Peaky Blinders episode 4: Tommy comes up against his biggest foe yet

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H

eard about the guy who got a call from his doctor, and got checked out immediately? No, of course you haven’t. That’s because some people are Olympic gold medallists at sticking their heads in the sand.

It seems that this ducking the inevitable stretches back at least to 1933 for one Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy), who in episode four of Peaky Blinders spent much of his time batting away urgent calls from his personal physician.

But before we get to that, let’s digest the events so far as we enter the second half of the final ever Peaky Blinders TV series (sob).

Warning: spoilers ahead.

In last week’s episode, we saw Tommy and Lizzie (Natasha O’Keeffe)’s daughter Ruby Shelby re-admitted to hospital with TB. Desperate for answers, Tommy disappeared up a mountain in search of his brother John’s widow, Esme Shelby Lee (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) who fed his paranoia of a gypsy curse set on his little girl.

In his absence, sister Ada Thorne (Sophie Rundle) masterfully held up the fort, not only stomaching a nauseating lunch with Oswald Mosley, his mistress Lady Diana Mitford and the Americans (cousin-in-law Gina Gray and her uncle Jack Nelson), but also sorting out Liverpudlian thieves making off with the family’s stash of opium under the direction of union man Hayden Stagg (Stephen Graham).

In the end, little Ruby gave up the ghost to consumption and we left her heartbroken parents on the rain-splattered steps of the Shelby Sanitorium.

Tommy seeks revenge, but lands another bombshell

Another episode, another day, another funeral in Small Heath, Birmingham, only this time it’s for poor Ruby. The docs may have diagnosed TB, but Tommy is still adamant that her demise is down to dark magic. She’s sent off in traditional style, cremated in a gold and red caravan in Charlie’s Yard, by the canal. Rather than confront his grief, Tommy does what he does best and seeks vengeance from “the devils who did this”.

Thanks to Esme’s tip-off, it’s not long before he finds the Barwell camp (last episode we heard John’s widow theorise that the curse was set upon the Shelbys’ youngest member after he palmed off a cursed Russian sapphire that wound up killing a child, Connie Barwell. This eye for an eye business is leaving everyone fantastically shortsighted). Tommy finds Connie’s mother, and unloads a chamber upon the entire camp, rapidly adding to this series’ body count.

BBC/Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd./Robert Viglasky

Series six may be set before the start of WWII but bombshells are dropping all over the place: Esme reveals that Tommy has an illegitimate son, conceived before he went to war. A boy with hazel eyes, he calls himself Duke. Tommy can have him if he gives Esme more gold, giving him plenty of food for thought (it must be an absolute buffet of conundrums in his head).

The planned facist takedown is still on

Lizzie, outraged that Tommy has killed someone in Ruby’s name, is waiting at home. She relays an urgent message from the medics but Tommy’s not in the mood. Instead he finds Arthur (Paul Anderson) slumped in his cellar and the broken men share tales of glories past. They’re both in the dark searching for a shaft of light. Tommy finally ends four years off the sauce with a drink, telling his older brother: “Just a few more yards to go; you’ll change your ways and I’ll change the f**king world”. Bereavement or no, the fascist takedown is still very much on.

BBC/Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd./Robert Viglasky

Deals are struck at the Fascist Funhouse

The world’s weirdest house party kicks off with unsavoury characters pulling up outside Tommy’s country estate. The whole gang’s here: Mitford (Amber Anderson), Mosley (Sam Clafin), Jack Nelson (James Frecheville), and IRA chief Laura McKee (Charlene McKenna). Tommy watches them from the shadows, locking eyes with the hateful Mitford before joining the table and getting down to business.

BBC/Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd./Robert Viglasky

The east Atlantic contingent sweet-talk Nelson, who has the ear of the President, by outlining how they can further ‘the cause’; they see themselves as the game changers who can create a fascist Europe. But the Bostonian only has eyes for one man. He asks Tommy – present at the meeting a mere four days after his daughter’s death – to further prove himself. It turns out all it takes is a simple Nazi salute and “Perish Judah!” to show them all he’s serious. Deals are struck but it all becomes too stomach-churning for Tommy, who ends the meeting and unloads his anger into the night sky via his instrument of choice – a machine gun.

Lizzie finds him hammering at his typewriter at dawn, typing his recollection of the meeting while it’s fresh so that he can pass on the intel onto Churchill. Her urgent note from the doctors is again pushed to one side.

Tommy recruits a reluctant spy

BBC/Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd./Robert Viglasky

We’re not the only ones who caught Mosley and Gina (Anya Taylor-Joy) hungrily eyeing each other up at the end of series five – Tommy clearly has his suspicions too and puts a tail on them both. He catches Gina post-coitus in Mosley’s flat and threatens to tell her uncle, believing he would disown his niece for shagging his business partner: “He’s a Catholic: men do what they like, women do what they are told”.  More shaken by this than the thought of husband Michael finding out (he’s still rotting away in a Boston prison cell), Gina asks him to name his terms. Tommy wants her to be his eyes and ears at the meeting in Berlin between her uncle and German high command, to relay what is discussed and what is decided. Tommy’s caught himself a sneaky double-crossing blonde rat.

A doctor calls for Thomas Shelby

Fed up of chasing an elusive (but dangerous) patient, Tommy’s physician Dr Holford visits him at home. A doctor who chases this persistently can only have bad news, and it is – the worst.

Blood tests show Tommy has tuberculoma at the base of his skull, explaining his seizures, hallucinations, and uncharacteristic bouts of weakness. He’s not infectious but it is inoperable, what with being lodged in his brain, and no doctors will touch him.

How bad will it get? Pretty awful: Tommy will need round-the-clock care, from people that love him very much. How long? He’s got a year, 18 months tops. When Lizzie interrupts the meeting, Tommy introduces Dr Holford as his accountant and sends him on his way. “Was it something serious?” Lizzie asks, unaware a nuclear bomb has just gone off. “No, just a bill I wasn’t expecting”, Tommy replies. “I’ll have to pay it.”

Verdict

It’s all getting so dramatic: it now feels we won’t get through a single episode without feeling shell shocked. There’s nothing like a deadline to focus the mind: the question is, will Tommy succeed in his plan? Fascist-meddling aside, will he take up Esme’s offer of introduction to his illegitimate son Duke, and leave him the Shelby Company Ltd’s crown? How will the rest of the family take the news of the patriarch’s illness – if he even tells them, that is? Deep breath. Roll on episode five.

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

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