SPOILER ALERT: This post contains details about the series finale of Peaky Blinders…: Before it debuts on Netflix on June 10 in the US and other markets, period gangster epic Peaky Blinders‘ sixth and final season concluded with a feature-length episode on BBC One in the UK tonight. Created by Steven Knight, who cautioned me before the finale to “expect the unexpected,” Peaky went out in top and twisty form with operatic and Godfather-esque flourishes. Since debuting in 2013, and gaining a rabid global fanbase, the Shelby family is meeting its end as a TV series, however, Knight has confirmed that a movie is going to happen — and given how the finale played out, there is still much to explore.
So, how did this iteration wrap things up for Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) and the rest of the Birmingham crew? Throughout this season, we’ve been reminded of the words of Aunt Polly (the late Helen McCrory) who told Tommy in Season 5, “There will be a war. And one of you will die. But which one I cannot tell.” That refrain was revisited again tonight, and after a bit of bait-and-switch, it did come to pass — though not as we had been led to based on certain earlier revelations believe this season.
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— Peaky Blinders (@ThePeakyBlinder) April 3, 2022
The episode kicks off with cousin Michael Gray (Finn Cole) being released from Norfolk Prison in Boston, where Tommy had him sent in the season opener. And again, Michael swears, “I will take revenge on Tommy Shelby” whom he blames for Aunt Polly’s death at the end of Season 5.
We cut to Tom’s wife Lizzie (Natasha O’Keeffe) weeping in the bedroom of their recently married daughter Ruby. Tommy announces he is headed back to Miquelon Island to collect $5 million that is owed for an opium shipment. Lizzie tells Tommy she is leaving him and declares, “You are cursed, Tommy… A curse never to be lifted.”
In fact, Tommy is beginning to put his affairs in order at the Shelby Company Limited in response to having been diagnosed with a fatal cerebral tuberculoma a few episodes earlier. No one else is aware of the diagnosis, until Arthur (Paul Anderson) discovers the x-rays and flaps them in Tommy’s face, “I know, brother, I know.”
Tommy tells his sibling and WWI comrade, “We’ve been dead a long time; at least now I’ll have a certificate… All them bullets that missed.” It’s an emotional scene as Tommy admonishes Arthur to keep the news to himself: “I don’t want anyone who may or may not love me to see me crawl or go insane or helpless. By the time people know the truth, I will be gone.” Arthur is finally clean from opium, not having been able to even sit up for several of the season’s earlier episodes, and grabs onto his brother in a long embrace. Says Tommy, “I’m still fucking here. We have work to do.”
Tommy’s illegitimate son Duke (Conrad Khan) is meanwhile being indoctrinated into the family. The gang all gathers at the Garrison pub including younger brother Finn (Harry Kirton) who has had some dodgy dealings with bookie Billy (Emmett Scanlan), who’s also in attendance. We’ve been waiting for the hammer to drop on Billy and that’s coming soon. Tommy tells those assembled he has a job for them at family manse Arrow House including removing information about people that “has more value than gold,” bodies that need to be dug up and expensive French wines that should be drunk. “It will be like a farewell party.” Asks the egregious Billy, “Will there be girls?”
Cut to Boston and the fabulous art-deco pad where Gina (Anya Taylor-Joy) has been reunited with husband Michael. Ever-steely, she informs him that Arthur will be having dinner at the Garrison on Sunday night, “Maybe our people could drive by and shoot Arthur through the glass.” Michael appears reticent since “this business is between me and Tommy,” but Gina insists, “Arthur has to die too… deep down, Arthur and Tommy want to be dead anyway. On Sunday, we’ll just give them what they want.”
Back to Tommy, sitting in a darkened House of Parliament when Diana Mitford (Amber Anderson) struts in and suggests they “fuck on the benches.” Tommy: “I’ll fuck, but you’ll have to cross the floor, cause I refuse to fuck on Tory benches.” Mitford’s fiancé, fascist Oswald Mosley (Sam Claflin) appears from the shadows proffering a wedding invitation to Tommy. It’s in Berlin. We’re going to get married in the presence of the Führer himself” setting up an important plot point for later on.
The action then shifts among various settings as scores are about to be settled. Michael arrives on Miquelon Island where a leather satchel containing a bomb is being gingerly loaded into a car; the Blinders crew in Birmingham head to Arrow House; Tommy is seen flashing back to Aunt Polly’s prophecy; and Arthur is at the Garrison.
At Arrow House, a showdown in the kitchen sees Duke take control and the expulsion of Finn from the family, while Billy takes a bullet to the forehead. Meanwhile, Tommy’s plane is landing on Miquelon as IRA operative Captain Swing (Charlene McKenna) and her group — who murdered Polly — are headed to the Garrison to take care of Arthur.
A game of cat-and-mouse ensues in the streets outside the pub with Arthur turning the tables on the assassins, using decoys, a machine gun and toxic smoke bombs — there’s even a nod to the Odessa Steps sequence from Battleship Potemkin. Before Arthur kills Swing, he says, “Her name was Elizabeth Gray. She was my Aunt Polly,” and he shoots her through the chest.
Back on Miquelon, Tommy and Michael are about to set off to where the opium is stored so that Tommy can collect the $5 million owed to him. When Michael jumps out of the car to retrieve his cigarettes from the bar, things don’t go according to his plan since the bomb has been switched to another car, leaving Tommy to emerge unscathed. Thank God for good ol’ Johnny Dogs (Packy Lee).
A shocked Michael tells Tommy, “You killed her.” Tommy responds, “Polly made her own choices,” to which Michael says, “No one close to you makes their own choices, we can’t escape you.” Tommy tells Michael, “Polly visits me in my dreams; she’ll visit me no more” and then shoots Michael through the eye. “I have no limitations,” says Tommy. And thus, Polly’s prophecy is realized.
Back inside the bar appears Alfie Solomons (Tom Hardy), sharing commentary in his trademark fashion. Tommy tells him, “You know, Alfie, so many people go to so much trouble so many times to kill me and I’m fucking dying anyway.” Alfie: “Is it the clap?” Then, “Speaking as someone who has been dead for a number of years, I can only heartily recommend it.” It’s overall a terrific exchange between the two.
Now back in Birmingham, Tommy exits Arrow House as it is stunningly blown up behind him. Next, he’s hosting an outdoor meal among gypsy caravans for the remaining members of the Peaky Blinders saying, “We’re back where we began, horses and caravans, vagabonds and thieves.” Toasting his family, he suggests Ada (Sophie Rundle) should run for office one day. Ada is still unaware of Tommy’s diagnosis and is confounded about his plans to go away “for a bit.”
Fast-forward one month, and Tommy is living in a caravan parked in a wide-open countryside. Today is the day that his coin toss determines he will put a bullet through his head. But after laying out tributes to Grace, Lizzie, Ruby, John and Polly — and uttering the series’ familiar “In the bleak midwinter” — Ruby comes to Tommy in a vision. “Did Polly send you, or am I dead already?” he asks the little girl who tells him he’s not sick. “Let the fire go out, light the fire again and get warm, and you will see that you must live.”
Tommy pulls out a charred newspaper clipping with photos from the Oswald/Mitford wedding in Berlin and recognizes Doctor Holford (Aneurin Barnard), who gave him his death sentence, amongst the party. The revelation that the diagnosis was all a scam sends him to corner the doctor on his estate. “How was the wedding in Berlin?” Tommy asks while explaining he’s figured out all the connections. “I’m guessing that all you people decided that the only person who can kill Tommy Shelby is Tommy Shelby himself,” he tells Holford who pleads that Tommy has become a different man, one who could not kill another in cold blood. Though he’s about to do so, a bell chimes, and Tommy sighs, “Eleventh hour. Armistice. Peace at last. Peace at last” and sends a bullet into the ground.
The closing scenes take place with Lisa O’Neill’s cover of Bob Dylan’s “All The Tired Horses” on the soundtrack. Tommy, on his white steed, watches as his caravan goes up in flames.