The Shelby’s are back and out for vengeance.
It was way back in 2013 that Peaky Blinders started cautiously on BBC2, before cementing its place as a distinctive behemoth of British TV. On the way, it has become one of Birmingham’s best exports; up there with HP Sauce and Jack Grealish’s calves. Stylish, cinematic and nuanced. It’s given us grizzly deaths and beatings, thick Brummie accents, dazzling tailoring and flat caps – even when Arthur is off his face on opium, he is ever the dandy; endless Nick Cave and Arctic Monkeys, sharp haircuts and the long. icy stare of Thomas Shelby.
The Series 5 finale ended on a gloomy note; Tommy failing to assassinate Oswald Mosely. Series Six picks up with Tommy in the same allegorical mud. Arthur’s gypsy foresight ensuring he emptied the chamber of Tommy’s gun.
At heart, Peaky’s is a gangster western and as the action jumps forward four years, we see a suited man walk into a bar full of strangers – all that’s missing is the Morricone trumpet. This is Micquelon Island, a bleak outpost off the coast of Newfoundland and beyond the jurisdiction of American and Canadian police. A grim, grey place, that makes Tommy’s home turf of Small Heath look like the Caribbean.
The bootleggers, disgruntled by the end of prohibition are suspicious of Tommy who is tee-total now – his liver must be screaming with relief and as he quotes William Blake, Tommy the poet killer with a razor blade in his cap, reveals he plans to use their illegal supply lines to flood the USA with Chinese opium.
And if Jack Nelson, uncle-in-law to his nemesis and cousin Michael refuses (Tommy always needs a foe) he will approach the Jews and the Irish.
Cut to Gina Grey sashaying into a Boston hotel room as Joy Division’s Disorder plays before dancing to jazz. She is being set up not only as Tommy’s latest conquest but as the successor to Polly Grey.
As Tommy is the brittle planet around whom all the Shelby’s rotate, then Aunt Polly was the beating heart that kept the family together. Helen McCrory’s tragic death in April 2021 meant Aunt Pol would be no more.
Her loss was confronted head-on, with a music-free funeral pyre and the whisper of vengeance. As the camera cut to Tommy, you saw the precise moment his heart broke for good.
“No more Polly, no more whiskey, no more Tommy.” says Lizzie, his long-suffering spouse.
The glum and reflective opener has raised the bar. We know Peaky Blinders will go out with a bang, it always does. After all, how else do you close the curtain on arguably the most successful BBC series of recent times.
The sixth and final series of Peaky Blinders is currently showing on BBC 1