‘Peaky Blinders’ season six episode five recap: a prologue to total war

**Spoilers for 'The Road to Hell' below**

If next week’s feature-length finale is the main course, then this really quite strange episode is not so much an appetiser, but a using up of everything in the fridge that might otherwise go off. Basically, this episode is an omelette. Is it a good omelette, like a cheese and spinach one, or a rubbish one with onion? Hmmm. That depends on how much you care about the advancement of Season 6’s already fairly threadbare plot. If that’s why you’re here, we’re afraid to say you’ll be going hungry.

Not that the episode is without merit. Creator Steven Knight recently described the coming closure to Peaky Blinders’ main series as “the end of the beginning, rather than the beginning of the end”. It’s highly likely that next week’s episode will be a dry run for the long-discussed feature film. With that in mind, this week seems as though it is prepping the Peaky universe for the planned spin-offs that will live on beyond the main series. This means we reconnect with characters we previously thought were lost down the back of Knight’s sofa. There’s Curly! Charlie Strong! And, finally, there’s Finn. Remember Finn? You know Finn. Shit hair. Um. Not much else to say, really.

Arthur Shelby (Paul Anderson) skulks around younger brother Finn (Harry Kirton) CREDIT: BBC

Yet the most notable return this week is that of Billy Grade, the footballer-cum-singer-cum-Shelby-employed-match-fixer, who this week, at the behest of a brilliantly unhinged Arthur, is forced to garotte an especially principled referee. It’s the most violent scene in the show for some time: an arresting moment witnessed by Finn, Isiah and… Tommy’s son, Duke, earlier introduced to the family in The Garrison as Lizzie’s eyes roll into the back of her head. Oh, and there’s Michael, too. He even gets a scene outside of his jail cell. “I have consulted my mother,” he says, “and it is my intention to kill Tommy Shelby.”

Big words for one wearing pyjamas and a caterpillar on their lip. But as for the purpose of revisiting Arthur’s butchery – Grade does the killing, but metaphysically, the blood is on Arthur’s hands – we can only presume we needed a reminder of Arthur’s corroded soul before the events of next week. But the grisliness doesn’t end there. Later, cleaning himself off in the showers, a naked Billy Grade is accosted by Jack Nelson. He silently slips a garotte around the cock of the traumatised Billy. He draws blood. Jack tells Billy that he knows he’s the informant inside the Shelby Organisation and that he’s the man Billy now works for. “My associates are going to take care of Thomas Shelby, and you are going to give us his brother, Arthur…” Scary stuff, and yet not nearly as unsettling as Jack’s pantomime Bostonian accent.

Duke Shelby (Conrad Khan) glares menacingly. CREDIT: BBC

So next week is going to be a war – total war – and it’s not just Tommy plotting to bring an end to the complexity he’s attempted to stage-manage for at least two seasons now. There are several interesting but perhaps not essential wrinkles to the Peaky universe explored en route to the finale. A fun opening scene in which Tommy demands that opium is eradicated from Chinatown (“from now on you will sell only cigarettes, cake and tea”), a ticking bomb in his bag all the while. A reunion, of sorts, between Arthur and wife Linda. A last salvo for Stephen Graham. The predicted bunk-up between Tommy and the horrible Diana Mitford. And poor, mistreated, desperate Lizzie. “It’s like the clock’s stopped ticking and I’m waiting for the bomb to explode”, she tells Tommy, bringing the episode back to its explosive opening scenes.

But if this week’s episode serves one purpose, it’s to introduce Duke properly, not just to his new family, but to us too. It’s now clear from the scene he Tommy and share in Charlie Strong’s yard that the future of the Peaky Blinders franchise will involve the newcomer, while Tommy now seems resigned to his story coming to an end. “Lizzie doesn’t deserve me,” he tells Mosely, Jack and Mitford, back at that cursed dining table, the room’s lighting as dark as the hearts of those assembled. “She doesn’t deserve what I will become. Truth is, I belong at this table with fuckers like you. Could there be a sadder end…”

It’s a question we’ll get the answer to next week.

Peaky zingers

  • “You take him to Mr. Patches, alright? You tell him we’ve got some fuel for the furnace.” Cadaver disposal, Arthur style.
  • “I didn’t take to working in the betting shop…” Duke raises his issues with being forced to watch a man murdered to Shelby HR.
  • “Oswald has fucked your wife, so my suggestion is about balance and proportion.” Diana propositions Tommy, the way only she knows how.

‘Peaky Blinders’ airs every Sunday at 9pm on BBC One

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