Peaky Blinders Review: Mirroring – Tommy, Arthur & Grace

<I>Peaky Blinders</I>, Series 3
Peaky Blinders, Series 3

One of the things I find fascinating about Peaky Blinders are the ways in which Steven Knight likes to mirror scenes.  He will use similar dialogue or settings but bring in different characters.  By doing this, he both reinforces important themes and indicates how those themes will define specific characters differently.

Consider these parallel conversations in Series 3 between Tommy and Arthur, and Tommy and Grace.

3.1

In 3.1 after the wedding, Tommy has a conversation with Arthur when he explains the plan with the Russians.  Tommy is also trying to persuade him this isn’t a bad idea.  Here’s what he says:

We have to get used to how these bastards operate.  For them, family is a weakness, and they go after them.  For me, family is my strength.  And there’s business to be done.  And I need you.  Now, fuck speeches, fuck weddings.  You’re my best man every fucking day.

<I>Peaky Blinders</I>, Series 3.1
Peaky Blinders, Series 3.1
<I>Peaky Blinders</I>, Series 3.1
Peaky Blinders, Series 3.1

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is an interesting statement for several reasons.  First, he is persuading Arthur to do a job that Arthur sees as too risky.  Series 3 Arthur isn’t the man we’ve known.  That Arthur was reckless and addicted, always too close to the edge.  This married Arthur is different, struggling with issues unmarried Arthur wouldn’t have considered twice.  The conversation underscores how much Arthur has changed and how Tommy has had to adjust his relationship with his brother.

Second, it reinforces the importance of family in Tommy’s life and allows Tommy to draw a contrast between the Shelbys and the Petrovnas.

Third, there’s the key line:  “I need you.”  Even though he is fiercely independent, Tommy has always needed Arthur.  On one hand, yes, they are brothers bound by blood; on the other, Arthur has been what Polly in Series 2 called Tommy’s “mad dog.”  Tommy and Arthur have always had a complicated relationship; this exchange underscores how much Arthur has changed while Tommy has not.  And although Tommy loves Arthur as his brother, he also needs him as a business partner for the essential off-track work.

3.2

Contrast that with this exchange at the end of 3.2 when Tommy and Grace are dancing at the benefit after Tatiana has told Tommy the sapphire Grace is wearing has been cursed by a gypsy:

Tommy:  You look beautiful, but you need to take this off. 

Grace:  Why?  Because you think it would look better on her?

Tommy:  Grace, look at me, fuck these people, eh?  Fuck ‘em.  I need you to be all right.  I need you, Grace.  I need you.

Grace:  Damn you, Tommy Shelby.  [She laughs]

<I>Peaky Blinders</I>, Series 3.2
Peaky Blinders, Series 3.2
<I>Peaky Blinders</I>, Series 3.2
Peaky Blinders, Series 3.2

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s that line again:  “I need you.”  This scene becomes pivotal as an uncharacteristically romantic Tommy repeatedly confesses to Grace that he needs her.  There is a fear here that is generally absent in Tommy Shelby.  (And her name, Grace, is surely no accident, for she allows him to reconnect with his pre-war self.)  If he needs Arthur for business, he needs Grace for love and emotional stability.  It’s a tender moment, one that ends violently with her death, providing a catalyst for the events to come.

Final Thoughts

Annabelle Wallis noticed the character mirroring early on.  In an interview with DigitalSpy, she makes the following comment:

In life if you are confronted by people who mirror how you are and accept you for how you are and see you in a very raw light, it can’t help but soften you. They are kindred spirits, they mirror each other and their attachment is based on these great sorrows that they have in their lives.

Both Arthur and Grace, then, provide mirrors for Tommy — with Arthur, it’s about family and business; with Grace, it’s about family and emotional stability, a point highlighted in these exchanges from 3.1 and 3.2.

These exchanges reinforce Tommy’s dependence on Arthur and Grace set him up  for the most stress his character has experienced.  As Cillian Murphy explains:

 He’s an incredibly capable character and can seemingly deal with anything that’s thrown his way. But I think in this season he actually takes on more than he can handle. When they go after his family that’s when the wheels begin to spin. It’s the most damaged we’ve ever seen him.

With Arthur a changed man and Grace dead, Tommy has lost two of the people he most needs.  Series 3 is about how he handles those losses.

Publication Date:  25 July 2016

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Related Blog Posts

Peaky Blinders, Breaking Bad, & the Problem of Grace Burgess

Peaky Blinders Review:  What Happened to John Shelby?

Peaky Blinders Review:  Tommy, Grace, and the Symbolism of Framing

Peaky Blinders 3.2 — Arthur

Peaky Blinders 3.2 — Grace

Peaky Blinders 3.2 — Fear, Part II

Peaky Blinders 3.1 — Fear, Part I


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