Yes, there are spoilers.
I’ve been open from the beginning: I’m on Team Grace.
I think she’s a fascinating character in her own right, and she casts a new light on Tommy’s character. Not everyone agrees with me, however. A quick perusal of reddit shows a sizeable population of Grace haters. Now, that’s fine. The purpose of art is to bring yourself to it and see what’s there. But in this post, I’d like to explain why I’m such a Grace supporter and make a guess as to where her character is headed.
I have always found Grace to be complex. She had courage. She entered Small Heath as an undercover agent and faced violent men. We knew this from the time Tommy entered The Garrison as she was singing and she refused to stop even though the other patrons did. She also wasn’t intimidated by Aunt Polly.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s an easy out to write her off as betraying Tommy at the end of Series 1. Did she? Yes. But she was also being true to herself and her own family. She arrived in Birmingham to do a job and to avenge the death of her father. Doing this required courage on her part, and she did it.
Falling in love with Tommy was unexpected, and in the end, she did the best she could to be true to herself and to be true to him. If she were to abandon who she was for love, that would have been easy. Steven’s Knight’s decision allows her to be more than a stereotype.
And there was the fact that Tommy loved her. Here were two survivors of very different wars brought together. Tommy puts it perfectly: “I found you, and you found me. We’ll help each other.”
Series 2 was populated by Grace’s ghost more than her physical self. But when she returned, it was clear that the chemistry was still there. And it was also clear that she was still playing her old games. We watch her getting ready to go out and lying to her husband about where she was going. A few hours later, she would tell Tommy, “I have never lied to him once,” a statement we know to be false.
When we found out that she would be Mrs. Tommy Shelby, I celebrated. Theirs was a relationship built on compromise, for their love was greater than their decisions or the things around them. (Plus, they just look great together!)
Some have criticized Grace for what we have seen so far in Series 3. There are complaints about her making Tommy promise her to “go legit” and to tell her everything. As I watched the wedding dance, I was concerned myself that we had fallen to a place where the story would move into a tired pattern of good women trying to change bad men. Then again, Grace is hardly a good woman. (Arthur’s wife, Linda, is closer to fitting that description.) But she is attempting to help Tommy become a legitimate business, and stopping the other business is a necessary step.
In Series 3.2, we saw Grace the social butterfly: busy sending out social correspondence; giddy about the Birmingham elites coming to the foundation dinner; excited about plans for the house. I can’t be the only one who thought, “Really? This is what our heroic barmaid has become?”
But then, she was shot.
Now I’ll speculate. Yes, Grace lives. Knight has invested too much in this character to eliminate her so quickly. And she is the key to the new Thomas we’re seeing, the one who is experiencing fear. Tommy’s behavior is tender, like nothing we’ve ever seen. Knight isn’t going to throw away such rich narrative possibilities. When he says, “I need you, Grace,” he means it. There is a desperation here. If Grace dies, we’re back to the old Tommy Shelby — the one sleeping two women after a party and getting up in the morning to go back to work. Knight has done that. He isn’t going back.
And I’ll argue that Grace comes back changed. Knight is committed to exploring the repercussions of violence. As Helen McCrory told Roz Laws,
We have seen Arthur almost drink himself into oblivion because of the violence he’s committed. They are all dealing with the consequences of violence, they all have consciences.
I think we’ll see Series 1 Grace come back. Tommy’s references to Danny Whizz-bang aren’t a coincidence. Perhaps Grace follows his tradition of having an empty grave and an undercover life. As Tommy says after Danny’s real death, “May we all die twice.”
The Grace that dies twice will be different — harder, less intent on being respectable and more committed to using fear if it protects her family. At some level, society Grace doesn’t interest her any more than it does the viewer. But Knight likes to take him time when telling a story, so I intend to sit back and enjoy this one.
Oh, and I think Grace is the dark-haired women in the red dress.
May we all die twice, indeed.
Publication Date: 14 May 2016
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