Despite the ominous ending with Jimmy McCavern in the previous episode, there is a shift in this episode, with the two forming a truce. Of course we know this so-called truce won’t hold up, with both sides needing the other to further business needs. There is quite a bit of delicious threatening going on in this scene, with Tommy more than holding his own against McCavern.
With McCavern’s antagonist efforts left on the back burner now that he is working with Tommy, the show introduces Brilliant Chang, and his entry is as dramatic as can be. The great thing about this is how the show sets up tension using the telephone, drawing the tension from the other scene with Finn to evoke it in the space that Tommy, Arthur and Chang are in. Guns are drawn and pointed only to head to a point of reconciliation because of business needs.
Even Michael, who has been on the naughty list with Tommy since he lost all their money in the stock market, is offered a way back in through the business opportunity that Chang brings in. As always, Tommy knows how he can maneuver everyone into the position he wants them to occupy. He wants to do business with Chang, but knows that Polly and Arthur will disapprove – getting into bed with the Chinese is never good news. So he dangles the opportunity for Michael to regain his footing in the company, and he knows Polly will take the bait. There is an appearance of democracy, but we know it is Tommy’s kingdom and he runs it however he likes.
Despite this, this season has consistently referenced his tenuous hold on his throne, since there are so many people seeking to dethrone him – one of them being himself. Tommy’s own personal demons refuse to be kept at bay, with Grace’s ghost appearing in this episode as she did in other episodes in the season. While in episode 1 she was there to offer a comforting embrace, in ‘The Loop’ she is a manifestation of Tommy’s guilt, a guilt he refuses to own up to. He chooses to believe it is the curse of the blue stone that she was wearing that took her life, when we all know it is the world he brought her into. There is immense irony here, where Tommy is trying to rebuild and sustain the very thing that took away his one chance at happiness and peace.
With Grace, there was vulnerability. Tommy was willing to admit to his love for her and allow her to be strong for him sometimes. With Lizzie, there isn’t the same display of softness. He wants to be acknowledged as king with Lizzie, his sexual dominance of her as a way for him to gain secure footing in his kingdom. They are in a strange middle place in their relationship, where there is all this show of power and dominance from Tommy, yet he throws a lavish birthday party for her and invites a ballet company into their home for a performance. The parallel of the performance and the dramatic events at the conclusion of the episode are wonderfully done, and builds up the previous fantastical images we got in the episode when Tommy sees Grace.
The choice of swan lake is symbolism we cannot ignore, considering the story behind it. In Swan Lake, the lead ballerina plays two roles, Odette and Odile, accentuating the conflict between good and evil. We see this acutely in the characterisation of Tommy, where he patiently listens to a constituent telling him about how her husband killed songbirds that brought her such joy, and in the next moment is orchestrating opium deals with Chang. The ending of Swan Lake is that of devastation, where all parties involved lose their lives. However, Odette and her prince ascend into the heavens, so there is an element of good triumphing evil. This feels like a definite clue from the show’s creators about the inevitable destruction that lies in wait, which the show is building towards – there is only so much juggling Tommy can do before everything falls apart.
The one man to make this happen appears to be Mosley, who is quite the presence in this episode. After appearing fairly briefly in the previous episodes, Claflin is a big part of ‘The Loop’, as he pushes his partnership with Tommy forward. Even as he does this, he still seeks to undermine Tommy and gain the upper hand in their partnership. Things get personal as the two start digging into each other’s private lives, and while Tommy gives as good as he gets, he is infinitely more rattled in his interactions with Mosley compared to the likes of McCavern. This is because Tommy and McCavern occupy similar spaces in terms of social class, while Mosley is a baronet.
The difference between the two men is seen in the way Mosley cannot stand the way Tommy entertains. He is fond of etiquette and traditions, and Tommy simply doesn’t give a hoot. It does seem that Tommy’s blatant flouting of what is proper hosting behaviour could be an attempt to destabilize Mosley and establish that Tommy will not be the whipping boy in the relationship. It’s such fun to watch Cillian Murphy and Sam Claflin negotiate scenes together, with Claflin impeccably communicating a suppressed fury, while Murphy gives off an air of nonchalance, though we sense the anxiety as Tommy tries to maneuver Mosley into the position he needs him to occupy.
As Tommy makes his moves, it appears Mosley is a few moves ahead. A little slip-up gives us insight into Gina Gray’s connection to everything, and her desire to knock Tommy off his throne and put Michael there in his stead. Her intentions seemed more straightforward in the previous episode, but now things have gone murky again as we wonder what her role in all this is. This is why Peaky Blinders is such great TV – just as we think we have figured things out, the show takes us for a loop (I hope you see what I did there).
Another surprising development is the relationship between Polly Gray and Aberama Gold. We all know that Gold is soft on Polly and thinks the world of her, but I was thrown a little to see Polly reciprocate. I would have been less surprised if I had paid better attention to the clues at the beginning of the episode, where we see Polly take off her fancy heels and walk barefoot in the mud. Yes the Shelbys have gone up in the world, but underneath the money and fancy clothes, there is still a desire to get down and dirty in the mud – and no one does this better than Aberama Gold.
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'The Loop' plays up the theme of good and evil, continuing the thematic thread established in episode 3. Tommy and Mosley continue their tango, and we are left to wonder which man will triumph in this display of will and strategy.
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