‘Peaky Blinders’ Is Still Ridiculousy Cool in Season 5 Premiere (RECAP)
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Peaky Blinders Season 5 premiere, “Black Tuesday.”]
It’s time once again to take a little walk to the edge of town to catch up with Thomas Shelby and co. That’s right; Peaky Blinders is back for another season of dodgy Brummie accents, smoke-filled offices, grimy violence, and slow-motion walks set to contemporary rock music.
Let’s state this up top; Peaky Blinders is a ridiculous show—entertaining and cool, sure, but ridiculous to the point of self-parody at times. It’s pulpy, over-the-top nonsense with a prestige TV sheen. It has all the hallmarks of a top-of-the-range artistic drama: an acclaimed film director in Steven Knight, a strong cast headed by movie star Cillian Murphy, and it certainly looks cinematic. But this is hardly The Sopranos we’re dealing with here — Blinders has about as much depth as a yogurt pot.
The thing is, I don’t entirely mean any of this as an insult. Blinders has always had a heavy dose of overblown theatrics. I mean, when you’re presenting a thuggish backstreet gang as if they’re Birmingham’s answer to the Corleones, what do you expect? Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) is almost a mythical figure at this point. He’s escaped death more times than I can count and continues to gain power and influence against all sense of realism. There is a real chance in the world of Peaky Blinders that Tommy could become Prime minister—though I suppose this isn’t any less believable than the current state of UK politics.
This is where we pick things up in the first episode of the fifth season. When Tommy isn’t supping dope to numb his pain and conversing with the ghost of his dead wife, he’s trying to balance his new political career in Westminster alongside the family business back home in Small Heath. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 has thrown the Shelby Company Limited into choas—and Tommy isn’t exactly receiving the help he needs from his loved ones. “Nobody f**king listens to me,” he gripes throughout the episode.
In hoping to prove his mettle, Finn (Harry Kirton) goes against his older brother’s advice to stay out of trouble and winds up taking a bullet to the arm. Meanwhile, in New York, Michael (Finn Cole) is so deeply buried in booze and drugs that he ignores Tommy’s tip about the impending stock market crash and loses all the company money. Not even little Charlie, Tommy’s son, wants to listen to his horse murdering father—there’s some brilliantly hilarious kid acting from Charlie as he storms off in a series of tantrums.
At least Arthur (Paul Anderson) still takes on board Tommy’s advice, but as chairman of the business, he’s effectively useless. All he is is a fancy title and a public face to take the blame should anything go wrong. Arthur also finds himself torn between his brother and his wife Linda (Kate Phillips), who is beginning to show a ruthless ambition reminiscent of Tommy himself. Linda is determined to see her husband cut loose from Tommy’s puppet strings and start positioning himself at the head of the family.
On the topic of ambitious women, it’s great to see Polly (Helen McCrory) out of her gloomy funk and back in the swing of things. After hitting the blackjack tables and romping with young studs in Monte Carlo, the Shelby aunt returns to Birmingham to help pick up the pieces of the Wall Street destruction. While Pol and Tommy are back on the same side, there are still secrets between them. For example, she knows that Tommy’s former commanding officer Colonel Ben Younger (Kingsley Ben-Adir) is the potential father of Ada’s unborn baby, but she’s keeping that revelation in her back pocket for now.
Secrets are not restricted to the family. The hallowed halls of Westminster are crawling with just as many unseemly characters as Small Heath, including a pedophile judge who pays Mr. Shelby to cover up his crimes. When the judge doesn’t pay in full, Tommy threatens to expose him, in a scene so heavy-handed the on-screen captions might as well have read: WHO ARE THE REAL CRIMINALS? Then, of course, there is the weasely Oswald Mosely (Sam Claflin), a real-life politician who I’m sure we’ll talk about more as his role in the season continues.
As for Tommy, he’s trying to position himself as a politician for the working man, but no matter where he goes, he can’t seem to escape his past. Things get particularly hairy when a journalist for the Times reveals that he knows a little too much about Tommy’s shady activities. Not satisfied with threatening to expose the journalist’s homosexuality, Tommy has two of his goons gun Mr. Levitt down in his apartment elevator — or at least we’re led to believe that Tommy was behind the attack.
It looks like we’re in for another season of Tommy Shelby stacking up enemies and piling on the pressure until things ultimately combust in all out violent warfare. It’s a tried and tested formula, and you know what? It works.
-Aidan Gillen is back as Aberama Gold and is now working hand-in-hand with the Shelbys. I expect to see him pining for Polly again now that she’s back in town.
-Michael has a new American girlfriend, Gina (Anya Taylor-Joy), who looks to be another strong, determined Peaky woman.
-The opening shot of the episode with Tommy riding his horse across the mist-covered hills of Small Heath towards a lone telephone-box was pure Peaky Blinders, and it looked fantastic.
Peaky Blinders, Streaming, Netflix