In the opening ten minutes, as Thomas Shelby rides majestically through the backstreets of Birmingham on a beautiful black horse, dressed immaculately in three piece suit, polished black shoes and a gold watch chain – it’s a stark contrast with the dirt and grime of the laborers and beggars around him.
As beggars, the preacher, and even policemen bow and tip their hats we see Thomas is revered by all.
Refusing to tip his hat in return to the police, Thomas is making a strong statement. He doesn’t see himself as subordinate to the police. And if he’s not subordinate, he must be above them. Above the law.
But in the UK only The King or Queen is above the law.
In the United Kingdom the Crown has never been able to be prosecuted or proceeded against in either criminal or civil cases.
This theme of Thomas as King runs through the series.
In scene 13, as communist leader Freddie Thorn examines the razor blades sown into Thomas’s cap, he says:
The crown of a prince. Soon to be king, I’d say.
Later, Freddie says to his girlfriend, Ada, Thomas Shelby’s sister:
Oh my Ada. The only princess of the royal family of the Kingdom of Small Heath.
But Freddie isn’t the only one to recognize Thomas as King.
When Thomas’s wealthy, aristocratic horse trainer visits him in the backstreets of Birmingham, she says:
I mentioned your name and it was like being led to a king.
But Thomas, when he leans down to drop a coin into the bowl of a line of begging soldiers, blinded in the war, he shows he shares status with them.
Your fat king and your lean beggar are but variable service – two dishes but to one table.
Also, Thomas leaning down to drop a coin in the bowl of the soldiers might be compared to King Henry V when he humbles himself to sit with his ordinary soldiers just before battle.
John Truby, in his review of another rise of a king story, House of Cards, says:
The struggle for power is one of the prime human motivations.