AMMAN: So, the saga of the Shelbys comes to an end. Season six of “Peaky Blinders,” which just dropped on Netflix, will be its last. Given the numerous popular shows that have failed to stick their (Queen’s) landings in recent years, there is understandable trepidation among fans.
Set in Birmingham, England, in the period between the First and Second World War, “Peaky Blinders” is the story of the Shelby family (siblings Tommy, Arthur, John, Ada and Finn, and the de facto matriarch, Aunt Polly), leaders of the titular organized-crime gang. Tommy, though younger than Arthur, is the head — the brutal brains behind Arthur’s psychopathic brawn.
It’s no real surprise that this final season is unremittingly bleak. In many ways, that’s the only natural outcome to a story about a gang of ruthless criminals — even if Tommy is now an MP with an OBE to his name. But it’s still impressive how devastatingly dark the show gets, tackling addiction, child death, the rise of fascism and the damaging desire for vengeance and/or power with masterful skill.
Another reason for the heaviness that seems to hang over every scene is the death in April 2021 of the magnificent Helen McCrory, who played Polly. Showrunner Stephen Knight deals with the death of this vital cast member in a touching and graceful way in the first episode, and the loss of Polly — his main confidante — plays a significant role in Tommy’s character arc.
The superb Cillian Murphy continues to dig deep to portray Tommy’s state of mind as he lives a dangerous double life (possibly a triple or quadruple life), befriending the despicable fascist leader Oswald Moseley while reporting on the fascists’ activities to Winston Churchill; keeping many of his labyrinthine plans for the Shelby Organization from his family (partly to protect them, partly because he’s still not clear about who betrayed him); and keeping his emotional turmoil from his sister and his wife. Murphy is pitch-perfect — eerily composed but a moment away from meltdown. His great trick is convincing the audience to believe Tommy’s repeated promises that he wants to be a better, kinder man, even though his actions suggest otherwise.
He’s helped by the overall quality of the ensemble cast. And it’s tempting to think, “When the results are this impressive, why not keep going?” Unlike Tommy, though, Knight has decided to get out while the going’s good and leave us wanting more. When it comes to TV, that’s no mean feat.