When NME spoke to Peaky newcomer Conrad Khan last week – the sometime Duke Shelby dancing around our search for spoilers like he might shimmy the night away at a Garrison lock-in – he described the series finale as “satisfying but not satisfying”. “Things are resolved but they’re also not really resolved,” said Tommy Jr, which is about as accurate a description of what just unfolded as we might arrive at.
And yet we shouldn’t have been at all surprised at the show’s lack of finality. For months now, creator Steven Knight has been describing season six as not the beginning of the end, but the “end of the beginning”. Which makes the beautifully written feature-length end to the main series – with future films and character spin-offs planned – all the more worthy of acclaim. You got an ending. But the threads left untied remain tantalising.
Such as? Well, the ostracisation of Finn (Harry Kirton) – easily the most noteworthy moment for the character since he joined us in season two – sets up a feud with Duke that will surely form the crux of that upcoming film. Duke might be new to the fold, but he encapsulated more of the Shelby spirit in a few short scenes than the hapless Finn ever did. And moreover, where does Tommy (Cillian Murphy) go now? He isn’t dead, but perhaps is, at least in the same way his old frenemy Alfie Solomons (Tom Hardy) is. There are scorched memories, a raging pyre, but also a man and a white horse, off grid, free to be whatever he now wants to be.
Before the meat, the trimmings, and the aforementioned Shelby’s meeting with Alfie in Newfoundland – much like their pairing in the Camden cellar earlier in the season – was as delicious a union as Peaky Blinders has ever served up. “We’re all dying anyway,” says Alfie at the bar, managing to sound both wise and utterly deranged as usual. Incidentally, there’s a fan theory that, like Ruby in the episode’s closing, Alfie isn’t alive but a figment of Tommy’s imagination. We don’t buy it. There’s surely a spin-off of the character due to come.
The image of Arthur in Small Heath, mask on, striding through yellow plumes of mustard gas, back in France – at least in his mind – reviving Captain Swing just so he could cast judgement and then avenge Polly’s death, goes to the top of the pile as one of the series most iconic moments. Much like his and Tommy’s beautiful barney in the latter’s office – nice to see John again, incidentally – though some doubt exists as to whether the former has already offed himself unaware of Tommy’s resurrection. Or is he really just catching a trout? Either way, Paul Anderson has been remarkable this season.
But with Lizzie (Natasha O’Keeffe) freed from her miserable marriage, Billy (Emmett Scanlan) dead, Ada (Sophie Rundle) pushed towards the political career that always beckoned, and – thrillingly – the Shelby mansion blown to smithereens, the most satisfying moments of the episode lay with the reveal of Tommy’s doctor as on the payroll of fascists and the murder of Michael (Finn Cole) back in Canada. We were surprised not to see Uncle Jack, but perhaps he’s otherwise detained in acting school, still in search of that illusive Bostonian drawl.
“I’m going to go look at the fog, Tom,” says Johnny Dogs (Packy Lee) after playing bomb switch-a-roo with the Boston mobsters, celebrating being given something to do that isn’t babysit Arthur and leaving Tommy to finish Michael off. We’re not sure it’s what mother Polly would have wanted, but the end for Michael has been marked for some time now. Just one of the lives – remember he once lived a peaceful existence away and unknowing of the Shelbys – ruined by coming into contact with Tom. Still, at least he got to roll around with glamorous Gina (Anya Taylor-Joy) and sit smoking in pyjamas for a bit.
And yet, as the ever-growing Peaky franchise is burnt to the filter – an episode exciting, intriguing, and surprisingly funny it should be said – we can’t help thinking what it was that Tommy whispered to Duke as the Shelbys dined in the shadow of horses and caravans. This is an infuriating dramatic device, it really is. It’s also yet another reason why we’ll be glued to whatever comes next in the Peaky Blinders world.
- Tommy: “If you wanna fuck I’ll fuck, but you’ll have to cross the floor, because I refuse to fuck on Tory benches.” Is it just us, or is it getting hot in here?
- “I don’t shoot dogs, I shoot fucking fascists.” The best Manic Street Preachers lyric never written, delivered by Arthur.
- “Your lethal hand is always on our shoulders” Michael’s last words to Tommy are as fitting as they are erudite.