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Disclaimer: This is an unofficial tour of non-studio filming locations and I have no connection with the show, the BBC or the cast.

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Peaky Blinders - Series 5 Episode 1 review

Warning 

This review obviously contains many SPOILERS - proceed no further if you haven’t seen this episode.

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

"Borrowing" a Peaky car during filming in Liverpool!

Well, you can all rest easy in your beds now – Cyril, Alfie’s bull mastiff, has found a new home with Tommy! If I’d had £1 for every Tweet I saw worrying about what happened to that dog, I’d be richer than Tommy! It also explains why part of the filming of the Tommy/Alfie shootout I saw down on Formby beach was cut before it reached our screens. When I saw it being shot, Tommy walked away and called out to a passer-by that something had happened on the beach before walking away dog less. This scene and the unfortunate extra ended up on the cutting room floor as Steven Knight must have had 2nd thoughts and decided that Tommy would show his softer side after all. An entire fan base can now sleep at night!

Mind you, it’s just as well that Tommy has a new canine friend as no-one else in his household appears to like him as S5 begins. At a family meeting first his new wife Lizzie stands up and walks out on him, followed shortly after by his sister Ada. But best of all is young Charlie, Tommy’s son, who is giving him some serious attitude. I love it when characters stand in the way of the force of nature that is Tommy Shelby and in Charlie, Tommy has a critic he can’t exactly have “taken out”. And Shelby Jnr. is not happy about Tommy euthanising his horse, albeit for humanitarian reasons rather than it looking at him the wrong way, “You’re not God!” snaps Charlie at Tommy, who isn’t entirely sure! Although less aggressive, his toddler daughter Ruby is also telling it like it is and asks him if he’s crying as they look down at the equine grave.

Stroppy kids aren’t, of course, Tommy’s only problem this series. The cinematic opening scene pans out to show Tommy riding along the edge of a valley to a phone box which conveniently rings just as he gets there. It’s brother Arthur, who gives us the historical context by telling Tommy about the Wall Street Crash which has wiped out a considerable part of the Shelby fortune. Back at the gypsy camp in the valley, Tommy vents anger at Michael whom he’d instructed to sell the shares before the crash, to no avail. This was probably not Michael’s smartest move as he still has a black mark against him for not warning Tommy about Luca Changretta’s ambush and losing Tommy his fortune is unlikely to endear him any further.. Especially if he is to return with a new wife, Gina, whose American nationality is sure to upset Polly. (Imagine having the formidable Aunt Pol as your mother-in-law!). Meanwhile young Charlie is smarting about his horse and having none of his father’s explanations. Parents everywhere will probably relate to Tommy’s frustrated “No-one fookin’ listens to me!”

 

Ever canny, to protect his “good name” as an MP, Tommy has handed over the running of the Shelby company to Arthur, a situation which his wife Linda feels they should take advantage of. But with Arthur showing more interest in the quality of the biscuits and letting Tommy pretty much dictate what’s going to happen, Linda too walks out. The Peaky women do a lot of flouncing out in this episode, unwilling to follow Tommy’s party line. More power to their elbows!

Tommy of course is now at Westminster as MP for Birmingham South. Nominally a Labour MP, I can’t be the only one who was dismayed last series to see him secretly spying for the Tories and betraying Jessie Eden and her comrades. Will he redeem himself this series? If his speech, questioning why it should be the workers who pay for the Crash rather than the bankers and establishment figures who caused it, is anything to go by, there may be reason to hope. Certainly, writer Steven Knight has hinted at a coming redemption for the Chosen One. But Tommy certainly won’t be putting on his slippers for a while yet: he orders the assassination of a Chinese paedophile which is carried out by Isiah (a role which has been recast and is now played by Daryl McCormack) and young Finn who disobeys Tommy’s order to hold back (does no-one listen to him?) and takes his first bullet. When the politician who hired him for the job tries to renege on their agreed price, Tommy shows he’s not left the streets behind him by his threats and blackmail. Westminster as a whole doesn’t impress our Tommy – he sees the same corruption, jostling for position and bargaining that he saw as a gangster in Small Heath. Similarly, his first encounter with the snooty Oswald Mosley also fails to impress him with Tommy listening to his overtures then walking wordlessly away. History (and advance press coverage!) tells us that we will be hearing more of Mr Mosley. Presumably at some stage, Tommy will have to decide whose side he’s on and although he might play Mosley along for a while, I think a fascist Tommy would be a step too far for most Peaky Blinders fans.

"Detroit or Liverpool? Attention to detail is everything!

As if losing most of his money, having to put up with a stroppy son and flouncing women as well as circling fascists weren’t enough, Tommy seems to have acquired an as yet unknown new enemy. In a nail-biting finale to the episode, tommy finds himself lured into a field near his home. Fans relief at discovering that pre-show publicity photos, which appeared to show a crucified Peaky Blinder (possible a bit much for a Sabbath time slot on BBC1 more usually occupied by Poldark) were a red herring is short-lived as Tommy realises that he is in the middle of a field booby-trapped with mines. As a war-weary Tommy picks his way delicately through them, he (and we) are horrified to see young Charlie, taking a break from his violin practice (take that in for a moment – Tommy Shelby’s son plays the violin – hopefully really badly to really annoy his Dad!) running into the field to tell his Dad that there is a phone call for him. Will Tommy be dealt the hardest blow yet and lose his last link to Grace?

Talking of Grace, in this episode she reappears as a sort of ghostly Jiminy Cricket, acting as Tommy’s conscience and advisor. At the preview, this was a huge surprise which we all vowed to keep under our hats although it may not have been to you since actress Annabelle Wallis started dropping heavy hints about a week before, that she and Cillian would soon be working together again. I hope it came as a surprise to some of you at least,

Another welcome return is that of the Garrison Pub, not seen since S2 and now with a new manager, layout and art deco windows. No longer do the patrons scatter at the entry of Tommy – as far as they are concerned, he is now a cross between Robin Hood and Father Christmas – the perfect constituency MP! Maybe in acting it, Tommy will actually become it!

Lest we think he has morphed into a Brummie Mary Poppins, we are soon back to classic Tommy, when he meets with a prying journalist – the same one who covered the burning of the King’s portraits in S1 and who, like Tommy, has gone up in the world. Rather unwisely, for one who claims to know Mr Shelby’s reputation in Birmingham, he starts to grill Tommy on his less than wholesome past. Tommy naturally has done his research and is able to blackmail him into silence about his homosexual encounters. I admit I am baffled why having achieved this, Tommy later has him assassinated in a life – seems a bit like overkill if you pardon the pun! Me and my friend were present outside when they filmed this shooting (over and over) and I can assure you those guns are loud – we jumped out of our skins!

Nursing a secret (with nursing the operative word) Ada has a decision to make. She is pregnant by Colonel Ben Younger, who, to make matters worse in less-enlightened times, has made the poor choice of being born black. Ada has to decide whether to keep the child (as usual, the Peakys “know a woman”) and whether to tell the Colonel he’s going to be a dad. She’s already confided in Polly and Tommy already knows at least that she is pregnant because her doctor reports back to him. (Seriously Tommy – spying on your sister via her doctor? Bit creepy but you work in mysterious ways). With possibly a mixed-race niece or nephew on the way, his friendships with Colonel Ben Younger and Isiah and Jeremiah Jesus, Tommy will find his loyalties severely tested if he joins forces with Mosley.

This episode is well up there in the list of best opening episodes. It has all the elements that drew us in in the first place: edge of your seat tension, beautiful cinematography and lighting, first-class acting, touches of humour, references back to earlier episodes and a still conflicted anti-hero. For despite the distance he’s come, Tommy still raises his fist to one of the mines, tempted to end it all by smashing down on it – he still isn’t nearly as at peace with himself as his outer countenance would suggest.

Still to come, hopefully in Monday’s episode …

Will Charlie survive the real-life game of Mine Sweep?

What sort of reception will Michael get when he arrives home to explain why he didn’t sell the shares when instructed with an American wife to boot?

Will Ada keep the baby and tell the father? Will Mosley be Godfather?

Will Arthur stand up to Tommy or Linda? Or become a biscuit taster?

Will Tommy decide he’s had enough of them all and vanish in a gypsy caravan with his new (man’s) best friend, Cyril?

 

Plenty of excuses to keep watching – as if you need any!

Julie Kershaw

@PeskyBlunders (Twitter and Instagram)

www.peakylocationstours.com