REVIEW – Peaky Blinders, S5 EP3, ‘Strategy’ ★★★★

Photo credit: BBC

There is a scene about half-way through ‘Strategy’ that sees two characters playing chess against one another. The scene isn’t integral to the plot and the board game acts as more of a catalyst for conversation than anything else. Moves are made, pieces are taken and eventually, one of the characters comes out on top. Nothing to write home about. However, what the scene does perfectly is symbolize the current state of play in the ever-evolving world of Peaky Blinders.

Because now, just like in the game of chess, everyone is mobilizing for checkmate.

Tommy is the first to advance. He knows he has to recoup the losses made by Michael’s overzealous handling of the family fortune before he can once again assert himself as rightful ruler of… well, everything. We therefore open the episode on the gangster-turned-politician and Polly Grey withdrawing precious funding from a religious children’s home that they once supported. And before you violently proclaim how evil that ole’ Shelby is for doing this, it is soon discovered that the nuns who have been running the home have also been systematically abusing the young orphans. This is a classic two-birds-with-one-stone scenario and whilst Tommy is clearly trying his best to tip the scales of divine judgement in his favour before he eventually kicks the bucket, I suspect he also wasn’t all too distraught about regaining some much-needed cash either.

Speaking of kicking the bucket, Tommy seems to have developed quite a cough during the course of this episode and, using my basic understanding of medicine, I have reasoned that this could be down to one of two things. It could either be the result of a nasty cold that he’s picked up during the course of his many eventful business trips up and down the country or it could be down to the abhorrent number of cigarettes that he smokes on daily basis. Now, it is no surprise that Tommy Shelby is a keen lover of the tobacco plant (he practically lights one up in every scene he’s in), but could we be seeing the beginning of a Heisenberg-esque lung disease? Mr Shelby is a self-destructive individual by nature therefore it would almost be poetic that he be the one to end it all through the careless consumption of the addictive drug.

Here’s hoping that’s not happening any time soon though because this season’s arch nemesis and all-round bad guy, Oswald Mosley, is also manoeuvring for the win. After the smarmy politician essentially mentally strongarms Tommy, Arthur and Michael during a meeting in Parliament, Mosley cordially invites Tommy to join his new political party; the infamous British Union of Fascists. When the time comes, Mosley wants to use the Blinder’s muscle and influence to help ‘reinforce’ his new ideals. After some consideration Tommy reluctantly agrees. Surely, from this point on we can safely assume that Tommy has lost whatever remaining sense of morals and common decency he had left? Well, no. Because it turns out that Tommy is actually working undercover as an informant for the King of England. The Birmingham industrialist understands that Mosley isn’t like any of the foes he’s faced before. He knows that using brute force would be suicide; Mosley is too prominent a figure and more importantly, too powerful. Fighting fire with fire and using the monarchy to quell the fanatical politician is the smartest play that Tommy has however you just know that, under the control of Mosley, the Blinder’s will be asked to carry out the occasional order that they really wish they didn’t have to.

Whilst Tommy is risking everything by trying to quietly infiltrate Mosley’s party from within, Aberama Gold is resorting to a more head-on approach. The grief-stricken father travels to Scotland and begins enacting a terrible revenge spree on the “Billy Boys” and all those responsible for his son’s murder. It is the kind of hatred that is only reserved for a man who has just been stripped of the one thing he cared about most. In a brutal ambush, Gold along with the help of another local Romani clan, execute a patrol made up of the Scottish extremists. One man is left alive to bring the news back to his fellow “Boys” but only after he is savagely burned by hot tar at the hand of Aberama Gold. Gold now represents a real threat to Tommy’s plans. The “Billy Boys” are in deep with Mosley and any attack on them will be regarded as a direct attack on him and given that Tommy is now, figuratively speaking, also snuggled up in bed with Mosley, it wouldn’t be wise to let Gold’s guerrilla warfare continue. For either of their sakes.

The final big ‘shock’ of this episode (although I suspect, like me, you saw that shock coming a mile off) was the brutal murder of Linda’s new suiter at the hands of Arthur Shelby. Arthur, after learning of the suiter’s whereabouts from his brother Thomas, goes to politely converse with the gentleman before aggressively pummelling his face with a chair leg. This is, of course, because he still has feelings for Linda and doesn’t want her to leave him for anyone else that isn’t him. For anyone that still thinks that Arthur is a loveable rogue and that he’s “one of the good guys”, you need look no further than this scene. I have said it before, and I’ll say it again; Arthur is a rabid dog that’s very quickly getting tired of being on his leash.

‘Strategy’ has many moving parts and unveils to us the true landscape of the war still to come. It is clear that allegiances and loyalties will be tested and the question of how far Tommy is willing to go to get back at Oswald Mosley hangs ever larger. Tommy has sold his soul to the devil; let’s just hope he can stay on the side of angels.

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