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Peaky Blinders - Strategy - Review

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After last week’s bombastic second episode, Black Cats, things took a turn for the slower pacing in this third episode, exemplified by the chess game being played during its runtime. Steven Knight has long been a fan of symbolism over the course of the series and the game itself represented pieces of much larger board. There are characters making moves everywhere, and not everyone can win. Oswald Mosley is one of the key players this series with spies everywhere and is using them as leverage to gain information on the Peaky Blinders as blackmail material. He's smart and every bit as capable as rivalling Tommy, knowing that they’re divided, and he knows exactly how to get inside Arthur and Michael’s head from the word go, and within minutes has them speaking their own language to each other to gain an upper hand. Mosley has a habit now of meeting Tommy’s extended family, and his conviction and planning is going to take something to beat.

So naturally Tommy has a plan, and just like that, Peaky Blinders turns into The Departed. Rather than openly stand up to fascism, he finds himself blackmailed into joining Mosley's new party, The Union of Fascists, which will break from Labour at the turn of the decade. Fuelling the rise of fascism in the country, Mosley is determined to take advantage of it. Peaky Blinders has never felt so timely, never so political. This feels like it has the potential to be one of the most nerve-wracking series of Peaky Blinders yet, with plenty of ways this could go badly wrong. Tommy has approval from the Government to infiltrate Mosley's organisation, but for how long can he count on that as a get-out clause? I wouldn’t be surprised if, The Departed style, Tommy found himself on his own inside Mosley's party without proof of his allegiance. It’s the oldest trick in the undercover cop movie playbook. Things are about to get very messy in both corners of his life, as it won’t be long before the stage setting really hits the fan.

Michael is still feeling the blunt of the accusations being levelled at him by Tommy and wants to move to America to have his baby with Gina and Polly, leaving the rest of the Shelbys behind. Michael is tired of being treated like dirt by Tommy, but Polly knows that you can’t get out of the life no matter where you go. Gina gives Polly a miniaturised statue of liberty, and wants her on board with the plan – with Polly making it all but certain that the statue will reappear as Chekov’s Statue later in the series. Polly has other ideas for now, knowing how hard it is to escape for someone in such a dangerous position as Michael’s, and we’ve seen how scary she can be when someone gets on her bad side with her encounter at the orphanage in the opening scene of the episode where the Shelbys withdrew their funding. Tommy clearly learnt a lot from Polly, and “There is God, and there are the Peaky Blinders”, is one of the better lines of the series and helps Aberama get his vengeance back at the Billy Boys by getting him a route out of hospital, and we get to see Gold’s swift retribution, killing men in Scotland and leading others into an ambush. By the time Arthur arrives in the fastest car around to help Gold get out of dodge, the Billy Boys are ready to go to war with the Peaky Blinders, with Jimmy looking incredibly keen on the idea as his men burn around him.

Arthur himself is having issues of his own, lashing out following a meeting with Mosley who was able to get under his skin and inform him that his wife Linda was seen with another man. Tommy compared Mosley to the Devil and Tommy is very much right on the money, he’s smart enough to know not to get on Mosley's side without going behind his back as a double agent. He’s turned into 007, on a mission from the crown, breaking from Labour despite calls for him to stand up against fascism and its rise. It isn’t going to be a very popular decision among his family, I think, but it’s going to be interesting to see how this double agent tactic plans out. For now, Tommy at least has an advantage over Mosley but it’s unclear as to how long that will last, especially as it’s almost a certainty that Mosley is aware of Ben Younger’s existence, and I'm very worried for Ben, especially as Mosley informed Tommy that he bluntly took care of the journalist problem that Tommy had, which makes sense as that killing seemed like such an untypical Peaky Blinders thing to do. Mosley is a very different villain in comparison to Luca Changretta, and the first time that Peaky Blinders has positioned such a key player from real world history in a major role.

The halfway point still focusing on set up is a worrying sign for the series that could lead to the next three episodes feeling rushed but I have a feeling that things will kick off in the next episode, especially as from what we’ve seen so far. With Lizzie seemingly making peace with her role in the family as Tommy’s wife after the turbulent events of the previous episode - Natasha O’Keeffe needs to get more material than she has had already this season, she’s aced every scene, starting to embrace the gangster life the longer she lives in the home of one - and Tommy still haunted by visions of Grace, Peaky Blinders is getting through a lot of story and there looks set to be plenty more plot for the cast to get their hands into. We also need to learn more about the man who Arthur attacked, was he the man who Linda was having an affair with? It seems unlikely, given that Arthur has never had an easy way in this series and things look set to get worse before it gets better for him, especially given that his victim was an innocent, pacifist Quaker.

This episode reinforced the point that Tommy may be a master strategist but when people don’t do what he tells them to do things get out of hand and can go wrong quickly, we saw this in effect multiple times this season, particularly in regards to Polly, Gold and Michael. Arthur too, lashing out on his own. There’s plenty of drama there and Ada may even end up going against him when she learns of his allegiance shift, although hopefully Tommy will be able to communicate to her that he’s going undercover and the series won't keep Ada in the dark as a way to create further tension between the Shelby clan, as there's more than enough of that already. The days of the family united behind Tommy's election victory seem like a distant memory. Both Arthur and Tommy have taken dangerous paths this episode that will be hard to find easy ways back from. The Anna Calvi score punctuated this series brilliantly and continues to do so, making sure that Peaky Blinders sounds better than it’s ever done before. The question is – will Series 5 be better than it’s been before? The series has three episodes left to do that, which seems almost hard to believe as it feels like it's only just started.

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