Peaky Blinders series 6 Ep 3 recap: the making of Ada Thorne

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T

hree episodes in, and the final series of Peaky Blinders is gathering pace.

In last week’s episode, we saw the head of the Shelby Company Ltd get into bed with the IRA, UK fascists and “unofficial Roosevelt envoy” American Jack Nelson, a distant Shelby relation by marriage (Tommy’s cousin Michael Gray is married to Nelson’s niece, Gina).

The show also welcomed back ex-Camden bootlegger Alfie Solomans (Tom Hardy) and we set eyes on fascist leader Oswald Mosley’s mistress Lady Diana Mitford (Amber Anderson), “the engine for his operation”, for the first time too.

A worrying development is that Tommy (Cillian Murphy) has been having fits accompanied with visions of a green-eyed ghost from his WW1 days, but at least daughter Ruby seems to have recovered from her delirious fever – that black Madonna round her neck really did the trick. But it’s a temporary salve: we finished episode two on a knife-edge with Lizzie in a state over Ruby’s sky-high temperature, leaving Tommy to start the search for Esme Shelby Lee (Aimee-Ffion Edwards).

With episode three fresh out of the gate, we dissect what happened next – warning: spoilers ahead.

Ruby gets a diagnosis, and it doesn’t look good

The race is on to save little Ruby. At the Shelby Sanitorium, the doctors diagnose tuberculosis but Tommy, in full flight hysteria, is adamant that it’s a gypsy curse, one cast to punish him for a lifetime of misdeeds (I mean, take your pick). He apologises to the alarmed medics: “Sometimes I’m a horse in a crate, just kicking the crate”.

Despite being tested for TB themselves, Tommy and his wife share a cigarette (public health announcements still a long way off in 1933). Lizzie (Natasha O’Keeffe) tries to bolster the morale of both by concentrating on the fact that they’ve caught Ruby’s illness early, and focuses on a plan of action. Treatments include purposefully collapsing a lung before allowing it to reheal, and if that horrendously painful method doesn’t work, it’s onto gold salts, which will make Ruby worse before it makes her better. But hey, at least it might improve her chances of recovery, right? Wrong. No one knows if any of these therapies will vanquish the deadly illness. Still, what other card do they have to play?

Tommy has a plan but needs sister Ada’s help

Our man has a plan, but before he can put his wheels in motion, he needs someone to take control of his bigger scheme – little sister and rock, Ada (Sophie Rundle). Calling her in Mayfair, he explains he needs her to act on his behalf for five days, and that means dealing with some nasty characters (Mosley and the rest of the motley crew).

It’s a short chat and a lot to ask of a socialist, but Ada is nothing if not loyal. Her first job? A “social lunch” with evil incarnate, Lady Diana Mitford, Mosley (Sam Claflin), and The Americans, forming what could be the world’s worst ever Come Dine With Me grouping.

BBC/Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd./Robert Viglasky

Ding ding! Ada and Mitford, round one

Mitford is her usual repulsive self, patronising Ada, and laser examining every inch of her, right down to her Chanel coat. Both the women have done their research and what they’ve unearthed puts Google to shame; Ada notes Mitford’s husband is part of the Guinness dynasty and has done good for the poor. Mitford retorts that the poor are only poor because they spend all their money on Guinness. Well, that and their genetics; apparently poverty is coiled tight into their DNA.

Ada matches every putdown, showing she may just be The Sister, but she’s more than a match for Mitford. When Mitford questions the reason for Tommy’s absence – “doesn’t he employ a governess?” – Ada primly tells her that he is tending to his sick child: “It’s a class thing. He puts his daughter’s welfare before business.” Mitford then performs a stunning 180 and hits on Ada, revealing she sleeps with women too. Ada’s response is to call the Lady a tramp. That’s our girl. They seethe at each other through thinly veiled politeness while they wait for The Americans to turn up.

Tommy finds a familiar but unfriendly face

While Ada takes care of business in London, Tommy drives across the fields like an outlaw across the plains, leaving a trail of dust and cigarette smoke in his wake. He’s tracking Esme Shelby Lee, his sister-in-law and widow of brother John, and finds her in a quarry, but she doesn’t seem to know about the curse on his beloved Ruby. It’s not long before she has a change of heart and leads Tommy to Wild Oak Place, the next stop on his anti-treasure hunt.

BBC/Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd./Robert Viglasky

The Americans Jack Nelson and Gina Gray arrive at Fascist HQ

Back at Mitford’s snake-pit, Mosley has slithered in and they both delight in teaming up against Ada, but she masterfully continues to hold her own. She reminds them that she’s there to introduce Jack Nelson: “Please remember in this moment, in this room, it is the Shelby family that holds the power, because we have the information and the incentives that will make Mr Neslon do what you require him to do. So, when I speak, please keep your f***ing mouths closed.” Ada Thorne, a class apart.

BBC/Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd./Robert Viglasky

The Americans – Jack Nelson (James Frecheville) and Gina Gray (Anya Taylor-Joy) – arrive and immediately begin sizing everyone up. None seem to understand why Tommy should miss this meeting just because his baby girl is at death’s door, so Ada rifles through her filing cabinet of research to bring it home.

She reminds Nelson that his siblings died from consumption, and the room goes quiet. Ada explains that the good father that Tommy is means he’s gone off to search for alternative approaches to save his daughter. Bored by all this emotion, Mitford brings the conversation back to Mosley and his hateful ambition. Ada invites them all to Tommy’s mansion for what sounds like a fascist business conference, where like-minds from Ireland will also be in attendance to discuss the future of Europe. The mother of all showdowns is approaching, folks.

Ada decides it’s time to get Arthur back in business

Stand-in sheriff Ada returns to Shelby Company Ltd HQ to Tommy’s office, where she finds a diary entry for an upcoming visit to the family’s lock-up Liverpool, where their mountain of drugs is being held. Liverpool dock workers are stealing Shelby opium, organised by union man Hayden Stagg, so Ada needs to put a stop to it – and fast.

She recruits lifelong Peaky Blinder Isiah Jesus, who is keeping an eye on Tommy’s factory and who tells her Arthur (Paul Anderson) is locked in the safe to keep him away from the lure of Chinatown and its tasty piles of opium. The man is going to extreme measures to stay clean for a chance to see his estranged wife Linda (Kate Phillips) again, a deal struck with Tommy in episode two. But with Ada now needing his singular talents, rehab will have to wait.

Under Tommy’s rule, Stagg would have had a black star against his name putting him on a kill list, but reasonable Ada decides a plain old duffing up will do instead. She recruits Isiah and Arthur to administer a “civilised beating”. Oh yeah, that’s Arthur: civil.

Lizzie leans on Ada in Tommy’s absence

From one meeting to another, Ada greets a stressed Lizzie in an empty Garrison pub, whisky poured. She gives her the latest on Ruby: the doctors collapsed her left lung, but it made no difference, so they’re starting the gold salt treatments next. It’s a plan, but the last person they tried it on didn’t make it. Lizzie’s trying to be strong in dealing with her daughter’s illness by herself while Tommy is up in the mountains with “gypsies, horse thieves and sorcerers” instead of by his family’s side. Ada can offer nothing but a shoulder to cry on.

Arthur crumbles in the face of his demons

The Peaky Blinders are back in business

/ BBC/Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd./Robert Viglasky

The eldest Shelby brother emerges from his self-imposed prison in a pristine suit, ready for his mission. Isiah has recruited extra muscle for the Liverpool job, a new wave of hard men. We’re finally treated to our first slow-mo gangster arrival of the series when they all turn up at Liverpool Docks, hunting for Hayden Stagg.

After a disappointingly short skirmish with local dock workers (and a regional accent-off), Stagg (Stephen Graham) turns up. Arthur’s just starting to crack on with Ada’s orders for skimming their narcotics when Stagg shares his own story of addiction (morphine for him) and Arthur’s resolve to administer a beating crumbles. Thank goodness for Isiah, who steps in and right hooks Stagg like the good soldier he is. Before he can do any more damage Arthur commands him to stand down and they all leave, barely scuffing their suits. Has the heroin made him a shadow of himself, or is he a man who’s finally been forced to face his demons?

BBC/Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd./Robert Viglasky

Tommy realises a cursed sapphire is behind Ruby’s illness

Out on the plains on horseback, Esme directs Tommy to a gypsy graveyard. Tommy still believes he is being punished for past behaviours (there’s a long list), and Esme agrees: after all, she too has cursed him for the murder of her beloved John, one of many curses in the pile cast by all the women wronged by the Shelbys.

BBC/Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd./Robert Viglasky

She reminds him of the cursed sapphire necklace stolen from Russians aristocrats back in series three, which Tommy ended up palming off to a gypsy who then took it back to her camp, where it killed a child instantly.

Esme speculates that the child’s heartbroken mother laid the curse upon Shelby’s head, with a clause that it would kick in when Tommy’s daughter was the same age that her child died – seven – so that he would feel her exact, searing pain. It’s a gory theory, but one that plays into Tommy’s paranoia. Esme throws him a half-hearted lifeline: “Maybe medicine will work; science is winning against the angels”. Neither of them look convinced. She promises to help in return for a gold reward (“in uncertain times, gold is always certain”) and he vows to reward £10k to anyone who can lift the curse.

Tommy and Lizzie have their hearts broken

Curse antidote found, he races back to Ruby’s bedside through a storm, to find Lizzie collapsed in tear-streaked grief on the Shelby Sanitorium steps.

He’s too late. Ruby has gone, at 5.17pm. And Tommy, lost up in the hills, wasn’t there. Not for the first time this series Tommy looks sucker-punched, another death of a close loved one slipping his poker face into one of complete anguish.

Verdict

Oof, we have to admit, we didn’t see that explosive ending coming. You can usually count on Tommy, like an inverted 007, to scrape through all manner of tight spots (he has five previous seasons of form), and all signs were pointing to Ruby making it through alive, but alas – it was not to be. The question is, will this make our hero more determined to topple his enemies, or will he lose heart and allow evil to win?

Other questions: now Arthur is a clean softie, will Linda take him back? How long before Lizzie and Ada administer their own beating on the wretched Lady Diana Mitford? And will the house party no sane person wants an invite to take place, after this huge blow? Stay tuned for episode four.

Peaky Blinders continues on Sundays at 9pm on BBC One and BBC iPlayer

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