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TV Review: Peaky Blinders (Season 4, Episode 3)

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This week’s episode was all about strange pairs — Linda working with the Shelbys instead of against them, Tommy revealing his softer side to Lizzie, and [drumroll please] Polly making a deal with Luca! The world of the Peaky Blinders really is going mad!

First off, let’s talk about Arthur Shelby. Poor Arthur Shelby who always seems to get the worst end of the stick. He’s always been torn between his loyalty to the Shelbys and to Linda, neither of whom have any problem manipulating him for their own ends, so when they decide to team up he never really stood a chance. Though they only have his best interests at heart, Paul Anderson’s taught anguish at the betrayal is heart wrenching.

We really do see the best of his range in this episode, with a cheeky sex marathon followed by a less cheeky murder fest, as well as the weight of responsibility and tradition resting on his shoulders. Shout out to the Art Department for that factory fight scene — the paint was such a brilliant visual touch!

The modernisation process that the Shelby company is undergoing is a fantastic way of adding new tension to the mix — until now, the traditions have been held sacred, a constant, and to toss out that rulebook leads the characters and audience alike into a brave new world without the safety net of familiar boundaries.

And that’s not the only change the Shelby family are dealing with — the loss of John has left a hole that Tommy is trying to fill with baby brother Finn. Tommy’s curt conversation with him about “being a man” helps to drive home another new perspective highlighted in this episode: that the Shelbys are not always liked.

The audience flinches at the callousness Tommy teaches Finn, and that aligns us with some of the many petty enemies the Shelbys have made along the way. The mother of a boy Arthur killed in passing way back in Season 2 is the key to the factory invasion — something the audience no doubt forgot about — but reframed in this context, we can see why there are so many people willing to side with Changretta in this vendetta. And not just because his sharp suits and easy charm are so attractive...

Even though it comes as a shock at first, Polly herself certainly has plenty of reason to do so. Her frustration with her position in the company, her near death experience, the shooting of her son — she lists her grievances early in the episode, and we are left to judge whether they justify her making a deal with Changretta. Would those grievances outweigh her loyalty to Tommy? It genuinely could go either way, and that’s good writing.

On the one hand, she does have a point — Arthur and Finn deserve happy lives, and as long as Tommy is still around, he’ll always be pushing for expansion or getting them all into trouble. On the other, now that the family is reunited, will she really tear them all apart again? We can still hope that she’s playing Changretta, since Tommy needs her now more than ever.

As well as clearing up everyone else’s messes and trying to keep them all alive, Tommy has a whole host of more personal issues to deal with too — what’s new! Well, where viewers may have sensed a burgeoning sexual tension between Tommy and Jessie Eden, it seems nothing can ever be simple for Tommy. The new information she reveals to us about his past adds a new layer of sorrow to this already heavily tragedy-cloaked figure, but also reveals a softness we haven’t seen since he was falling for Grace in Season 1.

In an oddly romantic gesture, Tommy’s trip down to the river with Lizzie perhaps indicates a change in motivation. Maybe Tommy only wants to “change the world” because he’s been made aware of how many locals are willing to betray him, but maybe there really is a hint of idealism under all those layers. And maybe the “red right hand” theme song isn’t so far off either, given the fact he’s been a closet communist all this time! 

The political on the show has always been such a strong undercurrent to the personal, and this reframes Tommy’s entire (very capitalist) rise to power. We’ll have to see how all this plays out — now we’re at the halfway point of the season, things can only hot up from here!

Peaky Blinders airs on Wednesdays at 9pm on BBC Two.

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