‘My name is Thomas Shelby, and today I’m going to kill a man’.
No ‘Red Right Hand’ opener this week. Oh no, things are far too serious for that. Epsom Derby Day gallops towards us, and one way or another Tommy Shelby has to meet his fate with a gun. Like a man aware that he may soon die, he puts his affairs in order. Not so much writing a will, as righting wrongs with the will to ensure the Shelby legacy. #wordplay.
He is a man of one expression, Thomas Shelby. His face is like a mill-pond that everyone is trying to piss into and failing. Cillian Murphy barely troubles any of the 42 muscles beneath his decidedly un-gangster-ish flawless skin. Either that’s how little Murphy expresses himself, or that’s how little Tommy Shelby needs to worry as he engages in the series of increasingly tense, increasingly high-stakes conversations and confrontations which make up the finale.
Given the strong betting theme running through the episode, you might say that it sets out the odds, raises the stakes, and then leaves you to frantically worry if you bet correctly that Tommy will make it out of the hour alive.
He has good form. He craftily turns the odds in his favour during the the palm-sweating gamble played with Alfie Solomon (Tom Hardy). By the time the gloriously-realised Epsom Derby rolls round, he even wins the long-awaited high-stakes dick-swinging contest (not literally) between himself and Inspector Campbell (Sam Neill). Tommy even holds all the cards in a tête-à-fucking- tête with sweary breadstick Sabini.
But a gambler’s luck has to run out eventually. The assassination is ultimately successful, but Tommy’s carted off by the ‘red right hand’ of the Ulster Volunteer Force and taken to an open grave in a field. Very considerate. Usually they make you dig your own. It’s a scene so tense that by the time one of the UVF bloodily reveals themselves as a double agent, you likely needed a decent proctologist to remove the sofa cushion from you. No, just me then?
Campbell would be furious at Tommy’s luck, if – in the show’s biggest ever ‘Fuck yeah!’ moment – Aunt Polly hadn’t shot him dead. Dead? I’d think so, but Campbell has form for cheating bullets. Perhaps if there’s a Season 3 he’ll have a tin spleen or an iron intestine, and produce the same noise when he shits as he does when he walks.
Unusually for such a morally grey drama, it feels like the good guys have won. It didn’t make it easy for them. This was a gripping finale: mercilessly taught throughout, right up to the final sentence: ‘I’m planning on getting married.’
Last year’s cliffhanger was a gunshot. This year’s is no less powerful. Will he be making an honest woman of Grace now she’s carrying his child? Or will he further consolidate his empire by marrying Lady May? As she said, love and business are pretty much one and the same with Thomas.
Tommy has transformed the Shelby family into a family business. Now he’s planning on his business being a new family. That’s if Peaky Blinders returns. Based on a strong second season I’m betting on it. But remember the words of Aunt Polly: ‘Everything’s an ‘if’ in this Birmingham life’.
Airs at 9pm on Thursday 6 November 2014 on BBC Two.
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