Yes, there are spoilers.
Last week, I blogged about the ways in which Knight was testing Tommy’s character by forcing him to confront fear. In Series 3, Episode 2, that exploration continues.
Knight likes to create “thematic mirrors” in which old themes and symbols are revisited in a new context. (His use of physical mirrors also bears further examination, but I’ll save that for a future post.) In Episode 2, Tommy’s fear is made real.
It begins in the opening scene as Tommy walks down the smoky floor of the Lanchester Motor Company. The image itself is breathtaking and echoes other times when Tommy has been the center of the shot, the well-dressed, powerful man walking through a factory environment. Tommy then enters the office of the night foreman, and this conversation happens:
Foreman: Your brothers came to my house.
Tommy: You’re not afraid of me.
Foreman: So, what do you want from a simple working man?
After they discuss their business and Tommy gets what he wants, the foreman says, “I’m only doing this for the safety of my family.
Later in the episode, Tommy is rounded up by Scotland Yard and taken to a holding cell. Before entering, Father John Hughes has this conversation with the guard outside:
Father Hughes: Is he afraid?
As Father Hughes enters the cell, it’s clear that Tommy isn’t afraid. The threat of Hughes’s doberman simply leads Tommy to charm the dog and call Hughes out on this attempt to scare him. Hughes acknowledges Tommy is right and then threatens Charles. At that moment, Tommy experiences fear, rushing home to find a crematorium card under Charles’s pillow with the words “Charles Shelby RIP” scribbled on the back. Tommy’s fear is visceral.
Now, juxtapose those two scenes. In the first, Tommy is the one issuing threats to the foreman’s family. In the second, Tommy is on the receiving end. On one hand, it allows Cillian Murphy to show what a fine actor he is.
On the other hand, it indicts the viewer. We have, after all, been pulling for Tommy to get what he wants, so we’re not bothered by threats against the foreman. But when it happens to Tommy, our response is a bit different.
Knight has been clear that Peaky Blinders examines the impact of violence — in this, case, it’s the threat of violence.
It’s [violence] is a means of expression for his family and for Tommy especially it’s a way of blocking out his memories of the war by taking control of violence in his own way. In his mind it’s a way of achieving something for the family and going beyond Birmingham.
But that threat leads Tommy to confront his fear, which reaches a climax in the closing scene of the episode as Grace lies bleeding in his arms. Just before that, he tells her, “I need you to be okay, Grace. I need you.”
Now that he has something to lose, Tommy Shelby is experiencing fear. As Series 3 continues, we will all see where that fear takes him.
Publication Date: 15 May 2016
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