Peaky Blinders: Season 5 – Episode 3 ‘Strategy’ REVIEW

Is the show's strategy to get us all to buy a Bentley?

Peaky Blinders
Peaky Blinders

Cultured Vultures spoilers

Peaky Blinders has always been visually arresting. It may be television, but nothing is ever static or monotonous, with each scene intentional and beautifully framed. Season 1’s image of Grace walking through the snow and grim weather in her green coat is such a striking moment, and it gives such insight to the viewer about how she is going to be important in the narrative that unfolds. In this episode, it’s all about the Bentley. We arrive at each new destination through the perspective of the car, which is such a nice detail about modernisation and speed, and offers a different way to transition from one scene to the next.

Footsteps, both the visual and sound of them, are also played up in this episode. The beginning portion of ‘Strategy’ is a group of nuns praying, but with a large dose of trepidation filling the room. Their prayers are in tandem to the visual of two pairs of feet striking the floor with purpose, and we know before we even see them that it is the Shelbys who are paying the nuns a visit. This is a great thematic setup to the main idea in this episode, which is the conflict between good and evil. In the eyes of society, the nuns serve God and therefore walk on the side of good, while Tommy and gang, with the razors in their caps and spaces drenched in violence, exist on the opposite end of the spectrum.

However, we are forced to reconcile the fact that things aren’t always how they appear to be. After the meeting with the nuns, we are left wondering who the greater evil is, though the greater point of this episode is to play up the idea that we all have shades of both. One can serve God, and yet be cruel; one’s hands can be covered in blood, but also show kindness and charity to those in need. This is the fine line the show treads, for if the Peaky Blinders were just incorrigibly evil, we wouldn’t root for them; there is something redeeming enough about the lot of them that keeps us coming back for more. It is like Arthur says, his heart is for God but his hands work for the devil – such a great description and encapsulation of all the Peaky Blinders.

It must be noted there is a clear devil on the show though, and it is of course our resident antagonist Mosley. The moment he enters a room, immediately he creates tension. He knows what a person’s weakness is, and triggers it while maintaining an appearance of nonchalance. It is frightening how much he knows about the Shelbys and what he is willing to manipulate in order for Tommy to join his cause. Each time Tommy and him have a meeting, Tommy is left rattled and worried. Mosley is not as easy to dispose of or maneuver, leaving Tommy little to no room to operate. Mosley makes sure everything is done on his terms, and he has enough leverage on Tommy to force him to play along. His overconfidence is definitely swarmy, but you can’t help but admire the man for his ability to destabilize Tommy in such a manner. Tommy has finally found his match, and boy does that make excellent TV.

Sam Claflin continues his impeccable performance, and for someone who is so likable, he certainly knows how to go in the opposite direction as well. Claflin has been mostly endearing in his acting career, with roles in romantic movies where he is his charming and good looking self, and of course his standout role as Finnick Odair in The Hunger Games franchise. It’s good to know that I can loathe him as much as I liked him in all those other projects, which is the mark of a good actor. Just ask King Joffrey from Game of Thrones: never have I rooted so much for a child to die till I experienced the likes of Joffrey, so massive kudos to Jack Gleeson for that.

Anya Taylor-Joy, the other newcomer to the cast, only appears briefly in two scenes. I think I speak for all of us when I say we need more Gina Gray. She is far from the wilting flower, and despite telling Michael she wanted to meet his family in the first episode of the season, in this episode she seems to want nothing to do with them. In fact, she seems to desire distance from the family, desiring her home back in America and the freedom she possessed. Considering all the domestic conflicts going on with the rest of the Shelby family, it is easy to see why she would want that. To marry into the Shelby family is to lose your autonomy, where your every move is tracked and is reported back to Tommy.

He has eyes and ears everywhere, so there is nothing you can do to avoid the scrutiny and life lived under a microscope. The family is also heavily involved in everyone’s business, and everyone does Tommy’s bidding. Gina’s frustrations are understandable, since a day that was supposed to be special and shared with her husband becomes the family’s business. As of this episode, it doesn’t appear that her inclusion in the show is politically motivated. Maybe she does really love Michael, as much as this would shock us – I suppose Michael has some strengths, but please don’t ask me to enumerate any of them.

My biggest issue from the previous episode was all the domestic quarrels, which made the women come across as fairly unlikable. However, the show displayed a different side to it this episode, perhaps because we actually see the women have a conversation about their marital problems instead of this taking place off screen like in the previous episodes. Because they lay out their struggles for us to see, it allows a bit more empathy to come across. We see Linda’s struggles with her piety to God and the woman she becomes the more she involves herself in the world of the Peaky Blinders, all because she married Arthur. Lizzie had pretty much the same issues in the previous episodes, but seems more settled in her choice here.

There is the recognition that she loves Tommy and doesn’t want a life separate from him. It is sad to see considering he will never view her the way he sees Grace. Even in the way he beds her, there is no display of love or intimacy, just the taking of his pleasure and the preening knowledge that she is his property. Grace joins the collection of other ghosts who haunt Tommy, a reminder of what he had and lost. She haunts us viewers as well, with the show including moments of her in these episodes. We cannot get over how good it was with Grace, and how bereft Tommy is without her. I know Steven Knight cannot have Tommy in peace since it doesn’t make for good TV, but a little happiness and a smile now and again wouldn’t be the worst thing.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the Billy Boys, but truthfully, they are the least interesting aspect of season 5 so far. Jimmy McCavern is just a caricature of a villain. The show felt the need to literally signpost his evilness by having him smile gleefully while staring at a fire, so that his eyes looked aflame. Hopefully this plot point will sort itself out, with more Peaky business and politics, and less of the Billy Boys theme song.

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Peaky Blinders
'Strategy' gives us top notch visuals and framing of scenes, bringing strong cadence and nuance to the domestic issues, acknowledging the moral complexity that is the lives of the Peaky Blinders.