New Enemies Come for Tommy's Throne in 'Peaky Blinders' Episode 2 (RECAP)
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Peaky Blinders Season 5 Episode 2 "Black Cats."]
It’s easy to make enemies when you’re on top—just ask Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy). There is a revolving door of foes and would-be usurpers just waiting in the wings to take a shot at Birmingham’s favorite son. The street-gangster-turned-politician has survived hellbent coppers and the Mafia in the past, but now a dangerous new adversary has entered the fray, bringing with him a violent thirst for power.
Jimmy McCavern (Brian Gleeson) and the Billy Boys—which sounds like the name of a pub folk band (and these boys do enjoy singing)—blazed a destructive trail through this episode, brutally murdering (and crucifying) prizefighter Bonnie Gold (Jack Rowan) in front of his father. The gang’s mission is simple: expand their business into Small Heath and take over Tommy’s racetrack operation—while continuing to confuse international viewers by adding Glaswegian accents to the already hard to understand Brummie voices. Thank god for closed captions!
It’s perfect timing for the Billy Boys to make their move with Tommy’s attention split between Birmingham and Westminster. There is pressure coming from all angles, much of it of Tommy’s own making. When he’s not been questioned by police over the murder of The Times journalist, he’s been schmoozed by the slick-talking Oswald Mosely (Sam Claflin), who clearly has designs to use Tommy and his rhetoric for his fledgling fascist party. It’s also strongly suggested that Mosley hires the Billy Boys as heavies for his political rallies.
The situation in Small Heath is even more of a headache for Tommy, and I’m not just talking about little Charlie’s god-awful violin playing. Booby-trapped fields, ominous death threats, and black cat dreams have Tommy’s paranoia in overdrive. He can sense a traitor in his midst and all fingers point to Michael (Finn Cole), who returns from New York with the ambitious Gina (Anya Taylor-Joy), now his lawfully wedded wife and mother of his unborn child.
An offended Michael shouts down the accusations of betrayal from Tommy and Arthur (Paul Anderson). He claims to have been set up by the IRA and has never had any intention of overthrowing the Shelby hierarchy. Is Michael telling the truth? Maybe. Probably. Polly (Helen McCrory) certainly vouches for him, but that could simply be her protecting her son; after all, Michael has always been Pol's blindspot and now that he's blessed her with a grandson she's bound to stick by his side even more. Also, there's no way Michael could have known the whereabouts of Aberama Gold’s (Aiden Gillen) campsite, so even if he does have eyes on Tommy’s throne, there is another backstabber in the mix.
It’s not just the family business that Tommy is losing his grip on; it’s family itself. Lizzie (Natasha O'Keeffe) is sick of his s**t—the criminal activity, the violence, the murder. When will it stop? Even Tommy’s own daughter is afraid to be around him. Lizzie reminds us that she is no delicate wallflower; she can be just as shrewd and strong-willed as her husband. In fact, she makes it clear to Tommy that the house and business are in her name, and should anything happen to him (“either at your own hand or someone else’s"), then she will be the one left in charge.
Arthur gets a similarly deserved tongue lashing from his newly sober better half. I love Linda (Kate Phillips) and her utter refusal to be “a good f**king wife.” She can clearly see through the Shelby facade and is one of the few characters who will speak her mind. She basically gives Arthur an ultimatum: leave Tommy, or she’ll leave him. When a drunken Arthur stumbles home after harassing a poor pub singer into fixing football (soccer) matches, he’s greeted by a letter on the mantlepiece. I think it's safe to say that Linda isn’t coming back.
The Shelby empire is beginning to crumble, and the scavengers are coming from all corners to pick up the pieces. Tommy, though, is a survivor, sometimes to his own detriment. He fights even when his brain is telling him to stop. This is a young man who fought in the war and is still traumatized by what he experienced in combat. He fights now to maintain control, even though he claims to “hate the f**king life" because the other option is to stop and live with his thoughts—and that doesn't bear thinking about.
-Ada (Sophie Rundle) is a character that has kind of been sidelined in recent seasons, and she's still mostly on the periphery in this episode. However, it was enjoyable to see the Shelby sister's barely contained disgust for Mosley and his sleazy "charm."
-The Billy Boys are based on a real-life gang, and that song they sang is still an anthem today at Glasgow Rangers soccer games. It's also true that the gang provided security for Mosley's fascist rallies.
-"You know in my head I still pay you for it," Tommy told Lizzie in the most brutal line of the episode.
-Poor Johnny Dogs (Packy Lee) took the brunt of Aberama's vengeance-seeking violence. I don't believe for one second though that Johnny is the one that sold him out to the Billy Boys.
Peaky Blinders, Streaming, Netflix