Peaky Blinders series 2 episode 5 review

The penultimate episode of Peaky Blinders series 2 races towards next week's finale with characteristic flair...

This review contains spoilers.

With the proper return of Grace, the collapse of the Peaky Blinders gang’s forays into London and pressure mounting on Tommy from Major Campbell, there is a lot to take in during this episode. From both a dramatic and technical viewpoint, Peaky Blinders just continues to race toward its impending finale with confidence, verve and tension.

The opening of the episode is a masterclass of direction and scripting. Frenetic, tense and tight, the opening scenes quickly unfold to show quite how much trouble the Shelbys have gotten themselves in to. Never have the consequences of Tommy’s relentless ambition been made more clear. It is a breathless sequence, jumping between events in London to Birmingham with style. The entire episode has lots of juggling work to do, with several plot threads running concurrently. Much like the opening, the narrative acrobatics required to pull it off are made to look easy when they must have been anything but.

Despite the proverbial plop hitting the fan and Tommy Shelby’s world being thrown into chaos, there is one moment most of the audience will have been waiting for; the full return of Grace. Just as Tommy is at his lowest ebb, with his brother and cousin in prison and the Blinders gang in disarray, she calls. Their reunion is handled exquisitely.

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Full of the hostility and awkwardness you would hope for, the couple’s on-screen encounter is electric. There is no shouting match nor any great outpouring of emotion. Instead we are served a muted, believable reconciliation. As you might expect, they spend the night together in a scene shot in a sophisticated, non-gratuitous fashion. Cillian Murphy and Annabelle Wallis perform with intelligence and deftness throughout.

It works as a direct counterpoint to the indecent proposal Campbell offers Polly to free her son, Michael. The scene is hard viewing, with Polly throwing herself at Campbell despite his lascivious, perverted demands. His demands for her to cry as she seduces him are deeply troubling. Both actors commit to it fully, McCrory effectively showing a decline in Polly’s resolve as the seedy proceedings unfurl.

Campbell becomes increasingly incendiary and despicable with every moment on screen. Propelled by a great performance from Sam Neill and strong writing from Steven Knight, he has become one of the best bastards on television. When Tommy reveals to Campbell that he is about to sleep with Grace, the moment is highly satisfying. Campbell’s descent should also make any eventual comeuppance all the more rewarding.

All this makes the breakdown of Tommy’s relationship with May feel all the more irrelevant. From the moment she debuted, Charlotte Riley’s character feels as if she has been brought in merely to create headaches for Tommy and build further tension between Tommy and Grace. Not much has changed. For a show that has written strong roles for women from the start, she has yet to convince as anything more than an archetype.

With events heading to the racetrack at Epsom, you can guarantee there will be nothing but more trouble coming for the Peaky Blinders. With several plot threads still to resolve, all of which are proving to be engaging, we should have a real treat in store for next week’s finale.

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