'Peaky Blinders': Season 5 might see Winston Churchill returning to resume his secretive partnership with Thomas Shelby
BBC One's 'Peaky Blinders' has utilized history in order to validate its fiction, and while historians have time and again criticized the show for its historical inaccuracies, creator Steven Knight has stuck to the fact that the show merely touches upon history to accelerate its plot.
However, when two prominent historical figures -- Communist leader Jesse Eden and Winston Churchill -- appear on the show, 'Peaky Blinders' begins to tread the genre which treats history as a fable.
While the show's Jesse Eden (Charlie Murphy) is far removed from the real-life firebrand personality who led the Labour Union in the 1920s, its treatment of Churchill has been pretty controversial too.
Yet, since Season 5 is set to see Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy), now a Communist leader, go against Fascist leader Oswald Mosley (to be played by Sam Claflin), chances are Churchill will return once more to fulfill his partnership with the Shelby family. However, let's take a moment to consider the reality at the time in the 1920s -- Churchill had reportedly not made any kind of deal with any gangster and the reason lies much with his position as the Secretary of State for War in the kingdom at that point.
Yet, 'Peaky Blinders' showcases many instances where Churchill not only struck a deal with the gangster family but also sought their help in conducting many secret affairs. We were first introduced to Churchill in Season 1, when he was the Secretary of State for the Colonies between 1921 and 1922. Season 1 was perhaps the only time that Churchill (then played by Andy Nyman) had gone against the Shelbys and tried to interfere in their matters. He was the one to appoint Inspector Campbell (Sam Neil) to find out the guns which had appeared at the doorstep of the Shelby mansion. While there is no proof of Churchill hiring a certain Campbell, yet the character's fear is a reflection of the hysteria that Churchill was gripped with in real life.
In the post World War I era, when the IRA (Irish Revolutionary Army) and the Communists were gradually coalescing the masses, Churchill feared that the country would be choked by the influence of Communism emanating from revolutionary Russia.
This was made evident from a slight remark the character makes, "If there are bodies to be buried, dig holes and dig them deep."
Churchill's fear of the Communist influence was real and Knight merely used that sentiment to create a fictionalized version of a man, who is now considered to be one of Britain's greatest. But that was the end of Churchill's influence upon the Shelby-Campbell rivalry, as Season 2 slowly began to see matters take a lot more complicated and secretive turn.
Campbell suggested that Churchill hire Thomas to kill Field Marshall Henry Hussell, and quite unexpectedly Churchill allowed Campbell to take the risky step. However, Churchill was a man of his own mean, and that trait is reflected when he strikes a deal with Thomas - although a temporary one. Thomas requests him to grant him an Empire export license, covering India, Malay Peninsula, Canada and Russia, and when Campbell realizes that Churchill has approved the grant, he plots against Thomas with members of the Red Right Hand to kill him. This is where things take an unexpected turn, as Churchill himself steps in using his connection to save Thomas' life.
However, Thomas was indebted for the help, and this is precisely where Knight began to weave in some actual incidents from history. Season 3 saw the show plunge deeper into the crisis of the Communists, as the Shelby family faces off with the Russians in their attempt to draw in an alliance for the Communist party.
In an interview, Knight revealed that Churchill's (now played by Richard McCabe) involvement with the Shelbys relies heavily on his effort to form "a sort of sub-government in the early Twenties because when Labour rose to power it was a real shock to them." This was at the time when Labour leader Ramsay MacDonald had come to power in 1924 and was looking to boost ties with the Soviet Union, thus putting Churchill in a complex situation.
Knight mentioned, "There was a minority Labour government in power for the first time and Churchill was among those who were disenfranchised. Having said that, Churchill would have very quickly distanced himself from those sorts of characters. There were powerful people who wanted to sever relations between Britain and the Soviet Union.”
As we know, Season 3 saw the Shelby family pin down Russian spies one after the other, and although Thomas hid the source of information from his family about the Russians, it was soon revealed that Churchill himself had asked Thomas to hunt down all the Russian artistocrats who had fled their country, and this is where the Petrovna family comes in. Although Thomas succeeds in chasing them off, he engages in a secret personal relationship with the Duchess which doesn't last too long.
With all that, the relationship between Thomas and Churchill remained secret, and even though Campbell did come to know about it, he was in the end, executed. It will be interesting to see just how Churchill might play a role in the battle against the Fascists, considering that in his career Churchill has always saved his country from the glaring dominance of any strains of fascism, and by the 1930s was an advocate of appeasement.
As Thomas Shelby is set to face off Fascist leader Mosley, being a Communist leader himself, he might need his old friend in government to run some errands for him. After all, Thomas himself is now a member of Parliament and Season 5 might just see him reunite with Churchill, once again.
'Peaky Blinders' Season 5 returns to BBC One this spring.