Peaky Blinders Recap: Series Six, Episode Three – Stephen Graham, Finally | Peaky Blinders
The series finale of the flat-ceiling epic reached its midpoint with a finish, a comeback, and a start. Here’s your episode three post-mortem, Gold…
Hello Stephen Graham…
“My name is Hayden Stagg. I heard some men from Birmingham were looking for me. We’ve been looking forward to Stephen Graham’s guest star debut, an actor who always seemed like he belonged in Peakyland. In the 41st minute, he finally arrived. What followed was an electrifying scene that defied expectations. No explosive violence or gangster demagoguery, just the haunting voice of Arthur’s inner demons.
Stand-in boss Ada (Sophie Rundle) has sent ambitious young man Isiah Jesus (Daryl McCormack) to Liverpool to deal with union hauler Stagg, who had dove into the Shelby’s opium stash at Salthouse Dock and sold the stolen skag in local pubs. for profit. Tommy had left a black star, or kill order, next to Stagg’s name. Ada demoted him to a beating, ordering Isiah to take Arthur (Paul Anderson) with him.
Only 10 days clean, Arthur was a fragile mess, but reinforcements came in the form of Isiah’s cousins Dougie, Gilly and Joe. The new recruits looked dapper in Peaky’s uniform but, as Arthur said, “Any fucking man can look like that before.” A Peaky Blinder always looks like this afterwards.
Stoically accepting that he deserved to be beaten, Stagg not only stared fearlessly at Arthur, but entered the confused head of the troubled Shelby brother. Stagg knew about his junk food habit and had experienced it himself, having become addicted to morphine during World War I. Ostensibly calling Arthur “comrade,” he quietly gave a powerful speech about addiction that was half mocking and half motivational. Arthur, chastened and shaken, dropped his men and left.
Will we see Stagg again, or is a six-minute appearance from Stephen Graham all we’ll get? Let’s hope not. This Stagg party was over way too soon. Maybe not going down hard will come back to bite the Blinders.
…Goodbye, Ruby Shelby
As the episode begins, Tommy (Cillian Murphy) and his wife, Lizzie (Natasha O’Keeffe), are transporting their critically ill daughter Ruby (Orla McDonagh) to the hospital. The superstitious Tommy fumed about a gypsy’s curses and punishment for his sins. In reality, she had a tuberculosis lung infection.
Comparisons to Covid were inescapable as hospital staff wore old PPE and Tommy had to wear a mask. During his chest x-ray, he was bathed in devilish red light for the second week in a row. Doctors collapsed Ruby’s left lung. When that didn’t work, they treated her with gold salts, but the disease also quickly spread to her right lung. While Tommy went in pursuit of the Savage Curse, Lizzie remained alone by Ruby’s bedside, wishing her husband was “a normal man.” O’Keeffe excelled in this episode, delivering a heartbreaking portrayal of maternal grief and righteous anger.
Defying dramatic convention, there was no miraculous recovery or happy ending. Ruby died and Tommy missed his chance to say goodbye. We left him standing in the rain, stunned with disbelief and devastation. How will his torment unfold over the next three weeks? A furious rampage or another breakdown? And can her increasingly precarious marriage survive more misfortune?
Ada kicked ass and won hearts
“I need you to be me in London,” Tommy told Ada. The shrewdest Shelby brother had kicked his Mary Jane heels on the sidelines. Now she’s come into her own, acknowledging, “Although I’m reluctant, I’m actually pretty good at it.” Damn straight. Even the insufferably snobby Diana Mitford (Amber Anderson) was impressed when “the sister” arrived at her Eaton Square flat. “So she dresses nicely,” muttered Mitford, asking his butler to write down the tag on Ada’s coat. Of course, honey, it was Chanel.
Barely masking their mutual antipathy under a veneer of politeness, the two women exchanged delightful quips about the causes of poverty, Egyptian antiquities, and fascist Mitford’s repugnant plans for “the big cleanup.” She clearly liked to shock, bragging about being a porn and amphetamine-using bisexual. Ada was pleasantly carefree.
It was almost disappointing when the men interrupted him. Ada introduced the “next Prime Minister” Oswald Mosley (Sam Claflin) to Uncle Jack Nelson (James Frecheville). The Boston mob boss had his niece Gina (Anya Taylor-Joy) in tow, all air kisses and sarcastic asides. Ada extended an invitation to Tommy’s house, where political business would be conducted and Nelson could meet “like Dublin spirits who would like to discuss the future of Europe”. This potentially earth-shattering high is likely looming next week.
Explaining Tommy’s absence, Ada bonded with Nelson over the fact that he had lost two siblings to tuberculosis (Joseph P Kennedy Sr, the inspiration for the character, caused two members of his cholera family). Ada had a flirtatious chemistry crunch with Nelson – just like she did earlier with Isiah. The interim management of Shelby Co Ltd is clearly a great aphrodisiac. Sophie Rundle worked her chic costumes and sharp wit in style.
“He climbed a mountain, looking for a miracle”
While Lizzie trusted medical science over “horse thieves and wizards”, Tommy embarked on a cowboy-style quest to find out who had put a spell on his family. First stop: the estranged widow of her late brother John, Esme Shelby-Lee (a welcome return for Aimee-Ffion Edwards’ windswept hair and tinkling bracelets).
Stalking her via “patrin” signs (arrangements of leaves, placed by the side of the road to mark the Voyageurs’ route), Tommy received a decidedly hostile reception. He was called “dirty didicoi” (not pure Roma blood) by his male campmate. When Tommy asked if one of the unwelcoming committee members was his man, the ever-feisty Esme replied, “What good is a man? The horse pulls the cart, the dog keeps me safe, the cat keeps me warm at night. Think of yourself as redundant, guys.
The bickering duo embarked on a road trip – first via Rolls-Royce, then on horseback – to a remote gypsy graveyard. Which of Tommy’s many enemies was buried here? A surprisingly obscure. Three sets and 10 years ago he brought a sapphire necklace – payment for Archduke Leon Petrovich Romanov and worn by Tommy’s wife Grace on the night she was shot – to wise old woman Bethany Boswell (the estimable Frances Tomelty), convinced he was cursed. Bethany gave it to her sister Evadne, who in turn hung it around her daughter Connie’s neck. She started coughing and died that night.
Evadne duly cast a curse on when Tommy’s own daughter turned seven, so he would know what it felt like. At Connie’s grave, a desperate Tommy swore to find Evadne, despite the Boswells being a “savage tribe”, who “wander from the border to the sea”. He would pay her generously to lift the curse and spare his daughter. Tragically, it was too little, too late – although “Sapphire” happens to be the title of next week’s episode. A hint that the Boswells will have another role to play?
For me, this was the standout episode of the series so far. There were several deadly scenes – Tommy’s confrontation with the Gypsies, Ada’s saloon joust, the storming of the Liverpool docks – before the emotional punch of Ruby’s death. But is it just me, or has this series not completely caught on fire yet?
So far, it’s felt like Steven Knight was just setting the stage. Mosley, Mitford, Michael Grey, Captain Swing and Alfie Solomons are all waiting backstage. Ada crawls on the come-up. Gina and Esme are back. Linda is on her way. Churchill and even Hitler might still have a role to play. I have faith that this is the calm before the climatic storm.
line of the week
I liked Tommy’s “horse kicking its crate” analogy, but it was spiced up by Ada’s sardonic response when Diana asked why Tommy was so “emotionally maimed”: ” Because he’s a novel character, of course. One of those novels that ladies like you read, all about wild men. Little Heathcliff, anyone?
Spotting anachronistic soundtracks
Anna Calvi and Nick Launay’s atmospheric score has rarely seemed so spaghetti western. For pure punk swagger, however, the standout was Idles’ Kill Them With Kindness as Arthur’s band rolled into Liverpool Docks.
Notes and Observations
This is Stephen Graham’s third appearance in a Steven Knight series, having played Atticus in Taboo and Marley in A Christmas Carol.
It made sense that the new recruits of various races would hail from the “streets of Alum Rock”, an area of Birmingham with a rich migrant history.
Eaton Square and London Hospital exteriors were actually filmed in Le Mans Crescent, Bolton – becoming a familiar location after appearing in It’s a Sin and The Ipcress File.
Gold compounds were indeed used in the treatment of tuberculosis, popularized in the 1920s, thanks to the work of pioneering bacteriologist Robert Koch. Their toxicity ultimately proved to outweigh any therapeutic benefit.
By order of the Peaky Blinders, please share your midterm reports, Stephen Graham’s thoughts and Ruby’s laments below…