In the name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful.
Finally am making myself get around to rewatching while text-commenting on one of my favourite television shows, Peaky Blinders.
Doing a reaction video is not feasible due to copyright-related issues so I am doing a text reaction of sorts. If I get too lazy, I might just add in a little opinion or two. Hopefully, I will stick to this because we all know how easily I drop a project. Ha! All of my Peaky Blinders post from here on will contain spoilers so stop reading if you would rather start off the series as a virgin audience. Just a disclaimer before I proceed: Thoughts are mine alone and I may always be wrong because interpretations I made are based on what I know and my knowledge may always be limited or flawed. I am always happy to open my mind to better ideas.
Oh! And this seriously has got to be my longest blog post…ever. I don’t blame ya if ya stopped reading. It’s too long! But there was just too much to unpack!
I find it interesting that they started the first episode of the first season with the sound of a baby’s cry before interlacing the harbinger of a busy Chinatown while the screen is still black. What I interpreted from this choice of introduction is that symbolically, a baby denotes the start of a life so that connotes the start of this story of the Peaky Blinders. With the immediate introduction of the background sounds of a busy place after the sound of the baby’s cry, it connotes the general living environment of people during that time setting. You are basically thrown into a not very peaceful environment and you pretty much have to learn how to survive as soon as you are able to.
Then the scene opens with a guy and a lady, carrying a crying baby, frantically running through what looks like my understanding of what Chinatown looks like. So this imagery kind of further assert the connotation I derived from the introduction. By the way, I like the backdrop a lot. A little reminiscent of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End‘s version of Singapore. I have a little gripe with that because Singapore is multiracial and I have always felt that Malays were the natives of the land. Out of my intense love for Johnny Depp, I was willing to close one eye…although my eyebrow is still raised. I am just going to assume that they decided to only feature “Chinatown” as one part of Singapore because, hey, who could argue how well the aesthetic of “Chinatown” works in any filming?
Back to the scene. The characters arrived at a place where the lady asked another lady dressed like her if she had enough milk to spare the baby, to which she said yes. At this point, I feel like both ladies are implied to be in the service industry (could be massage, could be prostitution, could be escort or hostess, or could even be waitressing). They were not dressed scantily. They were actually dressed decently and so similarly that they might be wearing their uniforms. They both looked pretty young to be having babies. Plus, there was no indication that they were married. There was an older man who joined them but I do not think they are their husbands. Rather like their bosses. I feel like they were single moms. Understandably, crime was rife at that time so they could also be victims of rape and contraception was pretty much non-existent back then.
The older man enquired and the guy we were introduced to said “they” needed the lady who was initially carrying the baby. Then the camera zoomed in onto the older man’s face. There was a prolonged look of dread and slight fear on his face. Then the screen became black again. I like this; the looming of a mystery as are all left wondering what on earth is going on and who on earth are “they”? And are we supposed to be afraid of “them” as well?
Slowly, our ears are permeated by a slight ringing sound, you know the kind of whistling in your ears when you take the elevator to a really high floor or after the plane you are on lands? It is followed by background music that is filled with a lot of dread as well as the clip-clopping of a horse. The scene reveals a very sexy man (excuse my bias) riding a beautiful black horse. You would think all the ladies and children in the scene would be flocking towards him. I mean, who could resist such a sexy man? He was very well-dressed and very well-groomed and looked very respectable. However, all the women and children in the scene ran away from him and hid in their homes instead. So that answers one of our questions on who was striking fear in the hearts of people. This was further attested when the two characters we were first introduced to appeared before him. However, we still do not know anything else about this man and the sort of things he had done to be so notorious. The Chinese man introduced the lady as a fortune teller to the guy riding the horse. Hmm, looks like sorcery is going to be another theme in this story. She pretty much poured out red powder on her palm and blew it towards the horse’s face and it neighed. For a moment, I thought we were in Coldplay and Beyoncé’s Hymn For The Weekend music video and they were all gonna blow more coloured dusts and dance around.
This all unfolded with all the women and children watching while they were hiding. People are so curious, eh? One of them remarked that it was a spell to make the black horse win a race. Aha! Now we can guess that one of the man’s vice involved horse-racing, which easily implied race-fixing and gambling, but we do not really know yet.
However, our suspicions were confirmed after the first two characters ran away from there and the guy riding the horse addressed the people who were hiding, specifically the women. He told them the name of the horse, Monaghan Boy. He also told them the name of the place of the race and the time. He encouraged them to place a bet on the horse but to not tell anyone else. This is the first hint to us of the intelligence he had. People will always do what you tell them not to and later on in the episode, he would reap the result he sought. After that, he began to ride away and before he even left, the women and children came back outside, possibly relieved that they were not in any actual danger. On the surface, this fearsome guy seemed generous. The fact that he knew they were hiding and watching, yet did not reprimand them for doing so, shows that he was not actually interested in being notorious. He just wanted to help better the lives of the poor. So this complex character of the guy riding the horse will be developed throughout the series.
We finally are informed of the place and time period of the story right after the guy finished addressing the hiding ladies: Birmingham, England 1919. It explains the thick accent. It was flashed while the opening theme played. I love the opening theme song.
The part of the lyrics that were sung seemed quite fitting of the character as the camera zoomed in on him. The guy rode on to, I assume, the riverside and we could see that industrialisation was the main commercial activity of the town. There was a Black priest preaching on the street and he tipped his hat as the rider passed by. This little act is important to pay attention to because that priest will play a role later on in the story. For now, we know that the rider was not a racist because he greeted the priest Black. You have to strain your ears a bit to catch it. The rider then passed by three blind men walking in a single file, with the first relying on a guide dog and the rest holding the shoulder of the person before them. I like the little three blind mice kind of homage, which they made it three blind men instead. The rider dropped some money into the tin that one of the blind men was holding. This further emphasised the generosity of the character.
A gentleman greeted him as ‘sir’ and here is the best part, police officers greeted too. Think back, guys, to how much the people feared him. So do the cops fear him? Or respect him? Or respected him out of fear? So this character’s complexity was nicely woven out throughout the introduction. We just cannot figure out whether the man was an angel or the devil and this will prove to be an important theme to the story.
We also learnt the name of the rider as Mr Shelby. When you address someone in such a way, you are showing respect and familiarity. Again, what exactly had the rider done to command such respect?
Also, it is kinda interesting that the first name drop in the show is the name of a horse rather than the name of a human. Are the people in the show so vile that even animals deserve more respect than them? Just something to think about but I could be reading too deeply into it.
It has not even been 5 minutes of the episode and there is still a lot more to unpack. I am so screwed. This is definitely not a very good idea of mine. Hahaha! I think I spent too much time describing the scenes but the thing about pilots and introductions is that they set the story. There may be hidden clues or foreshadowing or pertinent key points that will prove pivotal to the development of the story. For the love of this series, I shall press on.
We then see a few more guys greeting him after the title of the series flashed on a black screen as Mr Shelby walked towards presumably his home. So at this point, we have been introduced to the main locations where the story takes place, from “Chinatown” to his home.
There was no indication of anything suspicious in Mr Shelby’s home. Just a very cosy-looking home. However, he was greeted by the sight of a young boy throwing a cigarette into the fireplace. He called out the name of the boy, Finn, which gave us the second human name in the story. Finn then name-dropped Arthur, whom at this juncture, we only knew he was “mad as hell”. Mr Shelby then picked up the cigarette Finn was smoking before he tossed it away. He then asked him what he knew anyway about hell as a 10-year-old. I did not realise it at first but Mr Shelby was actually questioning the sort of language Finn used, which was more adult-like. At this point, we now know that Finn was impressionable as all children are. So this gave us an idea about the type of people that surrounded him, maybe including Mr Shelby as well. Finn was defensive and said he would be 11 years old later that week. It shows that Finn wanted to quickly grow up and be part of the adults around him. It is pretty interesting to see that Mr Shelby did not scold him for both smoking and using adult language. This shows us he had a really soft spot for children. Later on in the series, this will be something highlighted again.
Mr Shelby did not say anything further and simply walked to some sort of black drapes in the room. After pulling apart the drapes and pushing open the double doors that were behind them, we then finally see the real activity going on in the house.
I have very limited knowledge on the sort of activity presented but it confirmed the suspicions we had earlier. Mr Shelby was indeed involved in the collection of bets on horse-racing. There was a flurry of activity in his secret workplace. Someone was writing the odds on a blackboard. Lots of coins were scattered on a table. Looks like business was going good for Mr Shelby. Then someone called our Mr Shelby as Tommy. Now we know the rider’s name was Tommy Shelby. This person was showing Tommy a book while telling him that a lot of bets were placed on Monaghan Boy. Guess that magic spell scene worked for Tommy. Besides that, he did tell people to have a bet but not to tell others and I believe he banked on having them spread the word actually. People believed him and started betting on that horse. Tommy’s ability to predict the behaviours of people will prove advantageous to him in time. Tommy then commended this person for the good work and addressed him by his name, John. We do not know much of his relationship to this John guy except that they were colleagues.
Then an angry looking man called out to Tommy. Tommy was being summoned into an office. Tommy closed the door behind him and the angry man poured alcohol into his glass. Drinking in the morning? Well, we know it was morning because the police officers greeted Tommy good morning. What does that suggest? It could be that this angry man was an alcoholic. Perhaps the alcohol was making him angry all the time. It is important to note that no alcohol was offered to Tommy. Tommy was also not invited to sit. Tommy had to stand so he leaned against the wall. This was a subtle sign that he did not fear the anger of the man as his body posture was relaxed. This angry man was trying to establish himself as the more superior man but was he really the superior one?
Apparently, this angry man was upset with Tommy for getting involved with the Chinese. This angry man felt the Chinese have their own ‘cutters’ aka gangsters so perhaps he just did not want to have any sort of dealings with them because he did not want unnecessary fights with any Chinese gangs. Tommy defended his actions calmly by saying the lady who did the “powder trick” was rumoured to be a witch and that might just convince people to bet on his horse. We can sense the power struggle between the two but Tommy calmly said they agreed to let Tommy be in charge of “drumming up new money”. We learn the angry man’s name is Arthur. The same “mad as hell” Arthur that Finn referred to earlier. Arthur explained his contention. He knew that Tommy was trying to fix a race but he wanted to know if Tommy knew this would irate a dude named Billy Kimber on top of inviting trouble from the Chinese. This established that there was a bigger fish than Tommy and Arthur’s business. Looks like Arthur feared Billy Kimber by saying that he had a whole army with him. Is Billy Kimber a gangster leader? Seemed so. Tommy seemed to have had enough and coolly ended the power struggle by laying my all-time favourite smackdown without even having to raise his voice,
“I think, Arthur. That’s what I do. I think so you don’t have to”.
He then started to walk away from a defeated looking Arthur before Arthur totally took a different course of conversation by saying that there was trouble coming from Belfast. Tommy could not even be bothered by it even though Arthur angrily said he would call a family meeting later that night.
Then the scene cuts to an old guy on a train. Is this the trouble from Belfast that Arthur was talking about? Old chap was looking at a top secret dossier regarding a robbery from the BSA Munitions. I had to google the acronym. It stands for Birmingham Small Arms. They were known for manufacturing military weapons in real life and their air rifles are still manufactured and used to this day. We can now establish that this series is somewhat magical, somewhat criminal, and somewhat historically inspired. The folder contained a list of prime suspects. The first profile showed Arthur dressed in his military uniform in the photo when the camera zoomed in. Then the camera zoomed into his details. Name: Arthur Shelby. Aha! That means Arthur is related to Tommy since they share the last name. We even get their home address: 6 Watery Lane, Small Heath. We also learn the term I struggled to use in identifying their criminal activity: illegal bookmaking. Yeah, there we go. Arthur was also involved in gangsterism and racketeering. His gang name was Peaky Blinders. Aha! So the title of the series is based on the name of his gang so we should expect the story to revolve around the characters in this gang. It was questioned on his profile as to whether he was the leader of the gang. Pfft. Thanks to the earlier scene, we know who was the real leader of the gang. I guess people assumed Arthur was the leader simply because he was the oldest.
Then the old chap pulled up another profile showing a very handsome (excuse my bias again) Tommy Shelby in his military uniform. We learned that his actual name was Thomas Shelby so looks like ‘Tommy’ was a nickname. He too lived at the same address. Perhaps we can start assuming that Arthur is the older brother. I think if you focused hard enough on the screen, you could make out the words “Arthur Shelby (sibling)” or it could have been “(brother)”. I could not quite make out the word. Unlike Arthur, Tommy was known for protection and armed robbery. Either Tommy was recently involved in the bookmaking scene as per his earlier conversation with Arthur about “drumming up new money” or he was simply in charge of other gang activities, namely the two that were mentioned. Additionally and interestingly enough, Tommy was mentioned to have been honoured with the King’s Medal for Gallantry. That is a pretty high level military appraisal. Looks like our Tommy is so complex to the point of being an entire paradox. A gangster with gallantry.
Then the old chap placed both photos of Arthur and Tommy side-by-side. Looks like they would be his first two targets.
The scene then cuts to some guy being celebrated by a small crowd of men. This guy addressed the crowd warmly as ‘comrades’. Were they all involved in the military? He almost immediately answered our question when he did a poll on who fought at France and everyone in the crowd raised their hands. I am not a history buff so I had to google things up. We can assume that they all fought in World War I and one year after the war ended, all these men found themselves in unfavourable living and working conditions, which felt unfair to them given the fact that they put their lives at risk in the war, all for naught. The guy roused the crowd and decided it was time for them to strike.
The scene cuts back to the old chap looking at the previous guy’s photo. Uh oh, looks like he was a suspect too. We learn that the guy’s name was Freddie Thorne. No relation to the Shelbys so far. This is further asserted by his different abode location: 26 South Street, Small Heath. He worked as a BSA Union Convenor. Like a union rep so to speak. However, the blip on his record was that he was a communist agitator from the Marxist group called Bolshevik. Needless to say, I had to google those. If you look hard enough, you could also see the mention of “Thomas Shelby (friend)” on Freddie’s profile. So that is what we know of their relationship. Old chap then placed Tommy’s photo side-by-side with Freddie’s and we can see that their uniforms are the same compared to Arthur. Could they have been friends through the same division in the military? Could they have fought side-by-side in the war at France? That would indeed explain Tommy’s medal. How come Tommy got one and not Freddie?
Gonna move forward a little bit. Man, this post is long!
We see Tommy walking into The Garrison Tavern and he spotted Freddie but he had no intention to interact. Huh, we thought they were friends but friends do not act aloof towards each other now do they? Or have they surpassed superficial acknowledgment? The bartender eagerly gave Tommy alcohol and said it was on the house. We derive that The Garrison Tavern was likely to be under Tommy’s protection. Nonetheless, Tommy took out his money. What a decent chap he had been so far. Freddie decided to approach Tommy and ordered another drink from the bartender before speaking. Maybe he was irked that Tommy refused to acknowledge his presence. Freddie took one of the coins that Tommy had placed on the counter to pay for his drink as payment for Freddie’s order instead! I guess Freddie knew that Tommy was supposed to get free beer anyway. But this also highlights the form of social philosophy that Freddie held onto. He raised a glass to Tommy but Tommy refused to engage still. Freddie then took Tommy’s peaky cap, revealing two blades stitched to front of the cap and called it the “Crown of the Prince”. So this was actually a chide by Freddie in relation to the sense of rulership that Tommy seemed to have over the place or even Small Heath. Freddie then chucked Tommy’s cap back on the counter and bet Tommy would soon become a king. Does that mean Freddie knew Tommy well enough to know that Tommy was trying to climb up the social ladder? Did Freddie somehow felt that Tommy wanted to overtake Arthur as the leader of the Peaky Blinders and work his way up? Tommy finally gave in and replied, “You don’t bet.” This conversation is important to pay attention to because there were a few aspects to it. Firstly, despite their seemingly frenemy status, Freddie was willing to share insider information that had been troubling him. He revealed that his name was found alongside Tommy’s in a list with regards to a robbery of national significance. Freddie’s instincts on Tommy proved to be better every minute. What Freddie did not know, which we as the audience already did, was that it was national military weapons that were stolen. Once again, Tommy was nonchalant, just as he was to Arthur’s warning about trouble coming to them. This brings us to the second aspect: how to lie to people when you are hard pressed for the truth. Freddie’s intuition that Tommy had something to do with it was not wrong but Tommy deflected immediately by attacking Freddie’s choice of living in the same way that Freddie had attacked Tommy’s in the opening of their conversation. This brings us to the third aspect of the conversation: how they fell out as friends. Looks like Freddie disagreed with Tommy’s gang ownership/rulership ways, which resonated with the idea of institutionalised bodies that had done so little for the general public and Tommy disagreed with Freddie’s social activism, which propagated through what Tommy believed as “false hope”. While Freddie was ideological, Tommy was more pragmatic and Tommy believed he had higher chances of being more successful than Freddie in bettering the lives of people.
Freddie got annoyed and wished he had allowed Tommy to die from being shot in the war. Looks like Freddie sort of saved his life. Probably also the reason why Tommy received the medal. Then this is where we see the dark side of Tommy, a repercussion of surviving a war, when he replied that he wished Freddie had done so. We will see this dark side of Tommy taking over him in future seasons. Right before they were interrupted by a man storming through the doors of The Garrison, Freddie had this little look of sympathy or just that look of being able to relate to what Tommy was going through.
Onto the man who busted in from the front doors. We are now introduced to Danny, who seemed to have an uncontrollable sort of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Arthur drank, Freddie rebelled, Tommy had suicidal thoughts, and Danny pretty much went on rampages until he was snapped out of his psychosis. Tommy and Freddie had to pin Danny down. Tommy reminded him they were back home in England, they were no longer in France, and that Danny was no longer an artillery shell, no longer a “whizzbang”. Once Danny became lucid and was sent on his way, Freddie took another jab at Tommy by saying he should pay for repairs since the bartender had paid for Tommy’s protection. He even quipped that maybe Tommy should shoot Danny in the head like “they do with mad horses”. That seemed to be the standard practice of putting down a hysterical medically unfit horse, it seemed. However, before Tommy could lash out at Freddie for insulting those near and dear to him, both Danny and horses, Freddie added that Tommy might need to shoot Freddie in the head one day. This kind of alluded that Freddie was low-key admitting to Tommy that he became sorta mental too after the war, which wrapped up their earlier conversation nicely. Tommy did not reply but showed a reaction that seemed to say he did not want to deal with that shit right now. Maybe Tommy really did not enjoy killing, as notorious as his reputation might be. It was just not his style.
Fast forward a little, we see John held at gunpoint by a lady. She berated him as she had seen Finn playing with it and almost injured another lady named Ada. So are they all related? John was sporting a peaky cap with a noticeable razor blade attached to it, confirming he was part of the Peaky Blinders. I think it is safe to say that Finn was a Shelby and for a lady to be outraged that Finn was playing with it, showed the strong relationship she had to Finn. So is Aunt Pol all of their aunts? John must have been a Shelby too then since the gun was easily accessible by Finn. John too had a drinking problem and it was revealed that he had fathered four sons but was without a wife. Not sure if the wife was dead or what.
Fast forward, we are in the Shelby’s family meeting headed by Arthur with Finn eavesdropping and peeping through the cracks of the double doors. This meeting confirmed that John, Arthur, Aunt Pol and a lady, presumably Ada, were all Shelbys. We continue to see the power struggle between Arthur and Tommy. Arthur was trying to bring information to the family but Tommy seemed to already knew more than Arthur did. Tommy expressed that the “trouble”, a police chief inspector, simply came to Small Heath to “clean up the city” of social movements that rebelled against the government. However, the rest of the Shelbys were not as keen on this reasoning offered by Tommy. At this point, we know that Tommy was trying very hard to hide something. Aunt Pol seemed to pick up on this and tried to get the truth out of Tommy. We witness a brief power struggle between Tommy and Aunt Pol, who asserted that the entire enterprise was part of women’s affairs. Who else had to run the business while the men were away at war? Tommy took back the reigns by saying the men had returned, implying that the men were now in charge.
The next scene is impeccably done. The priest we saw earlier in the introduction was narrating religious statements that aligned with the arrival of the old chap in a horse carriage. The decadent and degenerate images of Small Heath juxtaposed with the biblical statements and the old chap taking in his newfound environment dramatised the sort of trouble this old chap was bringing with him to the criminals in Small Heath. This scene also gave a nice segue into the next scene where Aunt Pol seemed to have summoned Tommy to the church she was praying at.
The way Tommy announced his arrival seemed to give that vibe that he really did not want to have to talk to Aunt Pol out of fear of losing his secret. However, Aunt Pol could tell he was hiding something. The best part was she told him, “God and Aunt Pol are listening”. The fact that Aunt Pol placed herself on the same level as God showed that Aunt Pol was fully aware that Tommy should be afraid of her and that he was answerable to her. It is funny how all the men we have seen together with Tommy could not get an answer out of him — Arthur, Freddie, and John yet it was a woman who could and this woman had no romantic sway over him. So is Aunt Pol the real leader of the Peaky Blinders then? Tommy told everything to Aunt Pol, how their men accidentally stole the military-grade weapons that were reported robbed in the news. Aunt Pol was clearly clever as she managed to put two and two together and smacked Tommy for lying and potentially doing something stupid. For once, Aunt Pol addressed him as Thomas, clearly reprimanding him for what she felt was a foolish act. She tried to get him to dump the arms somewhere the police could find so the trouble would blow over. However, we can sense Tommy was not interested in that but he decided to buy some time by saying that the men would not move contraband under a full moon. Aunt Pol probably sensed this too and brought up what we feel about Tommy eloquently and accurately:
“You have your mother’s common sense but your father’s devilment. I see them fighting. Let your mother win.”
As Aunt Pol left the church, we finally see Tommy showing, for the first time, a humanly expression of relief. He probably was far more afraid of Aunt Pol than he had led on or he was just happy to be able to evade someone difficult. However, I think he was just happy that he got to proceed with his secret plan because after leaving the church, he was walking with a smile. That secret plan most likely did not involve dumping the guns.
I have been working on this post since 22 June but there is still 30 minutes of the episode to go and I am exhausted. Gah!
Next we witness a rendezvous between Freddie and Ada. Aha! Maybe Tommy did not like Freddie dating his sister, which could have cemented their frenemy status. Apparently, the reason Ada dated him was because he was the only one unfettered by her notorious brothers. Freddie said he did fear them and Ada said he loved her more than he feared them. There was no response from Freddie so we do not really know if he genuinely loved her or was using her. When she asked when they could date publicly, Freddie deflected the same way Tommy did by asking her about the family meeting she had earlier. Ada shared her concern about the newfound knowledge she had about the “trouble” coming to Small Heath. So we can kind of gauge that maybe Freddie was using her for information on the movements of the Peaky Blinders. Freddie who might have known that it was not his communist activity that set the “trouble” to Small Heath, low-key laughed at Ada’s naivety. We will see Ada maturing as the series progresses and I did enjoy watching her grow. He said the same thing of Ada, calling her a princess, just as he had called Tommy a prince, in the “kingdom of Small Heath”. Ada did not catch this subliminal insult unfortunately as all girls in love enjoy being called a princess but we all know she will grow to
have the balls of be as gutsy as Aunt Pol. Perhaps he found Ada’s naivety charming as they kissed after talking. This created another nice segue into the theme of romantic relationship as the screen now shows a lady in green walking through the dusty street of Garrison Lane. We will know much later in the series that she would become a vital character to Tommy’s life as a lover and later on the mother of his child and his legal wife. She came to The Garrison asking to be a barmaid. In retrospect, she definitely had engineered her way into the place close to the Shelbys where she could monitor them seeing as how she tried to get the bartender to employ her as a barmaid by saying she grew up in Galway, where his mother was from to. When that failed, she pretty much charmed her way by singing fabulously while pouring out the disgusting spit pots into a bucket. She won him over seeing as how she could still hold a tune perfectly despite touching and smelling the foul liquids and odours.
Moving on, the old chap was finally at the police station where he addressed the force members there, in an extremely threatening and condescending manner. He listed his observation of the decadence of the streets starting with his observation of the treatment of babies. (Remember, the series started with a baby’s cry? Quite thematic.) He berated all of them for allowing corruption to ruin the force, clearly stating he trusted none of the local police members and even brought on new faces that he trusted to the force. He named the three enemies of the force, the first being the Peaky Blinders, second being the IRA Fenians, and third, the communists and other social rebels. The fact that the Peaky Blinders outdid the other two evils and was seen as the greatest evil further emphasised the amount of influence the gang has over the entire street and once again asserted Freddie’s likening of the gang to a kingdom. The old chap knew the Peaky Blinders’ modus operandi (MO), which admittedly would instill fear in many hearts:
“Your masters, the men who you touched your cap to, The Peaky Blinders; the vicious, merciless gangs who’d blind those who’d see and cut out the tongues of those who talk.”
I fucking hate the old chap based on the way he took over the police station. So rude. Hahaha! But that’s just me.
Next, we see Arthur tryna have a good time with two ladies at the cinema. Unfortunately, it was cut short when he was accosted by policemen. He was aggressively manhandled and taken to some unkown place where he was brutally beaten up before he was made to face the old chap. Ugh. Man, I fucking hate the way he touched Arthur, kinda perverted, before he dealt a blow on him. What I do like is the camera work. When the old chap was saying to Arthur that it was his way of introducing himself, the camera focused on his hands that were clasped together, suggesting that this person was hideous. Clearly, he had a hidden agenda. At the same time though, it also felt like he enjoyed beating Arthur and was trying hard to restrain himself from continuing the assault on Arthur. So perverted. So much for painting a righteous picture of himself. He continued to torture Arthur when he could not get Arthur to admit to knowing about the robbery. Sadly, our poor Arthur was simply clueless yet he had to go through such torment. Even more sadly for Arthur, even the old chap remarked how much of an animal Arthur was and lacking any wits about him, as though being called out subtly by Tommy earlier was not enough. The old chap was still happy to have made things painful for Arthur despite not getting the information he needed. He even offered to work together with Arthur to resolve the issue of the robbery. Now this is a pertinent moment to take note of because throughout the series, the theme of betrayal will be prevalent. From here on out, we may start to gather evidence as to whether Arthur would ever be capable of betraying Tommy and the family or not.
Oof, another 20 minutes to go.
We find ourselves back at The Garrison with the newly employed barmaid questioning the crowd’s daytime presence in the tavern. The bartender explained the patrons were on their way to St. Andrews. I love the little moment that ensued. The barmaid asked if they were going there to pray and the bartender chuckled before saying that St. Andrews was a football ground. We could see that sheepish grin on the barmaid where she felt a little foolish for not knowing. Luckily for this dodgy barmaid, she was a woman. If it was a man who questioned, cover would have been completely blown.
Then… the moment we have been waiting for: the barmaid’s first encounter with Tommy. Tommy looked a little stunned. There was a brief pause after he called out to her. The bartender had waved the barmaid off earlier when she was trying to get employed by saying she was too pretty. Guess her good looks caught our Tommy off-guard. He placed his order of rum and this is when we learn her name was Grace when the bartender addressed her. Tommy could not help but stare at her as she went to fetch his order of rum. When she was back, she told him that Harry mentioned it was free for him. Aha! So the bartender’s name is Harry. Tommy paused for a moment before asking:
“Are you a whore? Because if you’re not, you’re in the wrong place.”
We then see a very annoyed Grace suffering from the indignation of being called a whore. Once again though, Tommy paid for his rum despite Harry insisting that everything is on the house for him. Sighs. He is a guy we just hate to love. Haha! Grace grumbled to Harry about Tommy a bit and Harry cajoled her a little. We could see Harry being quite protective of Grace. Maybe the Galway thing did plant a little sentiment in Harry towards Grace. Harry ended the conversation by saying that since Tommy came back from France, he no longer looked for female companionship. This shows us the extent of emotional damage that the war had done to Tommy.
So now I wonder if Grace was never harrassed at The Garrison because the patrons were simply not actively interested in female companionship after they came back from the war. Hmm.
We are then taken back to the Shelbys’ abode where Ada and Aunt Pol were treating a bleeding Arthur while John looked on. We learn a little bit about Ada’s background through their conversation. Ada had taken one first aid lesson at the local church but she was thrown out of the class for giggling. Clearly, Ada’s character was still maturing. She was mature enough to have attended a lifeskill lesson on her own initiative but still immature in managing herself. We then see a concerned Tommy come in to help Arthur with his facial wounds. Arthur relayed his encounter with the inspector and even the offer the inspector made to work together on the robbery. Clearly, Arthur was a very direct person just as the inspector had described. This made me think that Arthur would have no ability to betray the family even if he wanted to. But it is still early on the series so we will have to look out for his development. Tommy remained quiet and interestingly, Aunt Pol did not disclose the secret that Tommy had revealed to her. This further proves why Tommy was more willing to trust Aunt Pol compared to the rest of the family members.
Grace’s beautiful singing voice greeted us in the next scene with a brief glimpse of Ada walking to somewhere at night. The bar patrons started singing along with her but stopped when Tommy walked in. Yet, Grace did not stop. She was either really brave at this point or she almost blew her cover again. Like how could you not be afraid of Tommy when everyone was supposed to? Maybe Grace’s bravery inspired Harry to stand up for her against Tommy by saying they had not have any singing in the bar since the war. I reckon The Garrison was a merrier and livelier place before the war. Back when problems were easier, I suppose. Tommy coldly replied, “Why do you think that is so?” Not sure if he was suggesting that Harry did not serve in the war and so did not comprehend why people stopped singing. Maybe it was one of those rare times we get to witness Tommy’s bitterness because the only time we saw Tommy being more expressive than his usual stoic self was during the church scene with Aunt Pol.
Next up, we see Freddie and Ada ending their love-making session. I like how Ada was seen walking past The Garrison earlier when Grace was heard singing. It seemed to emphasise Ada’s boldness in seeking Freddie right under the noses of her family. It was almost as though Ada was trying to get caught red-handed because we already knew that she had wanted her secret relationship to go public.
Right after they were done, Freddie immediately asked more about the family meeting they had. Ada seemed to have finally caught onto Freddie’s frequent digging by reproaching him. She felt he was only trying to prove a pointabout himself by being with her. Then we have that little moment where Freddie, for the first time, expressed a desire to reconcile with Tommy.
“One day me and Tommy will be on the same side again.”
In retrospect, he was probably already trying to do so seeing how he was the one to approach Tommy in The Garrison despite Tommy not acknowledging him outrightly. We did see Tommy sneaking a few glances at Freddie. So maybe deep down, Tommy wanted to reconcile with Freddie as well. That would be an interesting thing to think about.
We are brought back to the Shelby house and we see Tommy preparing an opiate smoke for himself before he goes to sleep. He started dreaming and we see three men going through a dark tunnel from afar. We see Danny clearly first in that dream as he came towards us before seeing Freddie clearly. Then we see Tommy clearly. Right after, it became a little hard for us to see but we know that there was a struggle going on as we hear Freddie shouting Tommy’s name. Then someone was strangling a soldier from behind, maybe Freddie strangling a Nazi soldier. We see the enemy soldier being stabbed and I think it was Danny who stabbed him. The images are too quick and very unclear to me. It was hard to make out exactly what had happened. My guess was that the enemy attacked Tommy first before Freddie and Danny retaliated. We could now somewhat make sense of the earlier scene in The Garrison involving the three of them. More importantly, shed a bit of light as to the bond that was formed amongst them. It also explained Freddie’s desire to reunite with Tommy perhaps, since this dream scene came after Freddie saying he and Tommy would be on the same side again…as they clearly had been before. Then Tommy woke up from his nightmare so we know that the opium was either losing its effect on Tommy or that was about the only extent of relief that the opium could give him. Basically, man still got issues la. Interestingly though, this segues to another Danny scene. Danny found himself in a manic state once again and tried to gather himself outside a closed Italian restaurant. However, the restaurant owner did not like this and pulled out a knife to scare Danny away. Danny stabbed the Italian guy with that same knife at the sight of it, calling it a bayonet. Tommy’s dream perhaps explained why it happened, the form of PTSD that Danny went through. Poor, Danny. Mate went through hell, didn’t he? Like the hell followed him back to Small Heath despite the war being over. We get out first glimpse of another gangster group, when Danny ran away from the scene in a panic, in the world of Peaky Blinders, which was the Italian mafia. This encounter with the mafia will not be the last as we find out in a later season.
Then we see the inspector making his way to a train carriage at the train station guarded by two guys who kinda dressed like the mafia we saw earlier. Haha! Who is this person of high importance that the inspector was meeting? Was he a gangster too? While we are asking these questions, one of the guards announced to the Secretary of State the arrival of Chief Inspector Campbell. We now know the inspector’s last name and he greeted the Secretary of State as Mr Churchill. It turns out that Campbell was deployed by Churchill to investigate the case of the stolen arms. Churchill was quite threatening in his emphasis on keeping the stolen guns unknown to public knowledge due to the need to safeguard their national security. I think Churchill was a little discriminatory and distrustful of Campbell seeing how he made the distinction between Belfast and England. This is quite noteworthy as we will see Churchill treating Tommy differently, in a more respectful manner as well, much later on. I guess, nobody likes Campbell, huh?
We are then taken to the warehouse by the river where Tommy was supposed to instruct his men to do as Aunt Pol suggested. It looked like he was about to do just that but when Charlie Strong, addressed as Uncle Charlie by Tommy, tried to confirm with him, Tommy changed his mind and gave instructions to hide the guns instead. (We learn the name of the burlier man who worked alongside Charlie as Curly.) Uncle Charlie was strongly disagreeable with Tommy’s plan, calling it crazy but Tommy was adamant it would be of benefit to them instead.
“Fortune drops something valuable into your lap, you don’t just dump it on the bank of The Cut.”
Now, Uncle Charlie’s reply may be something that we may refer to in the future. There have been theories amongst fans that allude to Tommy’s mother having had an affair with Charlie, which led her to giving birth to Tommy. Not sure if it is a lead worth pursuing but it is an interesting theory to entertain later on the series.
“You’re blood, Tommy. I’ve always looked out for you like a dad.”
Think about it, the characters and places introduced in the pilot bore significance so far. If Uncle Charlie is just to be a minor character, there would not have been this important dialogue between them. Look at how similarly Uncle Charlie was telling Tommy off like Aunt Pol did. Aunt Pol’s earlier words of Tommy’s devilment unfortunately had taken over Tommy at this very last crucial minute. Tommy decided to be strategic and he explained his strategy to Uncle Charlie. This sort of places Uncle Charlie on the same level as Aunt Pol, being another confidante that Tommy feels comfortable sharing secrets with. Even more interesting to note that Tommy shared his new plan with Uncle Charlie before Uncle Charlie told him how much of a son Tommy was like to him. That means Uncle Charlie did not have to coax information out of Tommy at all. Before I forget, it is interesting to note the choice of word that Uncle Charlie used — “dad” instead of “father”, with “dad” suggesting a deeper level of intimacy and closeness.
Uncle Charlie continued to try to convince him to ditch his new plan but Tommy was confident of being able to take on Campbell because of the leverage he had against him: Campbell did not serve in the war with the reason of “Reserved occupation”. Uncle Charlie tried one last time by asking if it was another war that Tommy was looking for but Tommy deflected. Maybe Uncle Charlie’s resistance made Tommy rethink his willingness to share anymore information and ended the conversation with the show’s infamous line:
“By order of the Peaky Blinders.”
I cannot tell if the spit by Uncle Charlie after Tommy walked away was a “Fuck the Peaky Blinders” sort of sentiment or if it was more of “Oh, for fuck’s sake”. Maybe Uncle Charlie was superstitious and that was his way of trying to cast away evil. I mean, we had the magic spell act in the beginning of the episode and Tommy’s dream being somewhat prophetic. Why would there not be any superstitions, eh?
We then see Campbell taking a little field trip to the museum. Just kidding. He went there to meet *gasp* Grace. Jeng jeng jeng. This is the reveal of our sweetheart Grace as a spy working for Campbell in the investigation that Churchill had him lead. We learn that Grace’s father was a police officer that had worked closely with Campbell and that he was murdered by the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Another little thing to note is Campbell’s infatuation with Grace. I spotted his immediate jealousy when Grace talked about Tommy. She did not even go gaga over him but merely stated her observation in answering Campbell’s question yet Campbell was an absolute douche by remarking that she seemed to be piqued by him. You can also notice the close proximity he had with her physically. I mean, you were not supposed to be too close to arouse suspicion that you know each other yet he seemed to have forgotten that. It was not like he was in direct physical contact with her either but you can sense the vibe of him wanting to be closer to her. Grace was on point with her astute observation that it was Tommy who was the leader of the gang, not Arthur. She was definitely the cleverer one of the two in that museum. She did not even need to resort to violence to come to that deduction. However, the two did not think at this point that the gang had any motive in stealing the guns. That places Tommy as the most intelligent being above all the other characters at that point. If we were to see the plot as a game, Tommy was the most advanced player so far and he was many moves ahead of the rest of them. It is quite interesting to view the characters as gameplayers and this sort of point-of-view (POV) will keep us on our toes throughout the entire series.
We are then taken to the aftermath of Danny’s accidental homicide of the Italian restaurant owner. The same two mafia men we saw before were now waiting by the side of the canal. Then we see a sombre Danny and Tommy walking towards them but they were on the opposite side of the canal instead. Danny understood that he had to pay for his crime of taking the life of a man under the protection of the mafia so he willingly went along with Tommy’s obligation to execute him in front of the mafia guys. I know that Tommy said those mafia guys were the dead guy’s brothers but I do not think it was in the biological sense but more of the brotherhood sense. I mean, if your brother was killed, you would not be looking on and plotting revenge. You would have immediately rushed to your brother and try to tend to his injuries. The mafia centre on the concept of family and brotherhood so what I posit may be true. Danny’s last words were quite heartbreaking:
“I died over there anyway, Tommy. I left my fucking brains in the mud. … Those fucking guns, they blew God right out of me head.”
During Danny’s requests to Tommy, we learn that Danny’s wife’s name was Rosie and his children were boys. He want them to grow up as “just ordinary men”. The choice of word Danny used was heartbreaking too. Never mind ‘successful’ or ‘good’. “Just ordinary” was enough for Danny if that meant his boys never had to do “the shit” they had to do. I reckon that he was not simply referring to the war but also life in general as people of the lower caste in the society. I like this monologue of Danny because it went back to the idea of children being the beginning of something good if not, better. The camera also zoomed in on Tommy’s face as Danny expressed the desire for a normal life for his boys. Tommy kind of look more determined to get back at the system and take back the power from the higher echelon so to speak. I think the show was trying to portray Tommy’s desire to help people as the rationale for the things he had to do regardless of whether those things are morally right or wrong; almost affirming the previous night’s decision to stow away the guns instead of dumping them. Danny’s belief of right and wrong was also visibly erased by choosing for his boys to be ordinary instead of specifically good, which is the typical desire of all parents for their children. Clearly, their experiences of war and life post-war had shaken their core beliefs, damaged beyond repair. Danny also wished for his body to be buried on a hill without the presence of mud, understandably due to his harrowing experience of going through muddy tunnels during the war, and for his wife to know the location of his grave. I think Danny will eventually die some time later and the Peaky Blinders will honour his wish. He shook Tommy’s hand at the end and addressed him as Sergeant Major, highlighting the extent of respect he had for Tommy and revealing that Tommy was a leader among the men during the war. This also reasserts Tommy’s abilities to strategise and it was probably why he thinks further ahead compared to the rest of the characters. Back to the scene at hand, Charlie and, I assume, Curly had rowed the boat they loaded with the stolen guns last night and positioned themselves in front of Danny so that when he falls down after Tommy shoots, the boat will take his body away. Right before Tommy took the shot, Tommy recited another famous line of the show that, we will learn, was taken from a poem:
“In the bleak midwinter.”
That line and that poem will in a future episode be revealed to have a big significance. The poem became more of a prayer for Tommy and company, for these men have shaken beliefs in God thanks to the war. Back to the scene. We see Tommy pull the trigger and there was a splat of blood on Tommy’s face and collar area of his shirt. He did not even bother wiping it off as he turned and walked away. Tommy is more gangster than those mafia in my books. The boat then rowed off to take the presumably dead Danny away from the place. I used the word ‘presumably’ because we will find out in a little bit, the truth about his death. Hehehe. The biggest hint to this is the calmness of Charlie. Man was just smoking away as though this was completely normal to him. Well, it might not be normal but he knew about it from the start.
Tommy then headed back home to get to his office, seemingly jolted by the incident and had to heave a huge sigh to kind of shake off the incident. We did see him flinch a little after he shot but he remained composed while the mafia looked on to maintain his image as a gangster. Unfortunately, his search for temporary respite was interrupted by an upset Arthur. Monaghan Boy had won the race, just as Arthur had feared. It was the wrong time for Arthur to pick his ‘I-told-you-so’ moment because Tommy schooled Arthur on Tommy’s bookmaking business plan. Tommy had been pretty successful at witholding himself from humiliating his brother excessively throughout the pilot but after a lousy day, Tommy just could not handle Arthur’s poor leadership qualities and blurted out the reason why he did what he did. It feels like watching a genius get upset at a not-very-bright person after trying to adapt to his level of understanding many times. I think at this point Arthur realised he had lost Tommy’s respect for him as their leader and from here on out, Tommy would be the one running the show figuratively. Because all Arthur did was to take a swig of alcohol instead of challenging Tommy or demanding for respect.
We are then taken back to Charlie’s boat where we see Charlie lighting up a fag. (Man smokes a bunch, huh?) Shortly, he was joined by *gasp* an alive Danny! Turns out Tommy used sheep’s brains. The mechanics of the staged shot were not made exactly clear to us but my guess would be that Tommy loaded a rubber-like kind of bullet that capsuled sheep’s brains and blood instead of gun powder. I don’t know about guns and ammo so it is hard for me to figure out exactly what happened. I figured it would be something like paintball. Haha! But anyway, we learn now that Danny had become part of the Peaky Blinders, subjected to serve Tommy. I really feel sorry for Danny at this point because not only did he went through hell and came back in order to go through hell again, he was now trapped in another hell. Yet, I actually can’t quite figure out if this was partly an act of mercy from Tommy as well. It fulfilled the wish of Harry who had requested Tommy to take care of the problem of Danny barging into The Garrison and causing trouble and damage to his property. I guess Tommy likes to tie up loose ends. Might be a key character trait. It also gave Danny a reason to live as he had expressed he had felt dead some time ago. He might as well be of purpose to Tommy then if truly he had given up on his life. Complex Tommy is complex.
Then it was back to the Shelby house where it looks like Tommy was reporting to Aunt Pol the business performance. Aunt Pol asked if he had done the right thing. Note the semantics again. If she had not used the choice of words she used, Tommy would have struggled to answer. However, since she phrased her words as doing the right thing, Tommy did not hesitate to answer that he had done so. Of course, Tommy had a different definition as to the right thing to do with the arms. Aunt Pol had a little retrospective quizzical moment but she could not quite put a finger on what was wrong with his statement.
The episode then came to an end with Grace and Tommy having a brief look at each other before the zoom on Tommy fades away. We could still see the residual blood stains on Tommy’s collar. Clearly, Tommy made no effort to clean it or change, showing that he had nothing and no one to fear. Not sure if Grace noticed those when she saw him. Maybe she did, aye?
Name drops in this episode:
- Monaghan Boy the black horse
- Sergeant Major Thomas Shelby aka Tommy
- Finn Shelby
- John Shelby
- Arthur Shelby
- Billy Kimber
- Freddie Thorne
- Winston Churchill (Secretary of State)
- Danny “Whizzbang”
- “Aunt” Pol Shelby
- Ada Shelby
- Scudboat (informant for Peaky Blinders)
- Lovelock (informant for Peaky Blinders)
- Charlie Strong aka Uncle Charlie (Peaky Blinders’ contraband warehouse man)
- Tom Mix (film person)
- Grace (The Garrison’s barmaid)
- Harry (The Garrison’s bartender)
- Chief Inspector Campbell
- Curly (Peaky Blinders’ contraband warehouse man)
- IRA (Irish Republican Army)
- Rosie (Danny’s wife)
- The Italians (mafia)
- Birmingham England
- The Chain Tavern
- Garrison Lane
- The Garrison Tavern aka The Garrison
- Garrison Courts
- Flanders Fields
- 6 Watery Lane, Small Heath
- 26 South Street, Small Heath
- “The Cut” (canal/riverside of Small Heath)
- Shankhill Road
- BSA factory
- Penny Crush (cinema)
- The Austin factory
- Gas Street
- The tobacco wharf
- St. Andrews (football ground)
And Allah is Al-‘Adzheem, The Magnificent. – MM