Peaky Blinders series six, episode one review: It's peak Peaky in the last-ever series
Right at the start of the new series of Peaky Blinders, when Tommy Shelby got up off the ground having failed to shoot himself, one side of his face was daubed in mud.
So of course I wondered: will this be the new Peaky craze? After the Peaky video games and the Peaky beers, after the festivals and the escape room experiences and don’t forget the haircuts … are we all now going to want harlequin phizogs and end up looking like the drummers in hopeless New Romantic bands who can’t afford proper make-up?
We’ve reached peak Peaky. The sixth season of BBC1’s Brummie gangland leviathan will be the last. Something’s got to give although something already has: Steven Knight’s epic must soldier on without Helen McCrory who passed away last year. Any drama would miss her and perhaps a mobster monster, all pistols and flick-knives and the ugliest of dialects, more than most.
In the saga her Aunt Polly has perished in some IRA “re-organising” of Tommy’s crime empire. Michael Gray vows to avenge his mother’s death which he immediately blames on Tommy and the show begins its race to the end with an old quote from Pol: “There will be a war and one of you will die. But which one I can’t tell … ”
I say race but it’s more of a slow saunter. Peaky can afford to take its time because its six million-plus audience - many sporting the hairstyle made famous by Cillian Murphy as Tommy of splodge on top, shaved down below - would be agog.
And as the action switched to a remote island off Newfoundland in 1933, they must have felt a shivery tingle on the bare bits of their bonces as Peaky paid homage to some hoary cliches, e.g. a pub sign creaking in the breeze and inside, the old soaks eyeing up the stranger with deep suspicion. For surely this was a prelude to some classic Tommy violence.
Maybe not, because as announced, no booze has passed his lips for four years. “Since I forswore alcohol I’ve become a calmer and more peaceful person,” he announced. Later he would quote poetry (William Blake’s A Poison Tree). For a moment the Peaky constituency must have been worried. But then - swish! - out came the trusty blade. Good old, bad old Tommy.
This island, outside territorial waters, has bootlegged whisky for the 12 years but with prohibition over, Tommy wants to use its boats and supply routes to flood America with “the finest opium in the world”. Can he do this sober? Everyone keeps pushing drink at him, with wife Lizzie complaining of how morose he’s become without it - “that dead voice.”
Murphy makes Tommy a bewitching bandit, a hypnotic hoodlum. It’s those piercing blue eyes - the bluest on TV since, bizarrely, Alan Hansen on Match of the Day. They promise sweetness which never comes. How will it all end? No Peaky expert me - I’m not brave enough for that haircut - but if I were him I’d beware Michael’s wife Gina, the diabolical dame behind that blonde peek-a-boo.
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