WARNING: includes spoilers…
We opened amid Tommy’s latest visit to the office of Winston Churchill. The Prime Minister is about the only man without a Shelby surname that Tommy seems to respect, and though used sparingly has served as a guiding force for our protagonist. This was especially true tonight, Churchill giving Tommy his blessing in attempting to take down Oswald Mosley and affirming what Tommy suspected: that he’s actually trying to do a good thing here.
Mosley and his affiliated gangs have represented the most overt danger to Tommy this season, but it was revealed in the finale that an existential threat has secretly been growing in his own family. It’s a testament to how commanding Cillian Murphy has been in the role of Thomas Shelby MP that I’d never really considered the possibility of a fellow gang member coming for his crown, even though this is a pretty classic mob drama storyline. Michael made his pitch to take over the family business tonight however, which went down about as well as a virgin mojito in the Garrison.
To be fair to Michael, his plan to provide the Peaky Blinders’ long-serving members with a comfortable retirement was pretty altruistic and fair. He was sorely lacking on the PR front however, and he should have known that the idea of Tommy taking the name of a dead man (‘Mr Jones’, the episode’s title) and rubbing out his legacy would have infuriated the elder Shelby. How did Michael go from just-happy-to-be-here new joiner to would-be usurper? It’s a shame we didn’t get to see how America changed him, and I’d love to see this slowly revealed through flashbacks in the final seasons. With his plan for a non-aggressive takeover quite literally going up in flames, Michael decided to engage the secret “second option” – we’ll get to that later.
The return of Alfie Solomons was the big moment tonight, found haggard and scarred but still very much alive by Tommy in a parlour room in Margate. TV shows just can’t resist bringing folks back from the ‘dead’ lately, and while Alfie’s return did feel a little like fan service, his scene in the finale was irresistible and beautifully written, accompanied by trademark anachronistic music that was actually piped into the room through a gramophone, a very cool touch.
Alfie’s even more powerful since being ‘resurrected’ apparently, with a statue of him being erected back in the motherland. “I am planning on making a pilgrimage to stand in my own shadow,” he charismatically informed Tommy. In a scene that saw (the actually thoroughly lovely) Margate totally roasted, Alfie seemed to support Tommy’s efforts to decapitate British fascism, and I think we can expect to see him back more fully in season 6.
Elsewhere in the episode, Polly resigned instead of taking sides in Tommy and Michael’s impending war, Charlie quite irresponsibly informed Tommy of the history of suicide in Tommy’s family, and the Garrison’s double-crossing bartender was outed, his brains making a mess of the pub’s ceiling.
The attempted assassination of Oswald Mosley at one of his rallies was the centrepiece of the episode, soundtracked by the band Idles who are just a perfect fit for Peaky Blinders and especially this anti-fascist storyline. Sam Claflin has portrayed Mosley brilliantly this season, really nailing that corners of the mouth downturned, wireless radio-style posh British accent, and coming across very menacing even though he’s not directly inflicted any violence.
Tommy’s hit might well have been a success – altering the course of history – had Finn not screwed things up, letting slip about the assassination plot to match-fixer Billy who promptly phoned it in (to the Irish? Dark parts of the government? That remains to be seen). The Peaky Blinders were foiled at the eleventh hour by mysterious forces at the rally, sniper Barney (who was played fleetingly but wonderfully by Cosmo Jarvis this season) being shot in the back of the head and Aberama Gold getting stabbed to death in the wings.
This final sequence was sharply edited and provided an edge of your seat ending to the season, though the aftermath felt a little hurried and probably should have been cut or else extended. We very briefly saw Tommy back at his manor trying to figure out what exactly went down at the rally, before marching into his misty grounds with a gun to his temple in a cliffhanger of a cut-to-black.
Tommy’s inability to put himself out of his own misery has been a through line this season, even being referenced by fellow soldier Churchill tonight. Tommy told Alfie that he’ll keep going “until he finds a man he can’t defeat”, and that man is proving to be Tommy Shelby himself. He has so far managed to put an end to anyone causing him or his loved ones pain, but not the man responsible for the most hurt.
Will Tommy ever escape his demons, or is he fated to remain in a living hell, one that will eventually include a second world war? This may be the key question as Peaky Blinders starts to wrap up, but first there’s the matter of Michael, who may well have been involved in the foiling of the Mosley assassination. Michael would seem an easy fly for Tommy to swat right now, but a lot can change in the years between seasons, and the millions Michael is dangling will bring him considerable sway.
A strong finale to a strong season of Peaky Blinders, which wisely introduced politics without getting too political, and served up a more layered, enthralling story than we’ve previously seen.