“Mr Shelby, do you remember me?” asks Mr Levitt from the London Times, taking a seat opposite Tommy Shelby MP (Cillian Murphy) in his Westminster office.
And just in case the MP for Birmingham South has forgotten their previous meeting, the journalist (played by Elliot Cowan) adds: “Once, in Small Heath, you were burning photographs of the king.”
As an icebreaker, it goes down like a lead balloon. A stony-faced Tommy only responds: “London Times. You’ve done well.”
But Peaky Blinders fans might recall the last time we saw Mr Levitt on screen… even though his appearance (and his voice) has changed dramatically since then.
Cast your mind back to the second episode of Peaky Blinders series one. Tommy Shelby was at war with Inspector Campbell (Sam Neill), and he had a plan to embarrass the Irish cop and get him in trouble with Winston Churchill – by using the local press to spin the narrative his own way.
As the Peaky Blinders built a bonfire in Watery Lane and went door-to-door collecting portraits of the king to burn, a car pulled up at the end of the street and a man climbed out nervously.
“I’m a reporter, with the Birmingham Evening Dispatch. I had a phone call. Someone called Thomas Shelby?” he explained to the thugs guarding the road.
The journalist – played by Jonty Stephens – was quickly escorted to Tommy himself, who made it clear he was giving the orders.
“You’re Mr Shelby?” the journalist asked, fumbling for his notebook and pencil. “You said I would be protected? What’s going on?”
“There are some things I want you to write down,” Tommy said, staring into the fire. “Now first of all, it’s not that people round here are disloyal to the King. It’s the opposite. You see, we don’t want our beloved king looking down and seeing the things that are being done to us. So we’re taking down his pictures.”
After answering a couple of follow-up questions, he dismissed the reporter with the words: “I’m an ordinary man. I won gallantry medals at the Somme. I want you to write in your paper what’s going on here. Go on – go.”
And the journalist scuttled away to his car.
Back in 1919, Michael Levitt was a somewhat timid middle-aged local reporter, who wrote up the news story exactly as Tommy had demanded.
Ten years later he is working for a national newspaper – and though he’s still awkward as he stutters and scrabbles around for his pencil, it remains to be seen whether Tommy can control the media in London as he did in Birmingham.
The BBC announced Cowan’s series five casting in October 2018, though details of his character were kept under wraps – until this surprise reappearance of a long-forgotten character…
Peaky Blinders episode 2 will air on Monday 26th August at 9pm on BBC1, with further episodes on Sunday evenings