This review contains spoilers.
The key aim for the penultimate episode of a good drama series is to set things up for the finale, and leave the viewer wanting more. After the shaky fourth episode, this fifth instalment of Peaky Blinders achieves that strongly, and has left things looking promising for Thursday’s final episode.
This was a definite return to form, with the layered plot lines providing some truly powerful drama and great acting. The episode hits the its stride as IRA representative Byrne pays a menacing visit to Tommy in the Garrison. Their initial verbal exchange was intense, the tension gradually increasing as Byrne reveals his true intentions to be Tommy’s ‘judge, jury and executioner’. As well as bringing the best out of Cillian Murphy and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, the scene was also well shot. The interesting shot choices on display throughout the series have helped give Peaky Blinders a real visual identity.
The looming shadow of the war played its part in the scene that will stick with me – the brawl between Tommy and Byrne. Struck by a flashback of the war mid-fight, Tommy unleashes his fury on Byrne, effectively mashing his face in to the floor of the pub. It was brutally violent and difficult to watch, but never felt gratuitous. It was not subtle, granted, but it will live long in the memory.
Also living long in the memory is Arthur’s suicide attempt. Having his own struggles following the war, naive Arthur is manipulated by his wicked father to give him thousands of pounds to help set up a casino. Driven by daddy issues and the desire to prove himself, Arthur stumbles into the trap, before realising his father wants nothing to do with him. At an all-time low, Arthur’s unsuccessful suicide attempt – and the reconciliation with Tommy afterwards – was incredibly moving. Paul Anderson has been excellent as Arthur so far, and it was good to see him given a chance to steal the show.
All this, and I have yet to even mention Tommy and Grace. The ‘will they, won’t they?’ element of the story is put to bed (literally) as Tommy and Grace finally make love. It was a satisfying end to a well-handled plot line, and the patience of writer Steven Knight to allow the sexual tension to bubble under before this crescendo meant an added level of investment.
Campbell makes his unsettling intentions with Grace clear with an unsuccessful marriage proposal. Sam Neill is brilliant throughout. He veers from a controlled schemer to unbridled jealous rage effortlessly. I can not wait to see what he has in store for the Shelbys in the finale. Neill even elicits sympathy following the rejected proposal. For such a cold-hearted bastard, that is the sign of a great performance.
With so much going on in this episode, the Ada and Freddy storyline was neglected. That story thread has been the least interesting so far, so I was actually quite glad it was put on the back burner to let the other events play out in more detail. I am sure there will be some resolution to Freddy’s imprisonment and Ada’s self-imposed isolation in the finale.
Everything is now in place to deliver a fantastic finale to what has been a very strong series for the BBC. I must say, I can not wait to see what happens.
Read Tom’s review of the previous episode, here.
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