Bloodshed at the Ballet in 'Peaky Blinders' Episode 4 (RECAP)

Martin Holmes
Spoiler Alert Robert Viglasky

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Peaky Blinders Season 5 Episode 4, "The Loop."]

Remember in my first recap when I said Peaky Blinders is a show so ridiculous it’s bordering on self-parody? Well, episode four is a perfect example of what I mean—a gloriously gaudy spectacle of high drama and over-the-top violence.

It’s party night at Tommy Shelby’s (Cillian Murphy) countryside mansion, and that means a live performance of Swan Lake with an opening act of cocaine and brandy. It’s all brilliantly absurd and self-indulgent—both the party and the episode—and builds to a dramatic crescendo as a gun-toting Linda (Kate Phillips) arrives to confront Arthur (Paul Anderson). Sadly, Linda is gunned down by Polly (Helen McCrory), just as Swan Lake’s Odette falls to her death on stage.

The theatrics are entertaining, no doubt, as is the political dance between Tommy and Oswald Mosley (Sam Claflin)—two ruthless go-getters with differing approaches to business. But Peaky Blinders has pretty much been in rinse and repeat mode for several years now. Every season a new enemy threatens to topple the Shelby empire, and somehow, someway, Tommy wheels and deals his way out of it—usually with bloody consequences.

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This season, in particular, Tommy seems to be stacking up rivals like he’s a professional collector. First, it was Glasgow’s Jimmy McCavern (Brian Gleeson) and the Billy Boys, now its the ominous Brilliant Chang (Andrew Koji) and the Chinese drug smugglers. And, as always, Tommy’s way of dealing with a threat is to do business with it. He agrees to transport heroin for Chang and forms a truce with McCavern, later promising him a cut of the opium, unbeknownst to the Chinese.

Tommy’s ability to use his brain, show restraint, and recognize an opportunity is why he’s in charge of the Shelby company. His brothers are too rash, emotional, and prone to violent outbursts. That’s what got John murdered last season, and it nearly went the same way for Finn (Harry Kirton) and Arthur in this episode. If Pol wasn’t lurking around the corner, Linda would have fired a bullet straight into Arthur’s head for what he did to her Quaker friend.

Tommy Shelby

Photographer: Matt Squire

Polly is more similar to Tommy than the rest of the Shelby clan, especially now that she’s leaning into the Peaky lifestyle. She is willing to do whatever it takes to protect her family and the business, but she’s clever about it. It’s her words that convince Michael (Finn Cole) to take Tommy’s job offer. And I certainly don’t think she agreed to marry Aberama Gold (Aiden Gillen) simply because Tommy asked her to; I suspect the “Gypsy Queen” has her own motives yet to be revealed.

The women, in general, are far more intelligent and in control than the men. Lizzie (Natasha O'Keeffe) is empowered by her past rather than embarrassed, and she confidently (and hilariously) puts down the smarmy Mosely. And Gina (Anya Taylor-Joy) is obviously more switched on than Michael, who continues to wear his naiveté on his sleeve. Gina has her own plans and is clearly preparing for Tommy’s downfall, given her foreboding words and sideways glances with Mosley.

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Then there’s Ada (Sophie Rundle)—mostly sidelined this season—who was smart enough to get out of Small Heath altogether. That said, it doesn’t stop Tommy from appearing on her doorstop and unloading his problems. It’s interesting, however, that Ada is the only person Tommy truly feels comfortable with when unburdening his soul. He certainly hasn’t told anyone else about his death wish and creepy Grace visions. The conversation also leads to one of the episode’s funniest exchanges: “How much [opium] have you got left?” “Seven tonnes.”

Tommy is becoming increasingly nihilistic—a trait obviously recognized by Mosley, given his mention of Friedrich Nietzsche. “I have no religion,” Tommy shares. The troubled Shelby brother slow-mo strides from one bad deed to the next with no real end-goal or sense of purpose. He is merely waiting for the sweet release of death and almost does the act this episode as he peers down from atop a bridge. Never has a man with a death wish fought so hard to survive his enemies. Is this because Tommy can only die by his own hand? He has always needed to control everything.

Tommy and Mosley

Netflix

As another body not named Tommy is added to the pile (though we didn’t actually see whereabouts Linda got shot), one has to wonder how many more people have to die before Tommy accepts his own fate. With all the brewing turf wars and underhanded side deals, I imagine there is a lot more bloodshed to come.

Additional Notes

-The talk of Mosley's extra-marital affairs is based on real-life gossip. In letters donated to the National Library of Scotland, the fascist MP's second wife, Diane Mitford, stated that he'd had multiple affairs during his first marriage to Lady Cynthia, including with his wife's sisters and her stepmother.

-Speaking of Mosley, I'm not quite sure I buy that he'd willingly sign Tommy's document which ties him to the Billy Boys. Mosley seems far smarter than that.

-I've really come to appreciate Aberama Gold this season, and he was in particular form this episode, especially when Tommy told him about the marriage arrangement with Pol. "You sit on your throne and you instruct Polly Gray, who is of far richer blood than you, as to when she can and when she can’t marry..." That's right, you tell him, Aberama!

Peaky Blinders, Streaming, Netflix