‘Peaky Blinders’: Episode 3 review

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With all the deals, promises, and power plays, there’s been an almost Shakespearean quality to Peaky Blinders over the last two weeks. Fewer doths than cloth caps, more fucks than forsooths, but the same web of contracts and contempt as you’d get in an onstage cardboard king’s court. Except here there’s the CGI backdrop of post-war Birmingham with its fire and muck to make things even more shady.

It’s all led razor-cheeked royalty Tommy to become a powerful man – enough that he can burn the King’s portrait in the street  and make deals with the Rozzers. But he’s merely the king of his particular dung heap. And the flies are circling.

The IRA, the Communists, the Police, and the Lee Brothers all want a piece. Even perpetually-boiling Cockney ire kettle Billy Kimber (an outrageously enjoyable Charlie Creed-Miles) with whom Tommy plans to merge his business, is less an ally and more another bluebottle who threatens the Peaky Blinder’s tenuous hold on Birmingham.

And while Tommy’s live Powerpoint presentation to Billy Kimber at the Cheltenham races goes well (Big returns! Kerching! Sorry Billy, no ClipArt, but plenty of coins!), you can already see the cracks in the foundations of his own success. He’s trying to keep everything stable – work and family – and all the while his own authority is being undermined by the opiates and the quiet desperation of his own post-War demons.

He can’t effectively deal with Freddie ‘Fucking’ Thorne (for that seems to be his middle name) and fulfil his promise to Sam Neill’s elder prune Inspector Campbell, and nor can he keep tight enough control on his own family. He’s having to make concessions everywhere, and were it not for Cillian Murphy’s languid fjords of eyes, you might be able to see panic in Tommy Shelby’s face.

‘Everyones a whore,’ he tells Grace, ‘We just sell different parts of ourselves’. And Tommy’s sold so much of himself to so many to keep his position of power that he probably only has his appendix and his flat cap left. And just enough of his heart to betray him

For it’s love, the thing that Tommy says he’s most immune to, that’ll surely prove his undoing. Enchanting and redoubtable Grace (Annabelle Wallis) – looking far too Cosmo for this century, let alone the last one – has seemingly burrowed into his heart almost as far as the nightmares about tunnelling Germans.

What a pity she’s been sent to bring him down. We’d wager she’d be Tommy’s downfall, were there not so many other strong contenders. But then Tommy does say betting is for mugs.

Aired at 9pm on Thursday 26 September 2013 on BBC Two.

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