The highly anticipated fifth season of Steven Knight’s flagship BBC drama Peaky Blinders has come to an end after what I’m sure fellow viewers will agree has been a swift five weeks. The rate at which the popularity and buzz around the show has increased is astounding. Series 5 has once again showcased the strength of its actors and writers, with each episode maintaining the intensity and surprise that it is known for. No time is wasted, as every second of the six episodes build to a crescendo and pack a punch that pieces together the motivations of characters that, at times, appear conflicting and confusing.
Fans of Peaky Blinders understand commitment and dedication. If full concentration is not given, it is very easy to miss crucial aspects of the storyline and subtleties that are present in the action. The writers are careful not to overly complicate the storylines as to challenge the viewer, but they accurately depict the challenges that the Shelby family face as they fight to maintain power and remain loyal to their fellow family members, regardless of how difficult it may be. It perfectly portrays the aftermath and consequences of violence rather than glamorising it – this is primarily done through the character of Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy), as his ability to keep his emotions in check becomes weaker, challenging his fearless facade and ability to maintain control over the business of his family.
The series begins alongside the Wall Street Crash of 1929, resulting in Shelby Company Ltd. losing a great deal of money, much to Tommy’s distress and anger. However, the family possess enough money as a result of their illicit activities outside the business to help keep them afloat, and maintain their lifestyle as influential – and feared – members of the community.
In the opening episode we discover that Ada (Sophie Rundle), Tommy’s sister, is hiding a secret; namely that she is with child. In season one of Peaky Blinders we saw Ada’s doomed relationship with Freddie Thorne (Iddo Goldberg) which resulted in the birth of their son prior to Freddie’s death. Ada has often followed her own path within the show, taking a backseat in the company and possessing a voice of reason towards the violent actions of her brothers. The audience is encouraged to wish for happiness for Ada due to the tragedy of her past relationship. When Ben Younger (Kingsley Ben-Adir) comes around, I was hoping that this new partner would provide this for her. Sadly, this relationship is similarly doomed.
Season five shows Tommy’s journey from ruthless gangster to serious politician, with interesting insight in the comparisons between the two. In the show he is faced with representing the people of Birmingham in Westminster as their MP. This transition is jeopardised due to the introduction of Jimmy McCavern (Billy Gleeson), the leader of the Glasgow razor gang the Billy Boys. McCavern is a dangerous figure and is introduced to us by literally crucifying Bonnie Gold (Jack Rowan), the son of a Peaky Blinders ally. He also has a personal vendetta against Tommy Shelby and is in league with the British Union of Fascists, which places him as both as a strong character and a direct threat to the family. Season five plays on the dilemma of whether Tommy Shelby chooses to meet violence with violence in order to deal with McCavern. The problem with this decision is that it will fuel his reputation as a gangster in the political circuit, even though it will protect his family and gain revenge.
Tommy’s personal life is as problematic as his professional is as the season continues. He remains grief-stricken by the unforeseen murder of his wife Grace (Annabelle Wallis), which took place in season three at the hands of an Italian gangster. Tommy frequently turns to opium as a source of relief from his grief – however, this only conjures up a hallucination of the ghost of his deceased wife appearing. Around this time, we also see Grace and Tommy’s son questioning his father’s bizarre actions, primarily his violent tendencies towards his horse. He asks Tommy why he shot his horse, and Tommy explains that it was necessary as the horse was no longer fit for purpose. He tells his son, “sometimes death is a kindness”, raising the question of whether Tommy’s violent actions in the past and present may be justifiable in any way.
The main project Tommy dedicates himself to in this season is the annihilation of the head of the Union of Fascists, Oswald Mosley (Sam Claflin), and the fascist ideology that he is attempting to spread in Britain. Tommy’s intelligence, and an advanced knowledge of the way in which warped people operate, leads him to become a temporary ally of Oswald in order to work on destroying him from the inside. Tommy conjures a plan to kill Mosley during his most important political rally, which takes place in the season finale. If the Peaky Blinders succeed in destroying Mosley, it will be kindness to the political landscape of Britain, although it means Tommy returning to his violent roots and utilising murder as a means to success. Questions like these are at the crux of Peaky Blinders, and you get the feeling that the writers are only getting better and better at asking them.