Despite a couple of notable scenes involving Tommy and Arthur, this episode is all about the ladies.
Arthur’s not very likeable wife Linda comes to work at the betting shop with Lizzie and Polly. It seems her need to insert herself into family business and use her talent for mental arithmetic far outweighs her religious convictions and the notion that betting is a sin. She even gets involved with office high-jinks as Polly and Lizzie give young Finn a baptism of fire on his first day in charge, hiring a sex worker to make him “into a man”.
Linda conspires with Polly to distract Arthur and keep him away from an important family meeting, which she does with a racy Japanese silk negligee and a bit of bad behaviour in Arthur’s office. In his absence, the family push through a vote to let Aberama Gold kill Luca Changretta on the Shelbys’ behalf, a decision which enrages Arthur and leaves him an emotional wreck. His need for revenge after John’s death is a powerful and visceral one.
Lizzie becomes the object of Tommy’s affections again, as he takes her to the canal, to a place where he used to bring a lost love who we learn about this week. It seems poor Lizzie realises she is just a substitute for Tommy’s past love Greta, who died of consumption before the war, but she goes along with it anyway. I suspect Lizzie’s loyalty to Tommy has always been down to her romantic feelings towards him.
Michael’s adoptive mother visits him in the hospital, in a move which greatly displeases Polly. She tells him that his adoptive father died and tries to coax him back to their quiet life in the country. Michael seems tempted, but for now he remains loyal to the Shelbys.
Arthur is set upon by two of Changretta’s men at the factory, after being let in by one of his workers, whose identity remains unknown. He kills them, and is furious that someone in Tommy’s employ has deceived him. After questioning the foreman, Tommy learns that some of Changretta’s associates may be posing as members of the Communist party, and it may have been them who let in Arthur’s would-be killers.
Tommy visits union convener Jessie Eden to see if she recognises any of Changretta’s men from a wedding photograph. After a verbal battle with Tommy, each of them bringing up the other’s tortured past in an attempt to wear the other one down, Jessie refuses to look at the photograph, and Tommy has to leave having been bested by Jessie once again. Their chemistry is tangible, and I’m just itching for them to get together.
But the star of the show this week has to be Polly, who is back to her badass best after the shooting which killed John and wounded her son Michael. She is full of sass at the family meeting, belittling Ada and not paying the blindest bit of notice to Tommy’s efforts at asserting his authority over her. Polly has always been tough and volatile, but it seems now she is a total loose cannon. Helen McCrory looks like she’s having a ball with this script, especially with the climax of the episode, which sees her looking fabulous and meeting up with Luca Changretta in a bar.
She makes a deal with him to spare the life of the other Shelbys in exchange for Tommy’s. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about the Shelbys by now, it’s that they’re all about loyalty, so I cannot wait to see Tommy’s reaction when he finds out about this betrayal…