like a big, happy family. Next day’s back to the grind like usual. They’ve got an export business ready to thrive, starting by setting off for Halifax, Nova Scotia. Taking advantage of Prohibition in Canada. Whiskey for the Canadians; these lads are right on.
In other news, Tommy isn’t pleased with Arthur and how he’s running the business. The books aren’t adding well at the end of the month. His issues with drink and cocaine are making him fuck up. “Its under control,” though. That’s what he tells his brother.
Tom goes to see Ada (Sophie Rundle). She’s got a man around named James (Josh O’Connor), renting out a room; a gay writer. The brother explains to his sister that he’s setup a trust fund for her boy, his nephew Karl. Not particularly surprising, as he likes taking care of his family. This is sort of an acknowledgement of mortality.
Screen Shot 2017-06-14 at 12.55.46 AM
Alfie Solomons (Tom Hardy) meets with Darby Sabini (Noah Taylor), they discuss their mutual acquaintance. If one thing is clear, the baker does not stand for any antisemitic bullshit. Seems the Italian likes to make jokes about the Jews. They’re definitely not buddies, these two. Nor does Sabini like the Shelby clan, whom he refers to as savages. The Jew and the Italian have been friends and enemies for a long, long time. So there’s a lot to navigate between these two and the Blinders.
Alfie: “The great big fuck off elephant in the room…”
Tommy goes to May’s home, where they have a drink and talk some more. It gets late and he’ll be staying there for the night. Furthermore, he makes clear his intentions to bed her later.
It’s payday. Isaiah (Jordan Bolger) wants to get served properly, so he takes Michael with him for a drink. While they’re out someone gets in a racist twist, calling Isaiah “darkie” and worse. This starts a rowdy fist fight with the Blinder boys doing a good deal of damage. The name Shelby alone causes a ruckus. Worse happens once John and Arthur get a whiff of it all, too.
Tom meets Campbell once again. Three weeks and the mission must be complete. He also tells the Major if he dies suspiciously, then someone will kill him. But that’s why he’s preparing, acknowledging that mortality instead of riding a wave of lucky breaks in the face of death. He knows it could, and will eventually, come for him. That’s why he tries calling Grace Burgess (Annabelle Wallis), hanging up when a man answers the phone. OH, MY.
Screen Shot 2017-06-14 at 1.11.49 AMFucking love this episode. There’s a lot to pack in sometimes, but it’s great because the writing fleshes out the characters every episode, and explores so much in each one. Can’t wait to see more of what happens between the IRA, Campbell, and Tommy; a bad standoff that can only end in nastiness for possibly all sides.

Peaky Blinders – Season 2, Episode 3

BBC’s Peaky Blinders
Season 2, Episode 3
Directed by Colm McCarthy
Written by Steven Knight

* For a recap & review of Episode 2, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 4, click here.
Pic 1PJ Harvey’s version of “Red Right Hand” plays at the beginning of this episode, and it’s even more haunting than Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
Major Chester Campbell (Sam Neill) is catching his men up to speed about the specialities of the IRA, such as using the garrote; a murder we witness in the opening scene outside a children’s shadow puppet show. This illustrates how close innocence and violence are at all times here, a very on-the-nose representation as death is juxtaposed with a playful show for kids.
Tommy (Cillian Murphy), Arthur (Paul Anderson), John (Joe Cole), they’re looking for lads for the organisation. They need fellas of all kinds, including those whom they can “stand up” – the Shelbys help their friends in the high places to reach quotas, sending people to jail, and someone with no record is perfect because they’ll only do a very short amount of time.
Finally we see Michael Gray (Finn Cole) with his long lost mother Polly (Helen McCrory). They bond over a drop of tea, each with “a million questions” for the other. So much time gone. You can see the light returning to her, though. It’s clear she loves him. And that he wants to be able to love her, too. Not long and he’s introduced to the Shelby brothers, his cousins. To the surprise of Arthur and John, who only remember the lad as a little baby. An awkward reunion to start, but a reunion all the same!
Pic 1AA man named Billy Kitchen (Paul Bullion) that Tom knows from serving in the army comes to see him. He’s got to pass a physical, however, he took a bullet recently. So he gets a week before taking it. Already has the job, as he and Tommy are obviously close enough to go on good faith. Plus, he’s a fine boy to send out recruiting.
Tommy takes Michael down to the Garrison. He’s trying to get a read on the young man. Michael turns 18 soon, then he will decide whether to leave his adopted home. The leader of the Blinders wants his newfound cousin to go back. He tells of the Shelby family business, its dangers. Regardless, Michael is sick of the tiny village where he lives. He wants more out of life.
Over in Camden Town, Billy’s rounded up all sorts to go see Alfie Solomons (Tom Hardy) for work. They’re bakers now, officially. So if the coppers come round, they’ve got proper identification. One man gets cheeky. Alfie pops the fella next to him, then makes clear: don’t fucking joke around. Muffin Man Solomons lays down the law, putting rules out so there’s no further confusion.
Pic 2Arthur’s dipping deeper into the cocaine, a regular, heavy user. Not the type of guy you relish running into on a regular day, let alone one where he’s snorting hard. Makes a man feel like Superman. Doesn’t mix well with his temper and fists. The mother of the young man he beat to death shows up, pointing a gun at him in the Garrison. She calls him “an animal” and he doesn’t disagree.
She can’t bring herself to kill, so they sit and drink, and talk. He offers money knowing it’s a far cry from raising the dead. Mostly we see how people start resenting the Blinders rather than glorifying their criminality, as it’s really starting to have deadly effects.
Arthur: “If youre gonna use it, point that thing at my head. Thats where the trouble is.”
Tommy is still toying with Campbell. The Major is finding himself becoming more like the man he so badly wants to defeat. It’s brewing to something worse, every episode. Tom says that where he’s staying, the landlord used to be the madam of a whorehouse. Is someone playing a nasty trick on the copper?
Darby Sabini (Noah Taylor) has his own copper on the take, Georgie Sewell (Sam Hazeldine), gathering information on Mr. Shelby and waiting for the proper time to strike him down. The Italian is an impatient man, I gather. He’s a nasty fucking bloke.
Later that evening Campbell tells the landlord at his place to strip, offering money. She does gladly, even if his tact is less than gentlemanly. He only wanted to know that it was true. To know if his men have been playing jokes on him. Moreover, his righteous indignation is never more apparent than it is now; it’ll only get worse.
Pic 3One of the Blinders’ recruits spending the night in jail gets attacked in his cell. His throat is cut, as a display of authority from Sabini. An innocent casualty in their war. This will happen to any more of the Blinders who are sent inside.
In addition, Tommy himself is threatened. So they’ve got to take action, not the time to appear weak. At the same time, Michael sneaks himself into the family business meeting. He wants to be a part of the gang, to help with the latest plan to fuck Sabini over at the races.
While Polly is reluctant, the lads want to take Michael along with them. Except Tommy, who doesn’t want to bring another young man into a life of crime, death, violence, repeat. Still, mom and her son come together more, and she lets him go on with the brothers. More like a picnic than usual with Pol sending sandwiches and tea.
Polly: “This is a respectable fucking neighbourhood
The Blinders head to see some horses. One in particular, which Charlie Strong (Ned Dennehy) points out. Tom starts bidding on the animal, across the way a woman watches him. On goes the auction, as Tommy insists on getting the horse, no matter how high the price. Afterwards, he meets the woman bidding against him: May Carleton (Charlotte Riley). She trains horses, and it seems she’s interested in the one he bought. Or him.
Sabini’s man nearly kills Tom, before Arthur knocks the pistol from his hands. Nearly beating him to death in the process. Michael gets a front row seat to the business of his cousins, the risks, so on. Even offers to drive for them once it’s finished. He’s thirsty to be one of the bad boys, as well.
Pic 4A solid chapter in Season 2, building on some of the show’s central themes such as the loss of innocence, the way war changes people, how others in turn react to the change in them, so on. Lots of great stuff, including more of the battle brewing between Alfie Solomons, along with Tommy, and Mr. Sabini. Excited to see what happens next.

Peaky Blinders – Season 2, Episode 2

BBC’s Peaky Blinders
Season 2, Episode 2
Directed by Colm McCarthy
Written by Steven Knight

* For a recap & review of the Season 1 premiere, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 3, click here.
Pic 1After Tom Shelby (Cillian Murphy) was beaten and nearly killed by Darby Sabini (Noah Taylor) and his men, he was saved by Major Chester Campbell’s (Sam Neill) lads. But what about Ada (Sophie Rundle)? She was taken by a group of men, god knows what about to happen to her. Whatever does happen, those fellas are in for a rude awakening when the Shelby clan finds them.
Lucky enough she saved by a few of the Peaky Blinders. Not that she’s overly grateful: “My name is NOT Shelby!” She gives one of her saviours a kick in the bollocks before heading off. Bless her heart.
Campbell visits Tommy in the hospital, to talk about the death of Mr. Duggan. Then the leader of the Blinders taunts him a little, simultaneously lamenting about Grace Burgess (Annabelle Wallis) moving off to New York, apparently married to a banker. He throws in a few taunts regarding the Major’s lack of active military service during the war; a perpetual boulder in the craw of the lawman. These two are in a blood feud at this point. And Campbell holds everything he can over Tommy’s head, bending him to whatever purpose he and his special unit see fit.
Campbell: “You belong to me
Pic 1ASo Tom checks himself out of the hospital, needing to get to London. Immediately. He is a right state, not nearly healed. What I love about him is not only that he’s tough, and stubborn, he still has that Irish spirit of belief; not in God, particularly, but in the myths and lore of the Irish people, in magic and other things. Not that he’s an outright believer, he’s more willing to fall back on his heritage than trying to be a perfectly modern man.
Note: This season we’re given a few tunes by the ever wonderful PJ Harvey. Here, as Tommy travels to London in his brutal shape, “When Under Ether” plays. Love the anachronistic choices in Peaky Blinders. All the Jack White, the Nick Cave, now Ms. Harvey; so fitting. That’s why it all works. If it didn’t fit, it wouldn’t work. Boy, does it ever make for good listening.
“Man-Size” by PJ Harvey plays when we’re first introduced to Jewish baker Alfie Solomons (Tom Hardy), a curious character. He and Mr. Shelby literally break bread together, drink a bit of liquor. Although the baker’s a bit rough around the edges they get down to business. They talk about war with the Italians, Sabini’s crew. Alfie tells of the “Biblical” nature of his violence against the Italians. So, can the Blinder sell his idea of a coalition? Sort of a rough start to their relationship yet a start either way.
Meanwhile, Tom still worries for Ada. He doesn’t want her relationship to him, in name or not, to do anything worse than what’s already gone on. He gives her a house to keep her safe, trying to keep in the fold with the family if anything just for peace of mind.
Pic 2Everyone already knows about Tommy coming to London again, specifically Mr. Sabini, whose own relationship with the police is one of a wretched boss and his subordinates. A hateful man. He’s got the cops on the take, looking out for Shelby should he pop up on the streets.
Aunt Polly Gray (Helen McCrory) wakes up in a rush, heading off quick to the bookie shop. It’s her birthday, actually. Her nephews have remembered and they’ve got her a present. They’ve given her a house of her own, a beautiful place. She’s not overly thrilled. Afterwards she and Tommy talk alone, he’s spoken to Esme (Aimee-Ffion Edwards). He also has contacts that can find out where her children were adopted, so that she might bring them home to that new house. For all their issues, he wants to make her happy again. Out in the country he visits a woman about one of her adopted children. His real name is Michael Gray (Finn Cole), son of Polly.
At the office, Tom has Lizzie Stark (Natasha O’Keeffe) take down dictation of a letter written for Winston Churchill (Richard McCabe). So the great leader receives this letter, which not only alerts him to the medals awarded to Mr. Shelby, it pushes him to give Shelby Brothers Ltd. certain liberties. For the time being until the nasty business is complete.
Down at the boxing rings Arthur (Paul Anderson) has caved a young man’s head in. People are worried about him. The Flanders blues are doing him dirty. He knows it’s happening. Just can’t stop it. Right now Tom isn’t being too understanding, and he makes it more about the pressure on him than what’s ruining his brother, or how to help.
Tommy: “The war is over. Shut the door on it.”
Pic 3Campbell’s found out his coppers, some of them, are on the “Peaky Blinders payroll.” He sees the corruption in everyone else, remaining blind to his own. Sure, the Shelbys have put many people on the take, turned them against the law. All the same he’s done exactly that to the Major, whose wind is warped by jealousy of all kinds. He’s become as crooked as any of them, only of a different sort than those taking cash.
Polly gets the files about Anna and Michael Gray – only one is alive; her daughter passed. She was sent to Australia as a convict where she died. At least she has her son still out there, and could possibly come back to her someday. Rather than wait Pol pulls a gun on Tom trying to force him to tell her where he is, but he won’t agree. He wants her to wait until Michael is of age, then he can decide on his own.
Note: Take a count of how many times Tommy gets a gun pointed at his head. Incredible! Lad is calm under pressure, no doubt.
The Garrison Pub is reopening, without Arthur. He doesn’t feel he wants to be a part of it. No matter if Tom wants him to go. He stays at home with one of the boys and snorts a bit of cocaine. Puts him in a proper mood to go out then. Back behind the bar and on wheels.
Next morning, Michael goes to see Polly, a.k.a his mother Elisabeth Gray. A welcome, wonderful surprise. An emotional reunion, if not a touch awkward.
Pic 4Beautiful episode, as well as one that explores the hero side as opposed to the anti(-hero) in Tommy with the way he cares for his family, despite the darkness in him. Season 2 promises to be even better than the first, which is a tough feat. I know they’ll achieve it, because already the first two episodes leading in are fantastic.

Peaky Blinders – Season 2, Episode 1

BBC’s Peaky Blinders
Season 2, Episode 1
Directed by Colm McCarthy
Written by Steven Knight

* For a recap & review of the Season 1 finale, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 2, click here.
Pic 1Last we saw Grace Burgess (Annabelle Wallis), she was on the end of Chester Campbell’s (Sam Neill) gun. Only she fired first from inside her purse, putting him on his back. Then she boarded the train and didn’t look back.
Cut to two years later in  Birmingham. A couple prams are wheeled up in front of the Garrison Pub, left by two women dressed in widow’s attire. Bombs go off and blow the front out of the place. Elsewhere, the funeral of Freddie Thorne, who succumbed to illness. Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) says a few words over the casket as it’s put in the ground, with Ada (Sophie Rundle), John (Joe Cole), the rest of the family looking on. Aunt Polly (Helen McCrory) and Tom want Ada to stick around rather than leaving, because business is picking up and it’ll be “dangerous to be a Shelby” for a while. Although now she’s Mrs. Thorne, technically.
There’s never a dull moment in the lives of the Shelby clan. Off they go to find the pub burned to a crisp. Pol leans down in the ashes to find confetti. Hmm, a clue. But what could that mean? You bet the family is going to find out, one way or a-bloody-nother.
Pic 1ATom goes for a drink at the Black Lion. After that he’s led off someplace by a boy looking for that “Peaky Blinder devil.” He meets Irene O’Donnell (Simone Kirby) and Donal (Rory Keenan). They blew up the pub. They’re dangerous folk and clearly in for the cause. Threats are thrown at Tom, but he fires back knowing much personal information about Irene. Seems they need him. However, they’ve got a leg up, and he’s not the slightest bit happy about being their bitch. ‘Cause really, that’s the deal. You know he won’t let that last long. We’ve seen Tommy down, he’s never really out.
Later, Tom’s copper on the take mentions an old friend is coming back to town, now head of a special department of some kind: Major Chester Campbell (Sam Neill), that nasty old piece of work. He’s gone from justice to criminal himself, taking no prisoners along the way. A bad man, if ever there were.
Arthur (Paul Anderson) is busy boxing the shit out of people. He’s still not right. Channelling his anger into a BARELY more manageable place by boxing. John is still critical of his brother the boss, and Pol tries keeping a lid on it. But there’s absolutely a divide, as always. All over a bit of business.
Pic 2In regards to London and the expansion plan Tommy speaks of, he mentions that the Jews and the Italians have been at war. The Jews need allies, specifically Alfie Solomons (Tom Hardy). I wonder if this will play into his meeting with O’Donnell somehow.
Lizzie Stark (Natasha O’Keeffe) is back, too. She and Tommy meet now and then for a shag, he leaves a few quid on the dresser for her. “I wish just once you wouldnt pay me,” she tells him. Problem being I think he’s only doing it to forget, not even to get off. He wants not to remember Grace.
We see Pol go to a seance with a medium leading the group. So who’s she there to try and reach? The parish took her children, lately she feels as if her daughter’s possibly dead. There’s a lot of pain in her past. She’s always seemed haunted, though now it becomes clearer. Also clear is the dark weight of the Shelby family name.
That night Tommy sneaks up on a blacksmith named Eamonn Duggan (Rory Gallagher), shooting him in the head. This is most certainly one of those O’Connell, IRA-related events. Like Tom’s back in the war again. He and the lads are off to bury Duggan’s body, then to London for a lark!
Next day, Esme (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) tells Polly about how the medium was a bunch of bullshit, a scam. This prompts the aunt to put a knife at her throat, threatening her not to tell a soul why she was there. Can the new wife actually keep a secret?
Pic 3When the Blinders holiday in London, they’re supposedly overstepping boundaries. And when people take offence to their being there, the lads start cutting motherfuckers, headbutting, punching, generally kicking the shite out of anyone who’ll step up. Proper show. Tom gives a little speech to the “downtrodden” and the like, sending out a call, a message.
Major Campbell goes to see Winston Churchill (Richard McCabe), the fabled leader painting naked women, a bit jowlier than last we saw him. He hears of Chester’s latest plans, of course involving Mr. Shelby. He wants to use the Blinder to their purposes, then be done with him.
Tommy offers Lizzie a job as a typist for the Shelby Brothers Ltd. He also needs someone willing to turn a blind eye to certain things. So strange to see him caring about her after what he did in Season 1. I guess that points clearly to the fact he wasn’t just visiting her as a customer then, either. He had feelings, of some kind.
When he gets back home Pol is pissed with him for being “at war with Sabini.” She’s speaking of a man named Darby Sabini (Noah Taylor). Tom is attacked in the street, and meanwhile Ada is attacked by a gang of men, taken away somewhere. The leader of the Blinders has a gold filling pulled from his face, but before they can kill him, gunfire erupts. Campbell’s saved him. Oh, my.
Screen Shot 2017-06-13 at 12.56.22 AMWhat a spectacular opening to this second season. Things are about to get nasty, nasty, nasty. And wild as hell.

Peaky Blinders – Season 1 Finale

BBC’s Peaky Blinders
Season 1, Episode 6
Directed by Tom Harper
Written by Steve Knight

* For a recap & review of Episode 5, click here.
* For a recap & review of the Season 2 premiere, click here.
Pic 1Inspector Chester Campbell (Sam Neill) goes to the Chinese market, to the tailors and Mr. Zhang (Lobo Chan). He’s there to see about some working girls, he knows his officers often frequent the place. Y’know, for a “certain purpose.”
In other news, Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) is readying Arthur (Paul Anderson), John (Joe Cole), and the rest of the lads for a big, big day. At home, Aunt Polly (Helen McCrory) prays for her nephews, each for different reasons.
Tommy: “After today therell be no need for prayers
So over at the Chinese market, Campbell is looking for a bit of sexual healing, to mend his frustrations, maybe even get his mind off Grace Burgess (Annabelle Wallis), if even for the moment. A young Chinese woman tends to him, removing his boots and his tie and treating him well.
And what about Grace? She’s facing nastiness from other officers. Plus, Campbell is holding what she did for Tommy, and with him, over her head. He’s angry, wounded. Now he’s hurting girls down at Zhang’s place, which gets brought to the attention of Mr. Shelby. Uh oh, a compromising position for the copper. The venom between these two is pulpy.
Campbell: “Before the day is over, your heart will be broken. Just the same as mine.”
Pic 1AWe find out more about Pol, when Ada (Sophie Rundle) talks with her. Turns out her children were taken from her, which is one of the reasons she’s so close to the nephews and niece. She speaks well of Tommy, that he does what he does to protect them. Moreover, she tells Ada about the plans for Freddie Thorne (Iddo Goldberg); and they’re not bad. He’s going free. BY ORDER OF THE PEAKY FOOKIN’ BLINDERS!
Campbell later meets with Winston Churchill (Andy Nyman) about the operation to locate the guns. Everyone’s happy. The Inspector also chooses not to say anything about Grace’s transgressions, talking her up. Then the conversations turns to the Peaky Blinders. This is more of the nasty Mr. Campbell planning something rough for the Shelby clan and their gang.
The big day’s come – Billy Kimber (Charlie Creed-Miles) is getting the oust. They’ve got dirty work to do before the legitimate racetrack stuff gets underway. One of the best parts is that John and Esme (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) are married, so the Lee clan is alongside for the ride. That’s a grand help. Afterwards, Ada comes back to her family with baby in tow – they named him Karl after “Karl Marx” himself. So perfect for a Communist’s child. Having Ada back in the fold is good for the family, especially Tommy; a boost of confidence and trust in him.
While the lads hit the bar, Danny Whizz-Bang (Samuel Edward-Cook) picks Freddie up on the road. He’s also the one holding on to that last missing gun from the BSA stockpile.
Pic 2The love story between Grace and Tommy’s getting deeper, more troubling, more intense. He wants to change for her, he wants to be a legitimate man and not be bound to the criminal life. The racetrack, the betting, it could change everything. Right before Grace can reveal her true self, Tommy is made aware of Kimber chaps heading over to see them. Might be a war, someone’s betrayed their clan.
And who’s done it? Grace. Again. Pol goes down to talk with the barmaid. Then younger woman reveals her status as a woman of the law. However, there’s no fight as it seemed was poised to happen. The aunt knows Grace saved Tommy’s life recently, that she’s a tough woman, and that she’s fallen for her nephew.
One of the underlying themes of Peaky Blinders is that war changes people, drastically, and for the worse every time. This is the crux of the character of Thomas Shelby, he is a good man at heart but he’s been warped like an old branch on a tree, weathering a brutal storm in France only to return home where nobody wants him now that he’s broken.
Now the Blinders and their allies wait for the attack to come, knowing they’re outnumbered. On the other side, Campbell’s willing to let “the beasts devour each other.” All in the name of jealousy, in the end.
Youre bad men, but youre our bad men.”
Thus, the battle commences. Tom and the lads are locked and loaded and ready to fight. They’ve even got ole Freddie with a nice machine gun to blow them to bits. Except for the fact Ada wheels her child out in front of them all. She calls up the memories of France, wearing black as if already a widow. A woman’s power there in front of each of those men. BAD ASS ADA SHELBY! Yet Kimber takes his shots anyways, putting one right in Tommy’s chest. Followed by a return shot right through Billy’s forehead. The fucking end of that. Sad to see Danny die, too.
Pic 3After making it out of France, poor Danny’s gone. Killed back home by goddamn gangsters. The lads toast to his memory: “May we all die twice.” Everyone has a drink, remembering his honour and his strength, those who fought with him in the war then fought with him once again in the streets of England.
Life goes on, relatively the same. Just a bit more sad, a little more drunk. Although Campbell isn’t thrilled to hear about Freddie being sprung from his prison transport, knowing it was the Blinders who did it.
Tommy goes to see Grace later. Theirs is a difficult relationship, one mired in criminality versus law. She wants him to be done with business, then find her in New York. She’s got plans for them. I just don’t see that sitting too well with the family, certainly not Polly. Nor do I think Tom can leave this life behind. Or resign himself to the idea of being with a copper. We’ll have to see where the road takes him.
When Grace goes for the train, she winds up on the end of Inspector Campbell’s gun. Will she make it away?
Pic 4Season 1 has been INCREDIBLE! Impeccable writing, the acting is out of this world. Production design is some of the best you’ll see in any period television series. Can’t wait to review Season 2.

Peaky Blinders – Season 1, Episode 5

BBC’s Peaky Blinders
Season 1, Episode 5
Directed by Tom Harper
Written by Toby Finlay & Steven Knight

* For a recap & review of Episode 4, click here.
* For a recap & review of the Season 1 finale, click here.
Pic 1Bless Aunt Polly (Helen McCrory), she’s doing her best to look after Ada (Sophie Rundle) even though the girl doesn’t want to take any handouts from them, not Tommy (Cillian Murphy). Not when she believes he’s had Freddie (Iddo Goldberg) “shopped” into a dark, dingy cell.
But we know different, don’t we? Was Grace (Annabelle Wallis) did that. And all the while Tom falls in love with her more each day, not knowing who and what she is outside of their business together. Then there’s Arthur (Paul Anderson), who sticks by his brother’s lead mostly, and John (Joe Cole) who ain’t quite sure about Tom; thinks he grassed on Freddie.
Best of all is when Arthur and John run into Arthur Sr (Tommy Flanagan). Dear ole dad goes home for a visit. Nobody’s too happy to see him. He claims he’s changed. Nobody actually seems to believe it, though. Even though Arthur Jr looks more willing than the rest.
Tommy: “Grace, everyone in my family hates me. Why would I tell them?”
There’s a lot of trouble in the Shelby clan. The brothers are all divided, neither of them. Slipping up and telling Grace a few things he shouldn’t, such as the fact Danny “Whizz-Bang” Owen (Samuel Edward-Cook) isn’t really dead.
Pic 1AWe see Arthur Jr hanging out with ole Sr, who he apparently reveres. The younger one is like a child again, watching his father and listening to him. But it really seems like the old lad is only looking to grift a bit of cash out of his boys, whichever is willing. He doesn’t feel like an honest man, and the animosity Tommy feels towards him is enough to sell me. Right now, he’s reeling in Jr and dividing the brothers further. It’s actually fucking tragic to watch.
Arthur Jr: “And Shelby money is Shelby money
At the Garrison Pub, Tommy receives a visit from a man named Byrne (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor). He’s there about the lad who got shot recently in an alleyway, the one Grace did in. Furthermore, Byrne pokes around about Tom’s thoughts about IRA, the man shot was his cousin, deeply connected. Seems Danny’s been running his mouth drunk, telling tales out of school. “Every finger in this city points in one direction,” Byrne says before necking a glass of booze. The IRA aren’t fucking around, nor is Byrne himself. He makes a few pointed, quietly terrifying threats. CHRIST! Is Grace ever making life difficult for the leader of the Shelbys.
Inspector Chester Campbell (Sam Neill) has another clandestine meeting with Tommy, as they discuss the best way forward with all the IRA heat. The copper could spread the word around Ireland and make sure they know Tom wasn’t involved. He won’t, though. Just as he’s fine to let everyone believe lies about how Freddie was grassed up. He’ll do what he can, however, to keep anything too bad from happening.
Pic 2Tom rushes into the pub that night, saying he believes the IRA are coming to kill him. So he makes a fast plan with Grace, a signal. Then Byrne and his man come, they sit at a table for a drink. Before she comes out firing. The men wrestle, Byrne chokes Tommy nearly to death before he’s beaten into a bloody pulp on the floor and his head’s smashed in. The ferocity scares Grace. Afterwards, he asks why she shot, but we know she has her own deeply personal issues with the IRA.
Thing is, now the relationship between these two is deepening. Grace is starting to cross over, torn by the duty she feels as part of the arm of the law, incapable of fighting off all the emotions she’s beginning to feel for Tommy. Simultaneously, she’s bent to the will of Campbell, who’s a tad jealous. For her part she wants out, to get away from it all before losing herself. She knows the location of the guns – buried in place of Danny Whizz-Bang – and wants to finish the mission, as well as pull Tom out of the fire.
Campbell: “Youve been livinwith beasts
Grace: “It was the beast that tried to stop me
After the guns are dug up, Campbell proposes marriage to Grace, as she resigns her post. She rejects his advance. And this does not sit well with his fragile masculinity, lashing out. I can only imagine what he’ll do now. He’s dangerous as it is, let alone when hurt, coiling like a nasty snake.
Pic 3Out at the trains, Arthur Jr finds Sr taking off on him. The money’s gone, pissed away on booze and prostitutes. He, of course, did it all as a grift. Finally we see the son realise his father is a thieving piece of shit. It’s devastating, no matter how far away you see it coming. Just the way Sr speaks to him, so condescending and hateful, it’s hideous. Shattered for poor Arthur Jr. Gave his sanity to his country, now he’s beyond broken.
Tommy’s just finding out about the guns being found. Over at the office, Inspector Campbell’s letting his jealousy break his word. He’s not doing justice for the sake of justice, for the law. He’s being a vindictive, wounded man. His pride’s getting the better of him. Can’t be sure what he’ll do from this point on.
So Tom plans on taking off, to avoid police.
And who helps him escape before they snatch him? Grace. When Campbell finds this after threatening a bartender, he calls off the search. Jesus, he’s losing his goddamn mind. It’s scary, really.
She takes Tom back to her flat and they hide out. And make love, naturally.
Down at the fight ring, Arthur isn’t doing so well. He drinks, he laments his position in life. After that he does all he can see as the answer – he tosses a makeshift noose around a beam above, hanging himself by the neck. Doesn’t last long and the rope breaks, saving his life. And regardless of their problems, Tom is always there for his oldest brother. They’re all in business together, as one clan.
But their troubles are far, far from over.
Pic 4Another solid episode, just before the Season 1 finale. Fascinating season, a fine mix of history and fiction in one magnificently written series. Great acting, too. They’re all amazing, but lord, is Cillian Murphy ever a fantastic and underrate piece of work of an actor. Love it. This episode sets up a large deal of tension, tightening down on all that’s come before to make for a volatile situation.

Peaky Blinders – Season 1, Episode 4

BBC’s Peaky Blinders
Season 1, Episode 4
Directed by Tom Harper
Written by Steven Knight & Steven Russell

* For a recap & review of Episode 3, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 5, click here.
Pic 1Freddie (Iddo Goldberg) and Ada (Sophie Rundle) are quite in love. Her belly getting bigger by the day. He’s still running news of the revolution around, and Jeremiah Jesus (Benjamin Zephaniah) watches him for ole brother-in-law Tom Shelby (Cillian Murphy).
There’s lots else afoot, as well. Bookies are taking bets as usual, Aunt Polly (Helen McCrory) shows up with news for her nephew. And when they head out for a meeting, doors locked behind them, a crowd of men from the Lee clan pop out from under cover of a wagon, let into the place by a boy they’ve sent in.
Oh, lord. About to get right nasty, this will. They storm the bookies with guns drawn. This won’t sit well when the Shelbys find out.
Tom goes to meet with his brothers Arthur (Paul Anderson), specifically John (Joe Cole), who says he needs to find a mother for his children. Now he’s getting married! Only they all find it laughable he’s planning on marrying Lizzie Starke (Natasha O’Keeffe). She’s a prostitute, so they all look down on her, except John. He loves her proper.
Pic 1AThey’re all called away because of what the Lee clan’s done. Luckily, no one died. Problem is they think there’s been “booby traps” set, a hand grenade left rigged to blow. It’s a nasty little taunt from when they were in France, what they’d do to the enemy as a joke, leaving wire cutters as part of the cruel gag. Tom believes it was only set for him. Now little Finn Shelby almost dies because he’s pretending to be his uncle outside, the car’s been wired. Uncle Tom tosses the explosive before it can kill him.
Tommy: “Thats why you should never pretend to be me
Johnny Dogs (Packy Lee) walks Mr. Shelby into Lee territory, holding a white flag on a stick to keep him safe. When he speaks with Zilpha Lee (Therese Bradley), he offers a switch – take the debt off Billy Kimber’s (Charlie Creed-Miles) head instead. Quite the shaky alliance, though they’re related down the line on Tommy’s mother’s side somewhere. So that’s good faith enough for them to entertain a deal.
Ada’s not into the whole “cause” of Freddie and his boys. She thinks he’s being ripped off when he’s taking all the risk involved. She believes his lost in dreams of a revolution. Meanwhile, they’ve got a family to start thinking about, a baby they’ll need to feed. Then she asks to whom he’s loyal: her, or his revolution.
Later on Tom meets with Inspector Chester Campbell (Sam Neill), to give him an address for an anonymous tip. It belongs to Stanly Chapman (John-Paul Hurley). Man’s got “snow in his boots” for the copper to shovel, in bed with the Russians. Mainly it comes down to whether Campbell will leave Freddie and Ada out of it. He gives his word, and I guess that’s good enough. Free reign to do business for a few Bolsheviks. The lawman warns he’ll be dismissed if the guns don’t turn up soon. Then what happens to their deal? Well if he gets caught, it’s a grim finish for all the Shelbys. Fucking GRIM. Lots of threats in this exchange. Tom’s up against a force he might not quite understand, or at the very least he’s underestimated.
Campbell: “If I were to be fired and it were your fault, I would do things that would shame the devil. My fury is a thing to behold.”
Pic 2That Inspector’s already going back on his word. He’s a snake in the grass, willing to do ANYTHING to get what he wants. He’s going after Freddie and Ada with no indication of stopping until he’s scooped them up.
Pol goes to tell Freddie what’s been going on, and he’s not exactly happy. Although Ada’s already been in on the whole thing, anyways. He won’t accept it. Because he knows that the cops won’t keep their word, which we already see to be true. The Communists don’t know one another’s addresses, meaning Chapman won’t be able to tell Campbell a thing. And it was all for nought. Except for the fact Freddie isn’t in a good state of mind anymore.
Over in a dungeon, Campbell’s man has whipped Chapman to death. We’re seeing more of how the Inspector is a truly terrifying man. His will is horrific, he doesn’t stop no matter what’s in front of him. This makes me worry about Grace (Annabelle Wallis).
Tommy announces to everybody they’ve officially got their own “racetrack pitch” for the first time. A legitimate betting license. It’s all uphill from here. Or that’s what they’d hope. In other news, Tommy wants Grace to be part of the business, because she has class. Yet he knows she lies, that she isn’t Catholic, nor is she a barmaid from Ireland.
So who IS she in his mind? And how far will it go before it becomes trouble for him?
Screen Shot 2017-06-11 at 11.46.12 PMOn the street, Tom finds Lizzie for a chat. It’s clear that they’ve been together before. She didn’t tell John, which isn’t too great. However, Tom hopes she’s changed and that they can leave the past behind them. He gives her some cash, to aid in forgetting. And for one last shag. Oh, for fuck sakes. C’mon now, lad! Bad form. Or is it a test? Yes, indeed. He wanted to see if she loved his brother truly. Yikes.
Afterwards he goes to tell John about Lizzie, that he propositioned and she agreed. The younger brother’s not chuffed to hear. Also, Tom finds Grace and gives her a contract for the bookkeeping job. She’s becoming a bigger part of the operation. Little does he know she’s feeding all the info back to Campbell.
The next day Tommy throws an impromptu wedding for John. But not to Lizzie, to one of the Lee girls who needs marrying. Solves a ton of problems. If John doesn’t agree a “mighty war” could erupt. They lay responsibility at his doorstep, after Tommy’s betrothed him to the girl without knowing. The girl is Esme (Aimee-Ffion Edwards), a beautiful young lady. The couple is married in front of a crowd, their hands are cut open and their blood is bonded.
Later, a celebration! During the dance and the drinks Ada’s water winds up breaking. They head back home for the birth. Pol helps with the delivery, though it’s a rough one no doubt. The lads go to the pub to get hammered, and Tom gives word that Freddie’s safe to come round for the baby. All goes well, Ada is now a mum. And dad gets to have a look at his newborn son.
But coppers arrive to haul Freddie away. Has Tommy done the deed? I’d lay bets on the fact it was Grace. Uh oh.
Pic 4An intense and unexpected episode. I love the cultures and traditions of the Irish people we see, the Gypsy clans, all those types of things. Very fun bit of history mixed into Peaky Blinders. Dig it!

Peaky Blinders – Season 1, Episode 3

BBC’s Peaky Blinders
Season 1, Episode 3
Directed by Otto Bathurst
Written by Steven Knight

* For a recap & review of Episode 2, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 4, click here.
Pic 1Every time I hear that Nick Cave tune it gets me in the mood proper for this show to start! Great use of that very familiar tune, particularly relating to Mr. Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) whose hands are definitely red. He drops in to see Grace Burgess (Annabelle Wallis), she wants to make sure she looks good for the races. But he says it isn’t him she ought to be dressing for when they go.
Tommy: “Oh, I dont pay for suits. My suits are on the house, or the house burns down.”
In the Garrison Pub, Tommy talks with some people about the factory nearby. Lots of Irish work there, talking of a robbery; involving a “serious amount of guns.” The men say they want to buy them, for the IRA. One even sings some of “The Boys of the Old Brigade” in an intense, quiet moment (the song is a folk tune written by Paddy McGuigan;  an anachronism, as McGuigan wasn’t even born until 20 years after the timeline of this series, but one that fits quite well.
Meanwhile, Ada (Sophie Rundle) is running off to get married to Freddie Thorne (Iddo Goldberg). I can only imagine how Tommy will react. Part of me says he’ll be fine with it, except for the problems it may cause concerning Inspector Cambell (Sam Neill) and his Communist hunt. Speaking of the copper, he’s putting all his apples in the Grace cart, not overly impressed with any of his men and their work. There’s plenty of resentment, too. Towards Campbell, for not having fought over in France. That’s one part about Shelby he hates, that makes him feel inadequate. This will cause more grief as time passes.
Pic 1AAnd Grace, she’s out doing a bit of reconnaissance. She follows a man through the back alleys in the street. He catches her, though. Tries manhandling her and wants to take her in for questioning by the IRA. Then she puts a bullet in him and she’s got a body on her hands. From a window somewhere close, someone else is keeping an eye on her, as well. When she goes back to her flat she’s in a frenzy, the guilt of murdering that man heavy on her heart already.
It’s a slippery fuckin’ slope from here.
Aunt Polly (Helen McCrory) tells Tommy about Ada and Freddie getting married. This isn’t what he was hoping to hear, but Pol says she’ll “deal with it.” Except he tells her then the deal he made, to get Freddie to leave town. She’s not impressed with the fact he’s doing his own thing behind the family’s back. All the same he IS the leader, and not only in his mind; everyone looks to him.
When the well-meaning aunt goes to Ada and Freddie, he isn’t exactly willing to up and leave. Regardless, if he doesn’t go he’ll be facing the barrel of a gun; someday, somewhere.
Freddie: “You tellinme I cant handle Tommy Shelby?”
Pol: “You cant. Im having trouble these days, and Im twice the man you are.”
Campbell’s found out about Grace killing a man, an IRA lad. She stays the course, not wanting to give up. She considers it all part of the mission. Above anything else, the Inspector is concerned for her. Although something else is behind his eyes.
Out at the Asian market, Tommy lets Billy Kimber (Charlie Creed-Miles) know that the Lee clan are planning big things for the races. The big boss man doesn’t much care for Mr. Shelby. It’s clear he does take a fancy for Ms. Burgess, and now we know for whom she’s dressing. A-ha!
Pic 2What about Freddie, anyways? He’s out priming the revolution, pushing the factory workers for a more socialist union of workers, fighting together in order to make things better for the working class.
Tommy chats with John (Joe Cole), apparently Arthur (Paul Anderson) has got the “Flanders blues” again. What it is, truly, is what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder. And of course the Shelbys, they try solving that with bottles of whiskey. Moreover, Arthur feels left out of the family business, the family life, all of it. He feels disconnected from them all, detached from his brothers and sisters. He doesn’t like that Tommy didn’t tell him about the stolen guns from the BSA [Birmingham Small Arms Company].
Nevertheless, Tommy reels his older brother in close. He’s going to buy up the Garrison for Arthur to run: “Just pour it instead of drinkinit.” Ah, something to make the old lad feel better! A real part of the gang, a moneymaker and launderer for the actual family business. Not a bad racket, hey. Only Tommy’s got other things to worry about, such as Campbell not happy about Freddie rallying the factory workers towards a strike.
Out by the river, Freddie puts a gun to his old buddy Tom’s skull. He gives back the money, the tickets to leave on a boat elsewhere. They wind up with guns pointed at each other. Reminiscing and lamenting on their friendship. This won’t end well, either way.
And poor Tom, he’s still having nightmares of their time in France, tunnelling in the ground and having to fight other men in such close, dirty quarters, so violent and primal. No wonder he’s smoking opium.
Up turns Danny Whizz-Bang (Samuel Edward-Cook) from London to give his boss a bit of news, about the IRA believing the Peaky Blinders shot their man in Birmingham. They didn’t “but lies travel faster than the truth.” They’ve got to set a meeting and clear the air. Soon. For the time being, Danny and Tommy bond over their shared terror from the war, that still follows them.
Pic 3Everyone, including Charlie Strong (Ned Dennehy), are gearing up for the races, the getaway afterwards, so on. Then Tommy and Grace are off for the day, as the rest of the Peaky Blinders take care of business. They’re planning to take it hard to the Lee clan for their skimming off the bookies. All a plan to change Kimber’s mind about the Blinders.
Tommy’s brought Grace along to help with the operation, still unknowing of her true identity working for the law. But they schmooze and hang around with the upper crust, though he’s much more a fan of the pub. On the sly, Arthur and John and the others give the Lees their beatings, cutting pieces of ear with their razored caps, asserting authority.
Arthur: “I commandeer this stolen money by order of the Peaky Blinders!”
When the money’s pooled together, Tommy goes straight to Mr. Kimber with the loot and lays it on the table, dumping out coins and all. He makes clear the lads Billy employs are on the take, only makes sense to put the Blinders on the payroll and give them 5% of the take, plus a few extras if things go well. The boss seems reluctant but willing to go ahead, long as he gets a dance with Grace. Tommy even wants her to go home with the man. She’s stuck between a rock and a hard place; both Campbell and Shelby are asking her to make sacrifices of a very personal nature.
Afterwards, Tommy busts in to save Grace from a rape, saying she has the clap. Not exactly honourable in the way I’d hoped. Still, it’s better than nothing. There may be feelings for her brewing, somewhere deep in that broken heart.
Pic 5Love this episode, as it starts opening up new stories. I love Tommy’s character because there’s an anti-hero element to him, a guy you don’t wholly love but one you can’t exactly hate, either. It’s great stuff, perfectly written by Steven Knight. Excited for Episode 4.

Taboo – Episode 8

FX’s Taboo
Episode 8
Directed by Anders Engström
Written by Steven Knight

* For a recap & review of Episode 7, click here.
pic-1As George Chichester (Lucian Msamati) was digging into the sinking of the Cornwallis, James Keziah Delaney (Tom Hardy), tortured beyond the realm of human imagination, finally received his meeting with Sir Stuart Strange (Jonathan Pryce) in the Crown’s dungeons.
This final episode begins with Zilpha Geary (Oona Chaplin), ruminating on what’s next in her life. OR, in her death. She plunges herself off a bridge into the frigid waters below after sending a last letter to her half-brother. And he’s chatting with Strange, telling of his time in Africa when an African saved him, as well as admitting to his own atrocities: “The things I did in Africa make your transactions look paltry.” They speak of Godrey (Edward Hogg), his role in the plan James has enacted. Then he offers Strange a deal. Not an easy one, apparently. Yet James always has a plan in his back pocket. Usually a bit of blackmail. The table’s set. Will Strange deliver a ship and whatever else is in Delaney’s letter? Can he?
pic-2Young Robert (Louis Ashbourne Serkis) goes running around to see Brace (David Hayman), Cholmondeley (Tom Hollander), with letters for them written by James. Like dominoes, one after one receives whatever news and plans are at hand, including Atticus (Stephen Graham).
All the while Strange is sweating the details, and James starts in on his eerie voodoo prayers in his dungeon cell. A few of the Crown’s men go to get him, finding he’s seizing, foaming at the mouth, bleeding. Solomon Coop (Jason Watkins) worries they’ve done permanent damage, though I’m inclined to believe it’s all part of the master plan. Simultaneously, on the road Atticus stops a coach taking Helga (Franka Potente) and her friend elsewhere, which ends in the death of Mr. Pettifer (Richard Dixon). A little while later Lorna Bow (Jessie Buckley) picks up Helga, and the young boy she tracked down confirms that James did not kill her girl Winter. It was the Company.
But most of all Strange is falling apart trying to maneuver all the pieces in order to appease Delaney, as the man himself continues pulling strings from behind the scenes. Everything is set deep into motion. Cholmondeley works on “things that go bang” and others which “cause confusion.”
Lorna goes about her business, too. She’s off to see the Countess Musgrove (Marina Hands) about certain feminine products, secrets. And powder. Ah, yes. Afterwards, alone, Musgroves pulls a knife on her visitor until finding out the details, her association with Delaney. He’s sent word about the “leaky ship” she captains.

pic-6What about James? He sits there in that cell, having masterminded the entire series of events. Now he hears Robert singing from outside the dungeon’s walls. A sign. “Im ready,” he tells his captors.
Upstairs, his account for the Crown begins. Only it isn’t what Coop and the lot expected. He reveals the nastiness about to come. His double dealing, playing both sides has ensured his own best possible outcome. Everyone else is left in his wake. So, James walks free from his chains and all his charges.
Plus, he has a ship once more! There’s also his discovery now that Zilpha has plunged into the River Thames, carried away dead to another place. This certainly won’t do him any good. He refuses to believe her death: “If she was in the river, she would sing to me. And I would hear her.” Lorna tries convincing him otherwise, but he’s lost in all that voodoo magic or whatever he believes in, thinking that he can see beyond the grave. He manages to get himself back in action, with a little help from his friends, such as Dumbarton (Michael Kelley) and laudanum. Trouble being he’s got to captain a ship from England to America. Might not go so smooth if he’s fucked up, in more ways than one. And that friendship with Dumbarton, it goes sideways. The doctor’s left strung up, sliced up, his face inked in blue. Yikes.


Cholmondeley’s got himself laced with explosives, ready to rock. At the docks, the ship is readied, and more Company men are laid to waste. Delaney is really doing a number on Sir Strange before shipping out.
Prince Regent George IV (Mark Gatiss) eats like a slob, talking with Coop about faith. Then, how many people might be dispatched for treason. He wants Delaney dead. When his right hand man protests a bit, the Prince Regent proclaims angrily: “Im the head of fucking state!” With so much death and betrayal and double-crossing afoot, no telling who’ll make it out alive in the end.
On the dock, James cuts Brace free, revealing he will not be going to America; only decent thing is that anything Delaney-owned left in England belongs to him.
With that, the plan commences. When Crown soldiers rush the dock, Cholmondeley sets off a huge explosion, killing some and disorienting the rest. After which the remainder are smoked out and gunned down mercilessly. More soldiers rush in and the rest of the guns start blazing. Lorna, Godfrey, Helga, everyone is rushed to the boat – stopping for her dropped pistol, Helga’s shot before boarding. And Lorna, she takes a bullet in the shoulder. The streets and the dock are literally and figuratively on fire; Cholmondeley is gravely wounded when some of his explosives go off. Nothing goes as well as hoped.
Eventually, those still able make it onto the ship. Away they go.


At the East India Company, Strange finds a message waiting. He still believes everything’s going according to what he discussed with Delaney. That is, until a package from Cholmondeley is set off as he opens its strings, and his office blows sky high. The end of Sir Stuart.
Brace sits quietly at the Delaney home, facing an eternity of loneliness left behind. That same afternoon, Chichester turns up to get the account of the Cornwallis, Godfrey’s account, as well. Justice will be served.
On the open ocean James and his crew sail towards America. With plenty of interesting intentions. What will they do when they get there? James has his machinations, as the American flag is hoisted up in place of the ole Union Jack.
Atticus: “I thought the gunpowder was for the Americans?”
James: “We are Americans
pic-13Whoa. Are we going to get ourselves another series? Seems like it. I anticipated this as a limited series, but I’d LOVE to see Delaney and Atticus and Lorna and the lot doing their thing in America. Could get pretty wild. GIVE US MORE! We need it now.

Taboo – Episode 7

FX’s Taboo
Episode 7
Directed by Anders Engström
Written by Steven Knight

* For a recap & review of Episode 6, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 8, click here.
screen-shot-2017-02-18-at-11-51-25-pmHow will James Keziah Delaney (Tom Hardy) atone for his sins after murdering young Winter by the shore in a drunken, mad state? Surely he did it. Or maybe not. I’m not sure he can redeem himself to begin with, really. Although such is the grotesque landscape of character in Taboo.
Helga (Franka Potente) and Atticus (Stephen Graham) and others stand by while Winter’s laid to rest, readied in a boat. At the same time, Brace (David Hayman) receives a visit from Cholmondeley (Tom Hollander); he’s come with little Robert (Louis Ashbourne Serkis), the possible son or brother of Mr.Delaney. Well, Lorna Bow (Jessie Buckley) receives him just fine. I’m interested to see where her character winds up in these last couple episodes.
Still James is in need of a ship. He’s consumed. As he struggles to find one, Helga, Atticus, everyone wonders whether he’s killed the girl. And he sees her, there by the fire at home while he drinks. Ghosts all around him.
Then suddenly James receives George Chichester (Lucian Msamati) at his home. He’s there to talk about The Influence. He believes James was onboard when the ship sank. More of the harsh truth comes to light. He was a slave, then became a slaver. Then “much worse things than stealing diamonds,” which Chichester already knows. What George wants is James, last remaining survivor of the wreck, to name Sir Stuart Strange (Jonathan Pryce) as the organiser of the slave ship. Headed to Antigua. If so, full pardon for what Delaney’s done. Yet you just know there’s something else always up the mysterious bastard’s sleeve.
James: “What kind of rational man believes in justice?”
screen-shot-2017-02-18-at-11-54-24-pmOn the street, Helga takes a shot at James nearly popping his skull. She doesn’t manage to get the job done, only screaming “MURDERER” at him over and over. Then there’s poor Zilpha (Oona Chaplin), caught between life and her half-brother/lover, having just murdered her wickedly abusive husband. Between that and the loss of James’ ship neither of them are doing well.
Something about Brace comes to light. He purchased a large quantity of arsenic. For the rats, supposedly. Perhaps to kill Horace. “It was a kindness,” he confesses to James. He says that the state the old man was in, mentally, everyone trying to get at Nootka Sound and his money. So he tried to ease the pain. It doesn’t seem as if the son wants Brace to leave. Surely he doesn’t hold it against the old chap, having his own reasons to hate his father.
At the East India Company, Sir Strange receives a visit from Helga. She brings word of the gunpowder, its gifting by Delaney to an American citizen. Another of the prostitutes is brought along to corroborate. Now Strange wishes to use this as a charge of high treason against James. Looks like things aren’t going to go too nicely for Helga and her girl, either. Accessories to the crime. All this sends Godfrey (Edward Hogg) running to see his secret friend, to try and give him warning.
Strange: “We have him. We fucking have him.”
In the woods James breathes in smoke from a fire he makes, spreading a chalky yellow powder on it. He sees visions of his mother. His father. Himself. Godfrey finds him to let him know what’s happened, though he says he already knows. Then the two head off together.


Over with Solomon Coop (Jason Watkins), Thoyt (Nicholas Woodeson) and the lot, Sir Strange brings word of the treason charge. The law is consulted. Nootka Sound is being brought to the King. All a way of sucking up to the Crown, as Strange does nasty things in the dark and under the guise of the “loyal and honourable” EIC. For all the tea in China. Literally.
James takes Godfrey to see Chichester. They have a chat together about him giving account of what he’s heard about the sinking of The Influence, a.k.a The Cornwallis. However, it isn’t easy for Godfrey to accept. His good friend Delaney convinces him they’ll sail for The New World long before his having to testify. Is this truth? Or is he spinning fiction to get what he wants?
Quickly the house of pleasure clears out while James prepares for the incoming soldiers. He sits and plays cards instead of running anywhere. Elsewhere, Dumbarton (Michael Kelly) is alerted to the treason charge of his associate. And the soldiers, they don’t take it easy on Delaney. They taunt and beat him brutally in a dungeon before leaving him in the dark.
Lorna tracks down a young boy on the street who knew Winter. He says: “I want her to forgive me.” Turns out the EIC killed Winter. At home she finds Brace gone mental, wishing he’d killed James alongside his father.
For what’s coming is even worse.
In that dungeon James is prepared for a gruesome bout of torture. To get information. Simultaneously, Cholmondeley and others burn papers, evidence leading back to the source, the laboratory. All of it. Delaney says he’ll give up the information, so long as he gets a meeting with Sir Strange. This is met with immediate, vicious torture, as a Mr. Arrow begins cutting, waterboarding, whatever he can to draw out the truth.


On the links, Sir Strange whacks a golf ball, and Chichester arrives for a casual confrontation. This puts a scare into the old company man. Of course he thinks it all hinges on Delaney, but doesn’t know who Chichester has Godfrey in his pocket. Later, Strange and his friends discover Godfrey is a “Molly” and that he is the mole.
Prince Regent George IV (Mark Gatiss) sits waiting for good news on the torture of Delaney. Next, a mask is put on him, and an Asian doctor pours a liquid down his throat that “alters perception.” Taking James back to a time before, in the forest. Back through terrifying images and memories. Still, nothing comes. They cannot break him. He will only speak to Sir Strange.
So what will the Crown do next? Prince Regent tells Coop to give Delaney what he wants. Out of nowhere, when Strange goes to meet him in the dungeon, James seems to have it all in the palm of his hand.
James: “I have a use for you


Coming up on the last episode, Taboo throws a nice curve into the story. Let’s see where Delaney and the others end up. I can only imagine his plans for Sir Strange, what that’ll mean for him and everyone involved. And how will George IV ultimately come into play, if at all, in the finale?

Taboo – Episode 6

FX’s Taboo
Episode 6
Directed by Anders Engström
Written by Steven Knight

* For a recap & review of Episode 5, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 7, click here.
screen-shot-2017-02-11-at-10-50-53-pmJames Delaney (Tom Hardy) is continually plagued by visions. “Youre as mad as your da,” Brace (David Hayman) tells him. They’ve a vast difference in opinion on James’ mother. She apparently tried holding baby James under the water of a river, so says the trust Delaney caretaker. If true, this is seemingly the reason Horace put his wife in an asylum. Is it all true? Or does the truth lie somewhere in the middle of what James has dug up and what he thought he knew?
While there’s a lot of plot going on, much of what we see is James experiencing an existential crisis. He’s got to deal with what he’s become, one way or another. For better, for worse, he can’t erase any of his own sin, nor can he blame it on his father or his mother. That’s what feels interesting to me. Whatever darkness lies in his past, he’s done bad things, that much is clear. There’s no real redeeming him, only to an extent. How far the extent, we’ll see.
Over at the little factory, Cholmondeley (Tom Hollander). He’s got a crew of men ready to do his bidding. They must “stir continuously” in order to mix the powder, both efficiently and safely. Young Robert (Louis Ashbourne Serkis) is amongst the men whom are chosen to do the stirring. A precarious operation, to say the least.
screen-shot-2017-02-11-at-10-54-17-pmThere’s lots of intriguing aspects to George Chichester (Lucian Msamati), as well. He makes the white men around him uncomfortable. Two reasons: 1) he’s smarter than them and smarter than they believe him to be; and 2) he brings to mind the uncomfortable truths of the travesties of the white man. Great character, great writing, great performance. He knows the real name of the Influence, why “in four days the ship ran aground” and everything associated. Hmm. Trouble.
Spooky James is down in the river, hearing things. Having terrifying visions. You know, the usual. And to anyone around him he’s a mythic creature. Lorna Bow (Jessie Buckley) and Brace have to kind of hover nearby, trying not to let him go mad completely.
Certainly once Sir Stuart Strange (Jonathan Pryce) gets the entire report about the ship formerly known as the Influence, and what Chichester knows, including a bit about Sir Strange’s brother, who happens to own a sugar plantation. Ah, now things are getting properly treacherous. Because the look in Sir Strange’s eyes as he describes everyone as chess pieces is creepy.
When Lorna goes to see Zilpha Geary (Oona Chaplin) about where James may be, she’s greeted by husband Thorne (Jefferson Hall). The nasty man accosts Lorna a bit, verbally abusing her. After a moment Zilpha turns up, her face bruised and cut. No information is given up, although nobody really knows where James has been. Will Lorna try and help Zilpha? I hope so.
And speaking of James, he’s over meeting with Dr. Dumbarton (Michael Kelly) – the powder will be ready tomorrow at midnight.


They begin the slow transport of their gunpowder across the city. At one point, young Robert helps them when they’re stopped by guards, posing as a cholera-ridden corpse in a coffin. Upon delivery, Dumbarton is happy with the deal and offers what he can to James. Meanwhile, Ibbotson (Christopher Fairbank) looks more and more concerned, sneaking about. What is he planning/thinking?
James: “You tell me one thing that isnt a matter of time
In the night, Zilpha crawls on top of her husband. Then she sinks a long, thin blade up in under his ribs right into the heart. Afterwards, she goes directly to James. He’s not entirely thrilled, even if he wants her in his life. He agrees to help her take care of the body. Dumbarton has Thorne marked for immediate burial, and that is that, my friends.
At the East India Company, Sir Strange brings good news. Ibbotson made a confession to a priest. And the priest, for 25 pounds, gave over the goods on the factory to the company. Wow. James said he’d blame it on Dumbarton if this were to happen. Godfrey (Edward Hogg) brings the news to Delaney, but no telling what the man will do next. Biggest problem is what to do with their powder. James already took care of the betrayal, handing Cholmondeley a bloody organ – a tongue? Either way, it belongs to Ibbotson; his corpse is left in the confessional booth, too. Nasty stuff from a wonderful heathen like James Keziah Delaney. Moreover, they move the powder via boat instead of doing it under unstable conditions on the road. Smart. Only a moment is the EIC thwarted, though. They’ll keep coming.
screen-shot-2017-02-11-at-11-20-15-pmscreen-shot-2017-02-11-at-11-25-46-pm


With Thorne dead and gone, buried quick, will James and Zilpha get close again? What does the future hold for their relationship? It doesn’t take long at all for them to fall into bed, passionate, intense. Only he starts to have those awful visions, nearly choking Zilpha at one point. Half-sibling incest is actually the least of James’ problems, and that’s saying something. He’s a maniac, sitting near the barrels of gunpowder and flicking a flint in the darkness. There’s a definite path of self destruction he’s on and has been on for a while, one which only gets worse. And now the EIC has a message for him: “Its war.” Their first move? Blow up the ship James owns. Shit, that is a bold move.
James heads to see Atticus (Stephen Graham), needing a ship and wondering how to keep himself safe from further betrayal. Tough times to navigate. So Atticus helps him tie up loose ends, killing the man meant to be guarding the ship. This prompts another horrific display of violence from Delaney.
Later still, James goes to Helga’s (Franka Potente) place. Drinking. Hoping for an easy solution to his ship problem and finding no answers. He stumbles drunk into the streets, raving to himself in the night. Winter finds him wading in the harbour: “Im not fit to be near you now,” he warns. He has another drink, then spirals into unconsciousness. Waking the next morning face in the mud.
Worst of all, he discovers that he’s killed Winter. Not fit is right. James can’t seem to gain any traction, only falling deeper into his own despair and evil, no matter how hard he tries to escape himself.


What an episode! Perhaps my favourite since the first two, though I dig them all. Can’t wait to see what happens next in the decline of James Delaney.

Taboo – Episode 5

FX’s Taboo
Episode 5
Directed by Anders Engström
Written by Ben Hervey & Steven Knight

* For a recap & review of Episode 4, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 6, click here.


At last we saw James Keziah Delaney (Tom Hardy) he was at a party, stuck between Lorna Bow (Jessie Buckley) and his half-sister, his true love, Zilpha Geary (Oona Chaplin). And then Zilpha’s husband Thorne (Jefferson Hall) challenged him to a duel.
We open as James and Thorne are rowed in their respective boats on a foggy river. They head to a small island, a patch of land where others including Thoyt (Nicholas Woodeson) wait to watch the duel. A gypsy woman owns the land, between two parishes. Perfect place for a duel, no? Pistols are inspected, and all is ready; Lorna’s even walked through the walker to the island without a boat, like a bad ass. According to the “Irish Code of 1777” they go to first blood, no second shots afterwards, and a doctor stands waiting to treat them.
When they line up and the pistols are drawn, a shot from Thorne doesn’t do much to James. Because there is no bullet in his pistol. The young man meant to help Thorne was obviously sent by the East India Company. James remarks that his life is, apparently, “more precious” than that of Thorne. Yikes. Another blow to the man’s impossibly fragile ego. However, when Zilpha sees her husband return she assumes things worked out for the better, but he of course responds with his usual half-paranoia, half-bottled up anger.
At home James is tended to by the ever faithful, ever hopeful Brace (David Heyman), whose faith does dwindle a bit in the face of his master and friend’s unpredictable behaviour. Meanwhile, James confides more in Lorna, whose interest in things is obviously more than just money; she cares. How much, who knows. But she does, enough to not want to see him dead. She meets Winter, too, who also doesn’t want Delaney to die, either. Can they help that? Or is it inevitable?
screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-2-43-51-amThe East India Company discovers their warehouse raided, as James heads off into the wilderness. He catches a man following him: “Are you King or are you company?” Instead of killing the man, he leaves him with a few nasty cuts to tell his friends about when he gets back. Back at James’ new factory Cholmondeley (Tom Hollander) is working steadfast on his gunpowder formula and things are going as planned. Four weeks to go if he’s given an assistant.
Lorna discovers a trunk at the Delaney house, one which Brace seems to hate. He’d rather burn the thing, saying that inside is “the truth.” And what exactly is that? Sounds dangerous.
In town James goes to see Ibbotson (Christopher Fairbank) for a ship’s sail; the man who takes care of the boy, y’know, the one that could be James’ son, or his brother, or whatever. And this will be the chemist’s apprentice during the gunpowder process. Now, that’s an interesting little twist. Of course Atticus (Stephen Graham) is still in the mix. James asks him and his crew about the bounty on information concerning his business around the city. He claims he knows who’s considering giving him up. Then he cuts a man’s thumb off: “I am inside your heads, gentleman, always.” After that it’s off to see Helga (Franka Potente) and her harem, asking for help with the Company men. He offers the thumb up to show he’ll help them, and with a ruthless attitude.


Sir Stuart Strange (Jonathan Pryce) is in a foul mood with Delaney making the Company look like a bunch of idiots. “We are richer than God,” he exclaims while making clear they must squash the problem. Poor Godfrey (Edward Hogg) sits at the table, visibly worried for his safety after aiding the man the Company wants to ruin. At the same time a man from the Company searching for information, threatening one of Helga’s girls, is dispatched bloodily, left with a note on his chest to make sure there’s no misunderstandings: the devil Delaney did the deed.
And what of that devil? The Gothic feel of the series keeps poking its head through, peeking at us, and we’ve not yet understood it all. Which I enjoy. There’s plenty to keep us intrigued, or at least myself, anyways. The mystery behind James’ time in Africa, all he experienced, is gripping me. “Everybodys scared of you,” Cholmondeley tells him at one point; very fitting, and true.
In the big, old house, James searches for the Nootka Sound Treaty, signed between him and the Natives. The land was bought for gunpowder and not much else, which included his mother, something he obviously wrestles with in his soul. His mother wouldn’t play along, so she was sent to an insane asylum by Horace; shit, that’s brutal. And then amongst the papers James searches, he finds that very document.
Back with George IV, Prince Regent (Mark Gatiss), he’s eating and getting fatter, his health truly starting to decline in the decadence of his luxury. His man Solomon Coop (Jason Watkins) continues advising him on the best course of action going forward, concerning the East India Company. Coop believes it best to go headlong at Sir Stuart, as they have a bit of dirt on him apparently.
Again, James meets with Dr. Dumbarton (Michael Kelly) in his cholera-ridden building. Perfect for their clandestine chats. The doctor needs his help with gunpowder, and he knows about the farmhouse, the factory James has going with Cholmondeley. So many spies, everywhere! Everybody has spies, especially an American in London. Not only that, Dumbarton even knows Cholmondeley, too. The plot thickens. The doctor wishes James to make chlorate gunpowder, a process the French attempted and one that created an undesired, massive explosion. There’s more danger now than before, and that’s saying something. Needless to say, Cholmondeley isn’t exactly thrilled with the prospect, him being the chemist and all.


In the Geary household things are becoming worse. Thorne finds his wife fantasising in bed again, prompting him into nasty violence. He beats her badly on the floor. You can already see how things will turn out for him in the end, if you couldn’t already.
George Chichester (Lucian Msamati) is called to Mr. Coop’s office, to talk about a slave ship which sank; 280 souls, even children, drowned at sea. He’s given a bit of offence, as Coop assumes he had relatives aboard, at which Chichester chuckles briefly. He believes the ship was sank deliberately by slavers, supposedly men of the EIC. Coop delivers him a letter from the Prince Regent; good news, he says. Things are about to get dicey. There’s a new commission opened into the sinking of the Influence, the slave ship, and this has Sir Stuart more prickly than you can even imagine. He sets about a frantic rush to set things in place to cover their asses.
James goes to see Countess Musgrove (Marina Hands) about the gunpowder, though she plays coy and talks of Nootka Sound, their overall deal. She pressures James to trust her, something on which he isn’t too keen. Every relationship he has is a slippery one, no matter with whom.
At home Zilpha is confronted by Thorne, with a priest wanting to exorcise the spirit of James that visits her in the night. Now by force they’re planning to relieve her of the demons, or so it seems. A terrifying prospect. The priest goes to work in his madness, basically molesting her as he recites nonsense about “evil come to the surface” and other wild crap. They leave her on the floor, they untie her. But this has done nothing, obviously, to change how she feels. Only that she hates Thorne more. So much so you can see his death in her eyes; it’s coming.
screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-3-30-02-amA fascinating episode, beginning with a bang and ending in a weird, wild way with plenty to offer for a setup leading into the following episode. Next one ought to be another whopper. I’m loving Taboo. Some others seem to think it isn’t so great, but I couldn’t care less. It’s interesting to me in so many ways. Let’s see what comes next.

Taboo – Episode 4

FX’s Taboo
Episode 4
Directed by Kristoffer Nyholm
Written by Steven Knight & Emily Ballou

* For a recap & review of Episode 3, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 5, click here.
screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-9-50-31-pmJames Delaney (Tom Hardy) can’t shake the memories of where he’s been, they’re with him all the time. All the while life does go on. Suddenly men from the Crown are looking for Lorna Bow (Jessie Buckley), so James tells her to “hold out” and he’ll sort everything proper. In the meantime, she’s cast down to some nasty old dungeon with a filthy man putting her in shackles. Solomon Coop (Jason Watkins) arrives to play his part, the rotten bastard. He threatens her physically and sexually in no uncertain terms, despicable to say the least. He urges her to sign it all over to the Crown, or else she’ll be convicted for attempted murder. And who knows what else would happen to her before she ever got into a court.
However, in the face of it all Lorna will not relent. She believes in James. This obviously angers Mr. Coop and as he further threatens her, she’s set free in the nick of time. Brace (David Hayman) is there to pick her up, too.
screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-9-52-33-pmOh, and you know that Sir Stuart Strange (Jonathan Pryce) has his knickers in a twist. At the same time, James is off getting what information he can from the crossdressing Godfrey (Ed Hogg). He gives over what he knows of the latest East India Company movements. Apparently there’s a “blacklist” and Delaney is definitely on it. “They cant kill you, but they will crucify your name, and crucify those around you.”
We’re introduced to an interesting character now, a wild chemist played by Tom Hollander named Mr. Cholmondeley. He gives a demonstration for a crowd, of which Delaney is a part. Later while Cholmondeley is having sex with a fan of his, James turns up awkwardly. But all’s well when gold is literally put on the table. Seems the chemist has a process he’s very interested in.
At home, James walks in nonchalant. “All part of the plan,” his trusty caretaker Brace remarks, a bit pissed. And it’s true, though. No matter the knocks he takes Delaney looks as if he’s got it all figured out, at every turn. How long will that last? He’s juggling so many things, not least of which is the taboo love he has for his half-sister Zilpha Geary (Oona Chaplin). In an eerie sequence she experiences a sexual moment in her bed, as in his own home James does some strange ritual, as if both connected in a spiritual sense across space and time. Weird, yet cool scene. Truly conflicting moment. Then Thorne (Jefferson Hall) shows up, drunk, soaked to the bone. Wanting her, even as he detects she was just thinking of someone else. The whole thing is twisted, though it’s almost most twisted how Thorne wants to have sex with her knowing she’s thinking of James. It’s just… a ball of awfulness.
In other news, James has Cholmondeley aiding with some pigeon and cow shit chemistry. Throw in a dash of human piss on the ash of some fire. Then, in a year – gunpowder! Well, Delaney doesn’t have a year. If they can get some saltpeter, or potassium nitrate, then that cuts the time to a month. So now there’s a new journey ahead. James must go either to Burma, or an East India Company warehouse. Hmm. You know which one he’ll pick.


Great tension in a lot of Taboo‘s scenes. One of which in this episode leads up to a fight James finds himself in when attacked by a massive man on a lonely street. He knocks James totally unconscious with an old school wooden flapjack. Or does he? Delaney uses the last bit of force inside him to stab his attacker with a sneaky knife. The brutality in him comes out at certain times in such unexpected ways: “I told your friends, Nootka Sound is not for sale,” he tells the man as he butchers him with two wood-lifting picks. Followed by a perfectly shot moment where James uses his blade on the man, again. Haunting stuff.
And that’s one of the best Gothic aspects of the entire series. There’s this magical realism at play, but it’s dark. James walks around his ancient house without making a sound, to the surprise and near heart attack of poor ol’ Brace. He conducts strange rituals in the dark by himself. He goes into a near trance when defending himself, descending into tribal violence in those same moments. Truly a mythic quality about Mr. Delaney.
Now James gets an invitation from the Americans. Right now he goes to see Helga (Franka Potente), setting up a few girls for later in the evening. Then he goes to see his well of underworld information, Atticus (Stephen Graham). Thus getting more plans set in motion. That night, James heads over to the East India Company Docks, where he briefly meets Cholmondeley and receives a package. Then it’s back home to fetch Lorna and they’re off to spend their night dancing. All gets pretty awkward when James spots Zilpha, who runs off. And in the midst of all those people he nearly has what might now be known as a near PTSD attack. He finds Zilpha in the garden. They speak, Zilpha worries people know about them. He, of course, references his ghostly visitations in the night. Then Dr. Dumbarton (Michael Kelly) arrives, breaking it all up. He has things to say about their “first resort” – the man Delaney gutted in the street. The Americans want to guarantee safe passage for him, to let James flee with his half-sister, to find anonymity elsewhere. Neither side of the deal for James, despite his own leverage, is turning out to be too spectacular.
The prostitutes James paid for work their magic, providing distraction at the East India Company Docks. All the while Atticus and his motley crew infiltrate the place, killing who they must, and Helga even puts one of the men in a precarious situation herself. Everyone doing their part. At the party things rage, Thorne gets hammered. James looks worried and constantly checking the clock. Luckily Atticus and Co get the job done, blowing a whole through a door in the warehouse. They get what they need, as the soldiers are momentarily stuck in their quarters, and make off into the night. Meanwhile, Lorna’s starting to sniff out the relationship between Zilpha, who doesn’t do much to make things easy on herself.

screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-10-36-12-pm


At the party, James is hauled into a crowd by Countess Musgrove (Marina Hands). His PTSD-like symptoms return. A magician does a trick, during which he’s meant to step into a closet contraption with the Countess. They’re put inside together, and the contraption spins them around so they’re hidden. It’s all a ruse, so that the Countess and James can speak in private. He makes clear that he can be a good deal of trouble, as if he hasn’t already. The Countess doesn’t particularly settle anything, and James is left unsure. The way he looks at everyone around him, seeing the decadence of their lifestyles and the depravity into which they all fall with a bit of drink and music, it’s astonishing. The way it’s shot makes things perfectly intense.
Then Thorne goes mental, drunk off his ass. Until James takes him outside and Thorne proclaims to Zilpha: “You dont call him anything but nigger.” He also says this is “my society” and challenges James to a duel, at dawn. To the death. Whoa.
screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-10-46-08-pm


I never expected the James-Thorne situation to come to a head this quick, nor to this level of madness. Will he accept the duel proposed? Or will his love for Zilpha reach further and allow him to turn it away? Can his reputation stand turning down such a duel? So many questions.
Next episode ought to be intense. We’re halfway through, looking forward to seeing how the plots and the overall arc of James play out by the time the mini-series is finished. Hardy is great, Chaplin is fascinating. They’re all doing fine acting, and the cinematography, production design, all these things are on par, too. Amazing work all around!

Taboo – Episode 3

FX’s Taboo
Episode 3
Directed by Kristoffer Nyholm
Written by Steven Knight

* For a recap & review of Episode 2, click here.
* For a recap & review of Episode 4, click here.
screen-shot-2017-01-21-at-7-53-49-pmWith James Keziah Delaney (Tom Hardy) having been stabbed, and having stabbed back, at the end of Episode 2, what’s left of the man as last we saw he was lying, bloody and dying in an alley?
As far as the attacker goes, the man with the silver tooth, he lies dead on the shore where young thieves pick him clean. They also notice his heart is gone. Eaten by sea creatures, or gone by some other means?
Well James, he’s being worked on by Dr. Dumbarton (Michael Kelly), who stitches him back together again. Luckily the doctor had someone follow him after he left the office previously. He also warns James a bit about his “peacock” swagger around London. James wants word sent to Thomas Jefferson and the US, but Dumbarton’s not particularly forthcoming in his intentions to help any of that. He’s actually trying to get Nootka Sound from Delaney, although that’s not entirely easy, either. James has his own ideas on gaining a “monopolyfor all the tea in China.” This is something Dr. Dumbarton actually understands.
In other news, Prince Regent George IV (Mark Gatiss) gets caught up on all the Nootka Sound business by his man Solomon Coop (Jason Watkins). On the horizon might be war, who knows. Coop tells the Prince Regent of James Delaney, as an “adventurer of very poor repute.” Ought to be interesting to see how George IV and Delaney come together in some way. Could make for some fun writing.
screen-shot-2017-01-21-at-7-56-27-pmBack at the Delaney house, Brace (David Hayman) continues with helping his old friend James with all his madness. They patch him up a bit before the man of the house feels compelled to run off again on another adventure. He’s essentially waiting now for more people to come kill him. “So, we are besieged,” Brace laments, as if to say: here we go again. Another Delaney, same bullshit.
More Atticus (Stephen Graham)! Bless his heart. He and James are doing a bit of business, though Brace believes the man to be a snake. We’ll see. He’s brought James guns, they discuss what Atticus thought was a partnership; could this drive a wedge between them? For the time being James has wounds that need tending to, but his tough guy stubbornness won’t allow him rest. They’re headed off, he and Atticus. They’ve gone to see Thoyt (Nicholas Woodeson). To make a will, supposedly. Then one of the lawyer’s men goes to the East India Company to see Sir Stuart Strange (Jonathan Pryce) about Delaney. Seems he’s left all his possessions and holdings to “the sovereign nation of the United States of America.” And Sir Strange is all but frothing at the mouth over what’s next: they can’t kill him, they must keep him alive. A strange turn of events, though all due to the cunning of James K. Delaney; he’s playing the lesser of a few evils being in danger only from the Americans at this point.
There’s still all the spookiness of whatever James experienced while in Africa, whatever he did while there and so on. In the dungeon-like basement of the Delaney house, James finds Winter (Ruby-May Martinwood). She cut out James’ would-be killer’s silver tooth out to bring him. She wants to be taught “about magic.” He knows that anywhere he goes, especially at home, is no safe place for anyone, especially a young person such as herself. There’s a Gothic feeling about Taboo, which makes every step further into the world of James Delaney eerie, like a ghost story. He wanders through the decrepit home of his father, memories of Africa and witchcraft of some kind in his head. And he ventures further into the house, finding secrets, unearthing messages out of his own past. It’s stunning as a Gothic slice of London, just before the Victorian Era.
Now James tries unravelling the story of the bird, branded on his back. Found in the base of a chimney in his house. All leading back to the trail of his mother, the supposed mad, savage woman.

screen-shot-2017-01-21-at-8-14-08-pm


Sir Strange receives visit from Solomon Coop, on behalf of the King. They speak of Delaney, whose will is no surprise to Coop; they have plenty of spies. “Then you know we have a problem that cannot be solved with a musket or a knife,” says Strange. Well, Coop and the Crown have already received an offer from Delaney about a monopoly. None of this is making Strange a happy man, at all. Coop and the Crown are playing the game, taking land and money where they can. And Coop’s also got an idea about why James seeks revenge against the East India Company so relentless.
Widow of Horace Delaney, Lorna Bow (Jessie Buckley) is sought out by Coop at her latest show. More shady deals, no doubt. Meanwhile, James is off in a dark, seedy part of London where, in drag, he finds Godfrey (Edward Hogg) – one of Strange’s men at the EIC. Ah, a bit of blackmail using the secrets James finds. Everyone has their spies. What’s more is that James doesn’t try to hurt Godfrey, he only wants information. They’ve known each other many years, and Godfrey’s been in love with him most of that time. “Ill protect you,” James tells him tenderly. Wow. A moment of beauty amongst the darkness I never expected.
Zilpha (Oona Chaplin) is written another letter by James. He talks of his plans, of the “greater good” he is seeking. She writes back about the “depth of our sin” in knowing what they did together, whatever physical love they shared, was wrong. The montage of moments cut over the writing and recitation of letters between the half-siblings is EXTRAORDINARY! Excellent score on top makes this one of the best scenes so far in these three episodes. The narration by both Chaplin and Hardy is fascinating, too.
Zilpha: “Please, Im your sisterlet all else lie.”
At the Delaney house Lorna’s turned up to tell James she has a lawyer now, that the house is half belonging to her. Seems like Coop has been up to nasty business. Doesn’t particularly worry James. Until she goes on, about owning half of Nootka Sound, as well. So either James gives up his half of the house, or she owns half of that land. He appears fine with working on things with Lorna. He also feels she’s in danger.


James runs into brother-in-law Thorne Geary (Jefferson Hall), who wants a bit of a chat. He’s interested in the ship Delaney recently bought. Wants to insure the thing for him. But James is already insured, and has no need for the patronising tone of Thorne, or any of the other nonsense he comes in with to boot. “Since you came back our fucking has become almost murderous,” Thorne taunts him. This, as rotten as it is, sticks a dagger in James’ gut.
Later, he goes to meet with Zilpha herself. In a church. And they embrace, lustily for a moment. “Now, I never want to see you again,” she claims. I doubt she’s seen the last of James. At home things are about as equally as awkward with Thorne checking the laundry to see if Zilpha’s menstruating. Weird. She’s really stuck between a rock and a hard place. Thorne is a pig. Even if James is her half-brother, he doesn’t talk to her the way Thorne does, with such a misogynistic disdain.
At Lorna’s next show, James lurks to make sure nobody is threatening her, or trying to turn her to their cause any further. There’s always a plot afoot. When Lorna leaves a woman stops so she can share her carriage. The woman says she’s an “admirer from the darkness” and tries laying lips on her. She’s taking Lorna somewhere nasty, a paying suitor. Only Lorna isn’t a woman with whom to trifle, as well as the fact James is following with a gun. They make off into the night together.
James tells Lorna she must head to Paris, to stay there until all the business with Nootka Sound is finished. At home, he plans for more people to come for Lorna: “And they will come.”


A bruiser of an episode! Really loved this one. Lots of good things happening, lots of darkly interesting things. Excited to see more, and to see what further deception lies in wait for James K. Delaney and Lorna Bow.

Taboo – Episode 2

FX’s Taboo
Episode 2
Directed by Kristoffer Nyholm
Written by Steven Knight

* For a recap & review of Episode 1, “Shovels and Keys” – click here
* For a recap & review of Episode 3, click here.
screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-7-49-42-pmOn the tail of his refusal to sell Nootka Sound, James Keziah Delaney (Tom Hardy) is a man apart after returning from Africa to his old home in London. Over at the East India Company, Sir Stuart Strange (Jonathan Pryce) isn’t happy with those beneath him, with whom he’s charged the task of killing James. And it’s either play ball, or lose your job. Meanwhile, Delaney’s in the wilderness with a shovel; he retrieves a small bag. Of money? Or something more?
Back at the house with Brace (David Hayman), James charges the caretaker with arming himself against whatever’s coming next. We find out more about old man Delaney’s last days, how he rarely ate and only drank beer from a man who sold it for cheap. The paranoia is setting into James, and rightfully so, as his father was poisoned, now there are people fitting to do the same, or worse, to him. A storm is brewing. A bad one, too.
At a ship auction, James puts in a bid of 800 pounds on a merchant vessel. He buys it under the name of Delaney Nootka Trading. Now there are many more knickers in knots. Strange is less than pleased with the news. He wants to understand – “Why did he know so much about the border negotiations?” among other things. Strange comes to believe the Americans are responsible, backing Delaney. But I think it’s all in the name of proper vengeance.
screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-7-57-37-pmJames finds a note with the name Atticus written on it, and he comes across the man whose name he seeks, a rough looking chap named Atticus (Stephen Graham); tattooed from head to toe, covered with butchers blood. They sit and chat. Atticus plans on writing a book, which is awesome. Furthermore, we’re told “when someone wants a man killed they come to Atticus.” We’ll be seeing more of this lad.
Solomon Coop (Jason Watkins) brings a map for whom I can only assume is George IV (Mark Gatiss) in his later years, though the Prince Regent doesn’t approve of the colours for the British ships as blue when the Americans are red. He’s a bit of a crass man, both in terrible health and with an equally terrible attitude. Fuck everybody, is the basic message he sends out to all.
Along the dark harbour at night James runs into a young girl named Winter (Ruby-May Martinwood). She lives at the whorehouse, though insists she’s a virgin. She brings unpleasant news about Helga (Franka Potente) who’s conspiring to do James harm.  So off the pair go – “Are you tricking me?” asks James, perhaps knowing there’s a good chance she is, indeed. Although they have a nice little chat, and Winter feels genuine. She even asks James to take her to America one day. When they come near a ship James swims on by himself. Aboard the boat he lights a fire to blow it sky high.
At home James continues doing what he can to make sure things go smoothly with Nootka Sound. Poor Brace is caught in the folds of the Delaney family mystery, and sees nothing ahead but tragedy. Simultaneously he watches James go through all the same things as his father Horace, speaking on a strange tongue and talking to ghosts. By himself, James comes across a paper from a stage show, the name Lorna Bow circled on the back.

screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-8-14-26-pmOut on the town James goes to see Helga, he tells her about Winter. He susses out that Winter is Helga’s daughter, which is why she doesn’t rent the girl out. This is all a way for James to try bringing her into the fold, to help him gather intel: “Secrets to me are weapons.” Plus, he wants information on the man Winter told him of, the gent with the silver tooth. And off James goes, farther on his quest. He takes a look at the ship he’s purchased and sizes it up. Down below he feels the pull of memory take him  back to the ship he fled, the slave ship; and what other nastiness lies in those memories? Eager to find out. We get snippets of flashbacks to the ship; brief, sparse moments.
What grave sin has James committed? It’s something which haunts him, that’s all we know for sure.
He goes on trying to thwart the plot against his life. In a crude hospital he finds Dr. Dumbarton (Michael Kelly). He’s an interesting character – a doctor, a merchant, and a spy, so James says. This doesn’t impress the man. Soon James makes clear he wants help contacting the government of the United States, and hopes Dumbarton, an American, will facilitate this for him. I guess he won’t entertain the idea, as a gun comes out and James leaves rather than test the doctor’s trigger finger.
Zilpha (Oona Chaplin) receives a letter. Inside, a large piece of crystal (is it a diamond?). Hmm. Interesting. Across town, James meets with the lawyer Thoyt (Nicholas Woodeson), and lays things out on the table. “You are their whore,” he chastises Thoyt for passing information over to the EIC. And the spineless lawyer has nothing, only excuses and defeat.
Later they head over to the division of old man Delaney’s estate. Everything goes to James. this doesn’t sit well with anybody, least of which brother-in-law Thorne Geary (Jefferson Hall): “That legacy is your death sentence.” Surprising everybody, however, James brings money enough to pay off his father’s debts, making some of the men present happy. Then up turns a woman claiming she was Horace’s wife, Lorna Bow (Jessie Buckley). Even has the paperwork to prove it. Thoyt and James are taken quite off guard. Afterwards, the lawyer goes to see Sir Strange and the others, to whom he must confirm the legitimacy of Lorna’s marriage to Horace. They mull over what their opportunities are with this information. All roads lead again to the death of James Delaney.


The tension between James and his half-sister Zilpha is nearly unbearable. During a grand ball they lock eyes, though she is less thrilled about it, so it appears. Even their body language speaks of a more intimate relationship than just half-brother to half-sister. She feels the lure, yet clearly wants him away from her. “Did you really eat flesh?” Zilpha asks him; one of the many rumours about James and his time in Africa. For now they’re kept apart. I feel like this is simply another avenue in life that will possibly bring ruin to James Delaney. Because there are so many angles from which death and destruction come at him already, another one is bad.
Speaking too soon, as James heads out into the streets he’s finally attacked by a random assailant in the night. He’s stabbed in the guts, left to die in an alley. Not before he kills his would-be killer, biting a chunk from their neck in bloody chaos before slumping against a wall and passing out.
screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-8-27-42-pmscreen-shot-2017-01-14-at-8-43-46-pm


What will become of Mr. Delaney?
I loved this episode, a fantastic follow-up to improve on the first one and makes things more intriguing. The writing from Steven Knight is excellent, as usual. He keeps a lot of nice stuff, plot-wise, close to the hip. Letting things unfold in a slow burn here is perfect for the mystery of James and his time in Africa. Can’t wait to see more. I anticipate there are many more conflicted feelings in regards to our anti-hero, and I’m hoping that Knight is headed where I think he’s headed with the story.

Taboo – Episode 1: “Shovels and Keys”

FX’s Taboo
Episode 1: “Shovels and Keys”
Directed by Kristoffer Nyholm
Written by Steven Knight

* For a recap & review of Episode 2, click here.
screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-11-33-44-amWe begin on the open ocean. From a ship in the water comes a boat. In it is a mysterious, hooded figure. They hit land and the figure digs something from out of the ground. He reveals himself as James Keziah Delaney (Tom Hardy). He pushes on to a city nearby where he goes to see a dead man; interesting that he takes the coins from the man’s eyes.
Forgive me, father. For I have indeed sinned,” James tells the corpse. Is this his own father? Or someone else close? I’d bet that’s old Mr. Delaney himself, though time will well.
Between these first scenes, the eerie music of the theme and its montage of bodies floating in the water, Taboo is off to a beautifully sinister start and I already need more.
screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-11-34-24-amLondon, 1814. The streets are alive with the sound of capitalism, and people are all doing various things to stay alive, stay fed. In the midst of the city a funeral procession goes on. Zilpha Geary (Oona Chaplin) ad Thorne Geary (Jefferson Hall) sit for the funeral of her father. At that very moment in walks James.  “There walks a dead man,” someone says, as Zilpha is mortified to see her brother. Another interesting note: James plunks the two coins from his father’s eyes into the collection at church. But there’s a dreadful air surrounding the man, everyone seems to fear him. Next to the grave James seems to be doing some semi-voodoo-type stuff, saying prayers in another language, wiping a red streak of ochre (or something similar) down from his eye like a tear. So much intrigue in such a short time.
Sneaking about while everyone drinks in the pub, James comes upon his father’s lawyer, Robert Thoyt (Nicholas Woodeson). Everyone believed James dead, except for his father, which everybody thought was a product of the madness inherent in whatever illness he suffered through until death. Thoyt tells James of his father’s last holding in America, although says the asset is worthless. Oh, is it now? Well, the male Delaney heir doesn’t buy into all that.
Thoyt: “If America were a pig facing England, it is right at the pigs ass.”
Dark things are brewing. Thorne doesn’t seem thrilled with James’ presence, nor with the prospect of his doing business in the wake of his father’s passing. Also, there’s a strange connection between James and his sister Zilpha; possibly an incestuous tone to their prior relationship. Hard to tell, but strongly suggested. Furthermore, James is a changed man since being in Africa, where all thought him lost. He sees everyone around him almost as a group of vile creatures.


In another, more upper class part of London, Sir Stuart Strange (Jonathan Pryce) rejoices over old man Delaney’s death. He’s not exactly surprised to hear about the son turning up again. He’s already had Mr. Wilton (Leo Bill) try digging up dirt on James. His mother was mad. At 11, he was made a cadet for the East India Company; a “company boy” Strange says, wide-eyed. He reached the rank of Colonel, even. Then in 1800, he fought a lot, set fires, and a ton of other craziness. Said he knew where there was treasure in Africa. In 1802, he left for Africa on his own. He was on a slave ship at one point which sank; could be where we saw him in that first scene.
But now he’s back with business to conduct. This makes Strange and others nervous. They tried dealing with Zilpha, however, James’ return makes that pointless. Will they do something underhanded? Highly likely. Especially considering… the rumours, about James Keziah Delaney.
At his old family home James finds the caretaker, Brace (David Hayman); one of the very few happy to see him. They were, and still are, close. “In all this dirty city, there is no one I can trust, apart from you,” James tells his friend. We find out more of his father, too. That he was bad near the end. He’d crouch at the fire and speak in a strange language to James. I also want to know more of his mother. I wonder if she was from Africa, or somewhere else, because it seems there’s something further to her character than just simply being the mother; she has secrets, I believe. And James, he’s seen darkness, as well.


James starts going through his father’s things. In an old office of his family he finds Helga (Franka Potente) running a brothel out of the space. She offers half of her daily take to stay, and James isn’t interested. Back at the Geary household things aren’t so smooth, either. Thorne wishes his wife Zilpha would be firmer in hand with her brother. “Delaney is nothing more than a nigger now,” he says. I feel we’re going to see a bit of liberation on Zilpha’s part. Whether that’s a good thing is left to be seen. Because there’s a weird vibe between her and James to boot.
The rumours about James in Africa involve evil, witchcraft, all sorts of nasty stuff. There’s also a boy, I assume James’ brother, who was taken in by a family. And we see that there are other reasons Delaney feels the cold shoulder of people in London, not just due to whatever he did while in Africa.
Moreover, James is trying to figure out what happened to his father in the end. All the while fighting off the madness in his own head: “I have no fear to give you,” he rants to himself, walking through the morgue and speaking to corpses. Ghosts, all around him. Particularly an African man, chains around his wrists, bloody from the neck down; he approaches James, who soon repels him. Then back with his physician friend Dr. Powell (Michael Shaeffer), he discovers his father was poisoned.
James: “I know things about the dead
Poor Zilpha’s caught in such a hard, awful place. Her half-brother, returned from his macabre adventures, is making things difficult, as well as her husband Thorne pressing her into making the decisions he requires, lording over her like a maniac. There’s a determination in Zilpha, though. She won’t be pushed over, not entirely, even if it is the early 19th century.


James brings money to Ibbotson (Christopher Fairbank), who took care of the other Delaney boy while the father went mad and James went about his business elsewhere. So, is that his brother, or could it be his son?  Hmm. There’s a gorgeously textured number of layers already in this story, and I feel that this first episode is putting them out in front of us with grace. This should stretch out nicely over the series’ 8 episodes.
Up at the East India Company, James goes to talk with Sir Strange and his brethren. An uneasy meeting, for sure. They all treat him as if he were a mythic figure out of a book. “Do not pretend,” James tells them plainly. They want to talk about Nootka Sound, where old man Delaney’s last property bought from the Natives lies; a point of contention between “His Majestys government and the cursed United States.” What’s fun is that James knows much more than any of these stuffy old bastards ever imagined possible. He has quite a grasp on all that’s happening in terms of geopolitical plans and strategies coming down the pipes. He realises Nootka Sound (a sound on the West Coast of Vancouver Island) will become extremely valuable, both to the British and certainly to the Americans. So the bribe comes out. And that doesn’t interest James any more than the rest of it. Sir Strange gets angry, and the look on the faces of the others spells quite the story, as James rises calmly to leave. Now they’re left with only other options. None of which will come to pass without lots of blood.


At home, James receives a letter from Zilpha. She wants the “secrets of the past buried” and now we see she and James are on two different ends of the spectrum.
What exactly will he do from here?
I, for one, am damn excited to watch more.
screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-12-31-13-pmWhat a great opening episode. Honestly, I expected a lot, and for me this one delivered. Great involvement of artists, from Tom Hardy (and his father Edward ‘Chips’ Hardy), to Steven Knight, to Jonathan Pryce, and of course director Kristoffer Nyholm on this first episode.
So much to come. Join me, as we take a ride with James Keziah Delaney into the dark, gritty spaces of London, and beyond!

BLACK DEATH & Fundamentalist Faith

Black Death. 2010. Directed by Christopher Smith. Screenplay by Dario Poloni.
Starring Eddie Redmayne, Sean Bean, Carice van Houten, John Lynch, Tim McInnerny, Kimberley Nixon, Andy Nyman, David Warner, Johnny Harris, Emun Elliott, Tygo Gernandt, Jamie Ballard, & Tobias Kasimirowicz. Egoli Tossell Film/HanWay Films/Zephyr Films.
Rated R. 102 minutes.
Adventure/Drama/History/Horror/Mystery

★★★★1/2
posterI’m a big fan of Christopher Smith’s work from his eerie 2004 flick Creep to Severance and Triangle a few years later. All of which have their strengths, weaknesses. Overall, they’re awesome. Smith has a will to try and be original.
We see that break through widest with his 2010 film Black Death; a horror-mystery set in 1348 as the bubonic plague ripped its way through Europe. In England, religious superstition runs high when a small village in the marshes is rumoured to be untouched by the black death, so a group of knights, cobbled together with fundamentalists and psychopaths alike – plus one monk whose love for a woman tests his own faith – are sent to investigate. To mad result.
Being a fan of all things medieval, having studied a great deal of medieval literature, Smith’s film is highly entertaining. I feel like it’s close to being a perfect bit of horror cinema, with some history (not all entirely accurate) and action to make it all the more intriguing. Any medieval film has to at least touch on the brutality of the time. Ingmar Bergman did it. The Name of the Rose, too. Even Monty Python in their infinite comedic wisdom gave us “‘Tis but a scratch!”
The best of what Smith does is give us a savage, genuine reflection of the times, allowing for maximum nastiness and a few excitingly bloody moments. Shooting in the most perfect locations with a grainy sort of aesthetic, his directing makes this feel like something you could have seen 20 years ago. But it’s also refreshingly modern, as Smith brings into question whether anything has changed after so many centuries. Still, one group runs around with fundamentalism in their heart to a deadly extent and the other condemns them with an equally heavy, morally ambiguous hand.
So where does it end? Nobody knew then, and nobody knows now, either.
pic1There’s a large juxtaposition of faith in Black Death. Eddie Redmayne’s monk Osmund is unsure of his own at the start. We discover he’s conflicted between the vow of chastity and a woman with whom he’s fallen in love, deeply. This all troubles him, clearly. Everything gets intense when he’s up against men who are so sure of their faith they will kill to honour its tenets. We see various measures of faith, as well. For instance the picture above – a group of flagellants crossing through the river, carrying a cross and brandishing the straps with which they whip themselves religiously (pun intended). Meanwhile, those knights whose faith drives them aren’t exactly pious. They’re murderers. Torturers. Within the shaky faith of Osmund, even he can’t condone what these men are doing. They revel in it, too. Not like their duty is tough. They enjoy almost every last bit. When death comes they smile, as if a reward for their loyal service. Along their journey Osmund discovers a group of villagers about to burn a woman up for supposedly practising witchcraft. When the men fend everybody off, Ulrich (Sean Bean) still kills the woman; one of the first glaring omissions of faith on his part. Through all these men, Ulrich and Osmund included, we’re shown a scale of morality through the eyes of men who believe themselves religious. All the while many of them persecuting people who do not follow their own. On the other side are those in the village, led by the mysterious beauty Langiva (Carice van Houten). They renounce any Christian faith, and in their eyes the knights are nothing more than mercenaries from their God. Part of why I find Smith’s film great is that the atheists are sometimes no less ignorant and brutish than the ruthless knights, which can be the case in real life; some atheists I know are far bigger annoyances than the Catholics and Protestants I know. Many themes are wrapped up in Black Death, although the aim at religious extremism is pretty dominant.
pic2As I mentioned, the blood flows freely in certain scenes. The violence and brutality of the medieval period come across vividly. Practical special effects are the star of the show during the fights we witness. The knights are ruthless, as is everybody else. Those times often necessitated violent conflicts. Some of the nastier moments actually involve early scenes when we see gruesome results of the plague ravaging England; close views of lumps under the skin, bodies wrecked by its spread. Of course, images such as those crop up several times throughout the film. What all out action we get is frenzied, barbaric. There’s a more angry feeling than anything choreographed, as swords fly and gore is spilled on the ground. Later in the plot, the torturers become the tortured, and a few of them are dealt a vicious hand. One in particular involves an amazingly tense, grisly bit of crucifixion. Fantastic. That’s not the end, either. Not by a long shot. Ulrich provides us all with a final showing of macabre entertainment. I won’t ruin it by saying any more.BLACK DEATHThis is one of the best horror films since 2000, by far. I’ll say it loud and proud. Not everything is perfect, not every single bit is tight as possible. Mostly, Smith makes a fantastic piece of horror cinema, one that involves morbid history and a discussion on faith in many senses. Fundamentalism, extremist faith, these sit at the core of the film, and isn’t it great it could bring out these themes in Christianity? Nothing has changed to this day. When you see the finale, how the character of Osmund in particular ends up, you see how people of all walks of life, of all degrees of faith, are tested; it’s how you come out on the other end that matters. Ultimately, we are all judged by the great test of our own personal faiths, whatever that may be. We can either rise to the challenge, or admit ourselves false. Osmund makes his choice, just as many today still make their choices. And they must live with them. You can let religion cloud your judgement. In opposition, you can choose for yourself, judging what you can see, hear, touch for yourself. Black Death is more than horror, action, adventure, any of the tags we pin to its jacket. It is all those things and so much more.

Spike Lee’s Malcolm X: Has Anything Really Changed?

Malcolm X. 1992. Directed by Spike Lee. Screenplay by Lee & Arnold Perl.
Starring Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, Albert Hall, Al Freeman Jr., Delroy Lindo, Spike Lee, Theresa Randle, Kate Vernon, Lonette MCKee, Tommy Hollis, James McDaniel, Ernest Thomas, Jean-Claude La Marre, O.L. Duke, & Larry McCoy. 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks/Largo International N.V./JCV Entertainment Networks/Warner Bros.
Rated PG-13. 202 minutes.
Biography/Drama/History

★★★★1/2
POSTER
Sometimes I’m not a fan of Spike Lee as a public persona, simply because he doesn’t always think before speaking. However, I’m usually a fan of his work as a director. He has a big, wide mind and puts that to work usually tackling issues within the African American community. There are too many of his movies to talk of in an introduction, but suffice to say I do think he is a great director. One of the greatest in his generation, and certainly one of the best African American directors out there, period.
And that’s perhaps why Malcolm X is the film out of his catalogue which resonates most. It isn’t necessarily his greatest. Yet there’s such a poignancy and depth to the work Lee does to portray Malcolm X (played wonderfully by Denzel Washington), not just as a powerful black leader, but also as a human being; one not completely above judgement, one not perfect as some might idealise him. Furthermore, we’re able to get a look at the inside of the Nation of Islam, as far as fiction allows. Many prominent figures in the life of X and circling the NOI, as well as the Civil Rights movement in general, are included, from cameo roles such as Nelson Mandela, Al Sharpton and others, to the portrayals of characters like Elijah Muhammad (Al Freeman Jr.) and Thomas Hagan (Giancarlo Esposito), among more. The nearly three and a half hour runtime of Malcolm X may seem daunting. If you’re sitting down to watch a film, you’ve really got to be prepared for this one, though it’s beyond worth the effort. For me, the 202 minutes rushes by in a beautifully shot and directed, phenomenally acted story that jams a whole man’s life into one screenplay. Not everything gets covered, and there’s also plenty of story to be told after X’s assassination. Above all else, the character of X comes out, as does his struggle. For some this was a stepping stone to learning more about the Civil Rights movements that began raging during the 1960s and 1970s, and onward. I won’t ever forget my first time seeing this one. It’s a classic that stands the test of time, telling an important, crucial story about America during the early latter half of the 20th century, and examining one of the more turbulent times of race relations in the country’s history. Sadly, some of what happened back then is still much too alive and much too well in American society, and if X were still alive he’d likely still be as fiery and determined as ever.
Pic1
The best aspect of Malcolm X is the fact Lee doesn’t attempt to make him above reproach. As a person, X was not perfect. Nobody is, so Lee never tries to make him out to be anything else. Some worried that he would include X’s life before he converted to Islam, and that’s exactly part of what makes this story interesting and intriguing. There’s no sense in ignoring that part of his existence. X himself never did ignore it, he always kept himself open and honest and raw. That’s a huge part of why many did, and still do(/always will), admire him. He was not like most other leaders. He didn’t admit every one of his faults – again, he is only human. But on the whole, he never shied away from his once criminal past, as that in a way led him to where he went after and helped him attain the enlightenment of Islam.
One of my favourite moments happens between Malcolm X’s speeches. A young white woman approaches him, admiring his work, and wondering what a white person without prejudice might do to help further his cause: “Nothing,” he says smiling before walking on. This is such a brief, powerful moment. I’m reminded of watching a recent documentary about the KKK, where they also spotlighted the Black Lives Matter movement and the shooting in Charleston; one scene shows a white woman, with a mixed race child, trying to march in solidarity, who’s told by a black woman to go home – she does in fact leave after, though the black lady gives her a hug and seemingly explains this is just not the time or place for her presence. There’s a stand-off element to X and his feelings for white people. Again, that changed once he went to Mecca on his Hajj, and then essentially transformed into a full blown humanitarian. Yet Lee never strays away from that inflammatory perspective X held towards white American society, and makes clear it’s simply about black people gaining back their power, or retaining what they have, not so much about hating white people. So in that scene where X shrugs the white woman off, it represents the idea that white people may want to help, but black people don’t need their help. They sometimes just need white people to stand back, let them do their thing and settle the issues on their own. That’s not always the case. Particularly in the time of X, there were tough things happening (not that there still aren’t in this day and age), so this was a stance he felt black society needed to take in those times of near racial war. Not long after X, once Elijah Muhammad was out of his life, he made clear the black community had to unite first, then they could work more on white-black relations. That scene with the white girl epitomises this concept.
Pic2
I love the inclusion of the conk hairstyle at the beginning with Malcolm and his buddy Shorty. Not simply because African American culture at the time saw a lot of young black men styling their hair that way. What’s most interesting is that Malcolm X later spoke about conk and its double edged sword-like effect on the black community. On the one hand, conk – because of its threat of chemical burns and scarring, hair loss, et cetera – was seen as a ritual of manhood, going from a boy to a grown adult. On the other hand, he and other African American scholars came to see conk also as a way of erasing oneself in order to become more white. This latter idea is presented in the screenplay after the conk is put in, washed out, then Malcolm admires his new hair in the mirror and says to the men in the barbershop: “Looks white, dont it?” The whole concept of the conk plays into how we see Malcolm ultimately reject everything white. And yes, he said incredibly inflammatory things about white people. But things can change, people can. He didn’t turn into who he was later because of a hate for white people. Effectively, he hated injustice. The white man, the white culture, the white HAIR, it all comes down to representing the white world that he lived in and found himself subject to at every turn, on a daily, minute-to-minute basis. So the conk is simply one element of the white superstructure that Malcolm came to reject. A great inclusion on Lee’s part to show that. It could’ve been a basic scene that shows us where he came from, his beginnings. Instead the scene represents a microcosm of that influence white culture had (/still has) on black people that are brainwashed into feeling as if ‘white is right’ or any of that other sadness. Later when Malcolm is in jail, the conk becomes a sticking point when he’s confronted by an inmate who tries to help him, out of the life of a gangster and moving towards something better, which is the Nation of Islam; a huge influence in his life during prison, as well as afterwards. It may seem a superficial, brief moment in the 202 minute runtime of this epic biography. And it’s a drop in the pond, really. Although, it is highly significant to the overall themes surrounding the film and X himself as a Civil Rights leader.
Pic3
This is one of the best movies of the 1990s, certainly one of Spike Lee’s best, too. Malcolm X is a dissection of a cult of personality. It is a film that attempts to get to the core of what X and his struggle represented. Without all the denial some insist on upholding in regards to X’s personal history, who he was, who he became. The movie is not totally perfect, though it is perfect where it counts. Likewise, Lee concentrates on not inflating X as a leader. Rather he takes an inclusive look at the man, not ignoring the good and the bad alike. He dives into the an era where things were different, and somehow not enough has changed as of this writing in 2016. Watching this movie again now, 24 years after its release and concerning a subject decades older, it’s almost sad to watch and think how hard X would roll over in his grave were he able to witness some of the scary racist madness that’s still going on in the streets of America. Love this movie, love Denzel, and Spike is near his best here. A positively entertaining piece of biography, history, all combining to make a well executed film in every respect.