This review contains spoilers.
5.4 The Loop
Shelby parties are cursed. Whenever the Peaky Blinders get their glad rags on to sip champagne, somebody ends up shot. The Russian at Tommy’s wedding, Grace at the Foundation launch, John last Christmas, and now Linda at the ballet. Somebody in that long list of people queuing up to kill Tommy must have cast a spell: no peace for the Shelby family and no tux unsplattered with blood.
Linda was supposed to save Arthur’s soul; instead, the Peaky Blinders infected hers and now she’s their latest casualty. In that thrilling, dramatic scene, Linda’s death was entwined with that of Odette, another white swan for whom dying was the only way out of an evil sorcerer’s curse – purity defiled.
There being no other escape when you marry a Shelby man, Linda committed a kind of suicide. Being almost a match for Tommy when it comes to strategy, she must have known what would come of pulling a gun on Arthur while he was surrounded by his family. The result: another dead Shelby wife and another motherless son.
What a sensational ending that was. The extravagantly filmed and cut sequence was yet more proof that Peaky Blinders has no fear of theatrical excess. Kate Philips’s Linda has been a terrific foil for the family and it’s a shame to see her leave, but that was some exit. When a member of the main cast is written out of this show, they don’t go quietly. (Sometimes, thanks to Tommy’s visions, they don’t even go at all.)
How quiet will Polly’s conscience be now that she’s committed her second murder? The first – killing Major Campbell in series two – made her fear for her mortal soul. By this stage though, the Peaky Blinders don’t see themselves as mortals. As Polly told Gina last week, she no longer lives among human beings, is no longer a human being. And as she told Mosley this week, she’s a queen.
Raving in Ada’s hallway, Tommy said similarly dangerous things, “Mosley had it right,” chief among them. All this talk of being above the rules and forbidding being forbidden to rogues like them will addle his head as much as the laudanum. What will it take to ground him, or is it already far too late for that?
It feels far too late for Arthur’s salvation. Like Tommy and Grace, even if Arthur wasn’t the one who pulled the trigger, it was him and his curse that killed the swan.
Is it a coincidence that The Garrison pub wall tiles feature white swans? Unlikely in a drama as soaked in symbolism as this one. White swans, black barges, black cats, cursed jewels, Dionysus and Apollo … Peaky Blinders exists on two planes – reality and the dream-world.
Over in the dream-world, Tommy’s still being tortured. His subconscious keeps throwing up visions of Grace, this time telling him that her death wasn’t caused by the cursed sapphire but by him. Tommy can deny he’s experiencing guilt all he likes, but what else can it be? The man’s re-growing his conscience, and it’s splitting him apart. How many times has he come close to suicide this series? It’s another week, another high ledge for Tommy. “You have some kind of death wish, Mr Shelby?” asked his new business partner. Noticed that too, have you Jimmy?
The work of Tommy Shelby would be impossible to do with a conscience. If he starts to feel, to empathise with the people whose lives his business wrecks – people like terrified football fixer Billy Grade -, if he starts to see himself as a person among them instead of a god on high, then it’s all over. With a conscience, you can’t sell arms or whiskey or heroin or fascism. No amount of orphanages will displace the guilt.
The Loop saw the Peaky Blinders attempt to discern an individual’s particular weakness in order to exploit it. Temptation was laid in front of premier league goalkeepers and despicable baronets. Michael being Polly’s weakness, Tommy used his return to the company to get her backing on the opium deal. Polly being Aberama’s, the marriage scheme was concocted to put reins on that particular wild horse.
Mosley thought Tommy’s weak spot would be Lizzie’s past, but he was wrong about that. As it stands, the one threat that could truly topple Tommy from his throne is the fact that he’s not a god, but a man. If his human conscience really does re-emerge, it could spell the end of the man we know.