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Peaky Blinders: Lock and Key

"To family. Sometimes it is shelter from the storm. Sometimes it is the storm itself."

This is not the ending I expected, and I am delighted.

Peaky Blinders had a lot to wrap up in this series finale: avenging Polly's murder, wrapping up various characters' arcs, probably killing a lot more people, and Tommy's inevitable death from tuberculoma.

Basically, I expected a massacre. What we got was touching, optimistic, and far more satisfying than I expected it to be.

Avenging Polly's Death

This was a nesting series of tasks—as always, it's good thing that Tommy is always one step ahead of everyone else. Finn needed to be punished for being loose lipped around Billy, Billy needed to be killed for calling Michael, Michael needed to be killed for bringing in the fascist wing of the IRA, and Captain Swing of the IRA needs to be killed for all of her terrible plotting.

I've got to admit, as much as I wanted the Shelbys to get their revenge, I wasn't particularly engaged in the whole Finn-Michael-Gina drama this season. Finn basically disappeared for most of the season, and Michael and Gina were literally in a different hemisphere, complete with bright lighting and Art Deco interior design. Michael's death was satisfying, though.

I did absolutely love the shoot-out outside of the Garrison, with the gas masks and the sense that truly anything could happen. Arthur's line—his last line in the entire show—that "we're still in France" was heartbreaking, but also (I think) cathartic. Maybe, now, he can finally get out of the tunnels and the trenches.

Wrapping It Up: Arthur

Speaking of Arthur: Do you remember when we first met Arthur, back in the series premiere? He called Tommy into his office in the betting shop to tell him he was going too far. Challenging Billy Kimber, no less! (Imagine! The Horror!) Tommy got all snarky at Arthur: "I think," he said. "That's what I do." It was condescending and, in retrospect, needlessly cruel.

That scene comes full circle in this episode, when Arthur waits in Tommy's office to call him out, now that Arthur has found out about Tommy's tuberculoma. Arthur may not be the one who "thinks," but he is the one who feels, and he feels like Tommy undervalues himself: he's not just money. "Fuck your contracts!" Arthur yells, "Fuck your fucking plans!"

And then they hug it out under a portrait of John. What a beautiful way to acknowledge how hard this is for both of them, but also how these two brothers have finally, at the last possible moment (they think) found some type of parity.

I also appreciate that Arthur chose not to attend the Last Supper in the woods. He's done, I think, with the plotting and the planning. (Although, in recent episodes, there has been so much emphasis on Arthur as a sort of wacky coach to the younger generation, I do wonder if he'll return in the upcoming film, and I don't hate the idea.)

Most importantly, I'm so happy that Arthur is not dead. I couldn't imagine that the show would be willing to let such a complex, violent character survive on a hopeful, redemptive note. But it did. It feels brave and perfect.

Wrapping It Up: Looking Ahead

Charlie, Tommy's son, says his dad is never present, and he decides to go with Lizzie. This is probably for the best, especially for Lizzie, who has lost so much.

Charlie’s choice also helps us understand why Steven Knight brought in Duke, Tommy's replacement child: Duke is "dark" (recalling the previous episode), Charlie is "light" (despite having a spy and a criminal as his parents). It's a happy ending for Charlie, I suppose, that he’s getting some distance from his very stormy family.

This situation also sets up a possible plot for the upcoming film: if it's set during WWII, I wonder if we can expect some tension between Finn and Duke? They're of an age, and one (Finn) has the experience of the Shelby business, while the other (Duke) has the backbone that Finn lacks. I suppose I’ll be more interested in that plot later.

Wrapping It Up: Alfie Solomons!

Since we got Alfie in the season premiere, I did not expect to see him again in the season finale, least of all in Canada. What a lovely surprise! It was not only one last Tom Hardy/Cillian Murphy scene, but one last twist to the big plan for the season: Alfie gets all the stuff that the South Boston Irish wanted. Take that, Joe Kennedy stand-in whose name I can never remember!

I love that Tommy confessed his impending death to Alfie, and that Alfie made light of it. I love that Tommy didn't forget about Alfie's meta opera. I love that Alfie thinks Michael will be forgiven, and Tommy will not. Because Alfie rarely says what he means when it comes to the important stuff.

Mostly, I love that Alfie's new wife is from circus folk, and they left their wedding on elephants.

Tommy's Death

In the hugging scene with Arthur, Tommy asks him: "How long have we been dead for? Huh, how long?" This recalls the "soldier's moment" that Tommy spoke of so many years ago: his sense that a last-minute reprieve during the war gave him, basically, a free pass.

Well, he got another one!

He had crossed everything off his list. He blew up his inappropriately large home. He got a great hug from Arthur, some iffy advice from Alfie, and he set up a bucolic supper for his family in the woods. He said his goodbyes, coaching Ava to go into politics, confirming with Linda that she'd look after Arthur, reminding Charlie to look after Lizzie, whispering something mysterious to Duke.

It felt like a Last Supper (minus a betrayer). It felt like the Christmas that the Shelbys never really had back in Season Four. It felt like a reminder of their Traveler background—in the woods, surrounded by wagons. It was a beautiful end, and one that set me up to accept Tommy's death.

But Tommy isn't dead. He isn't even sick. (Maybe the seizures were just more PTSD or communications from ghosts? Don't overthink it.) Steven Knight has said that this season takes Traveler spirituality seriously, and that's completely true in this final sequence, when Ruby visits Tommy to clue him into the most banal treachery ever: his doctor is a fascist, in league with the Mosleys.

And Tommy, amazingly, didn't kill him. He let him live, he let his wagon burn, and he rode off on a white horse. His "soldier's moment" is over. I think this means he has finally been resurrected: he’s a new man now, not living on borrowed time, but on his own time. This is incredible, truly unexpected.

The final shot of the show is Tommy’s wagon, lit on fire by a fascist thug. It’s a complex image: it sets up the idea that Tommy can (if he wants) pretend to be dead, just like Alfie. It symbolizes Tommy letting go of the past. But it also reminds us—the present-day viewers—of what is to come: a Holocaust. We may be hopeful for Tommy, but we can’t be too hopeful for the world we’re about to see in the upcoming film.

Distilled For the Eradication of Seemingly Incurable Sadness:

• In an interview with the BBC, Cillian Murphy explained that all of his scenes with Tom Hardy are filmed like a play: both actors filmed with numerous cameras, rather than one actor doing his part, then the next doing his. That's why they have so much punch.

• Elsewhere (I forget where), someone posted that Cillian Murphy did not know how to make a paper airplane, and had to be taught on set for his scene with Mitford and Mosley. That scene was funny, especially the line about not having sex on the Tory side, but I won’t miss them, especially Mitford.

• One last shout-out to the support staff that makes the Shelby clan as complex as it is: Uncle Charlie, Curly, and Johnny Dogs. I’m always the weird person who identifies with the random side character (never the main hero), and if there were a “which Shelby are you?” Buzzfeed quiz, I’d inevitably get either Charlie or Johnny. I’m not good enough to be Curly.

Thank you for all of your patience as I took my sweet time reviewing this show! It’s such a dense show that I never felt like I said enough, even when I know I said too much.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)


  1. Congratulations on finishing Peaky Blinders! I know it wasn't an easy show to review. I'm still stuck back early in this season, but I'll definitely be finishing and adding another comment at some point.

  2. And here it is.

    I am also delighted that we didn't get a bloodbath of an ending, although if there really is a movie coming, I should have expected it. How can they do a movie without Tommy?

    The scene where Arthur figured out what was really going on with Tommy by breaking into his office was probably my favorite scene in this final episode. Tommy never sees himself as worthy of love, and Arthur showed how much he loved him, hugging him as if he would never let him go. Genuinely touching.

    Tommy and Arthur are terrible people, and yet I honestly didn't want them to die. They each got an amazing battle that felt like it could be their last one. The battle at the pub with the columns and the flying sparks and the gas masks was pretty amazing. So was the exploding car and the way Michael finally went.

    The thing with the doctor could have felt contrived, a plotty cop-out, but it didn't. And the final scene with Ruby, the burning wagon and Tommy on the horse, was pretty much perfect. In these days of streaming, a really good ending will extend the viewership of a series. Fans of this show must be happy with this one.

    And writing that, I realized that I don't really see myself as a fan of this show. I feel like I kept my distance from it, and admired it from afar. Maybe it's just as I said -- they're all bad people, and I never liked them. But they were fascinating and I didn't want them to die, either.

  3. I also was very surprised that Tommy survived the ending of the show. So much of the season has been relentlessly grim that I would never have imagined it ending on a fairly hopeful note.

    And Billie, I know what you mean about not really feeling like a fan of the show because the characters were hard to really root for (well, maybe Polly). But I did watch it to the end, partly because the show always looked and sounded so good, as well as being well written. To be honest I usually avoid the crime boss genre; I think this is one of only two shows of its type I've actually watched to the end. (The other was Suburra: Blood on Rome).

    One thing that struck me as odd about the season is that Oswald Mosley and Diana Mitford didn't really get there comeuppance. Maybe too much historical revisionism would be required to have it happen this early. Perhaps that's what the movie will be: Tommy returning to bring him down.

  4. Anon, I'm curious to see what they do with Mosley and Mitford, too. It's hard to imagine the film could cover all the way through WWII, so how could it possibly end with anything resembling a happy ending?

    I definitely count myself as a fan of the show, but I always feel like I'm doing it wrong. Other fans seem to see the glamour as the point, whereas I see it as the bait-and-switch.

  5. The actor who played Jeremiah, who was also a poet and activist, has died:https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/07/world/benjamin-zephaniah-dead.html

    What an amazing person.


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