Has Tommy Finally Met His Match in 'Peaky Blinders' Season 5 Finale? (RECAP)
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Peaky Blinders Season 5 Episode 6, "Mr Jones."]
Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) has finally met a man he can’t defeat—himself. The inner struggle of the gangster-cum-politician has been the story of the season. The Glaswegian street gangs, the Chinese drug barons, the shady politicians, none of them are a match for the mental demons that plague Tommy’s restless mind.
And so it stands to reason that the final image of the season is Tommy alone in a field with a gun pressed to the side of his head. Now, we all know he’s not going to pull the trigger—the recommission of a sixth season tells us that—but it’s a refreshing change of pace to see the usually untouchable Shelby brother come unstuck for once. We’re so accustomed to seeing Tommy come out on top that to end the season in this manner is a welcome surprise.
Tommy’s problems start almost immediately when Michael (Finn Cole) hijacks a family meeting to put forward a business proposal. Michael wants to restructure the Shelby company around the heroin trade, expanding to America via his wife Gina’s (Anya Taylor-Joy) connections. It’s out with the old guard and in with the new generation. "The Americans don’t want to deal with an old fashioned, backstreet razor gang,” says the young upstart. The offer? Michael becomes director while Tommy essentially retires as a “non-executive chairman."
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"It’s time, and you know it," Michael tells a less-than-amused Tommy. For all of Michael’s arrogance and naïveté, he’s not entirely wrong. Tommy is slowly unraveling as he struggles to keep his various dealings in place. The consequences have resulted in the murder of his brother John and, more recently, the death of Ben Younger (Kingsley Ben-Adir). That’s not to mention the mental toll on Arthur (Paul Anderson) and Polly (Helen McCrory. But Tommy is too proud to admit defeat and gives his answer by throwing Michael’s proposal in the fire.
With Michael dismissed and shunned from the family, Tommy continues his plot to assassinate fascist politician Oswald Mosley (Sam Claflin); bringing Aberama Gold (Aiden Gillen) and Johnny Dogs (Packy Lee) into the fold. Aberama hilariously pokes holes in the ridiculousness of the plan, particularly the use of Barney (Cosmo Jarvis)—the coked-up, mentally unstable ex-Royal Marine sniper. But Tommy persuades Aberama to join the cause with the promise of revenge on one Jimmy McGavern (Brian Gleeson).
The idea is to spark a protest riot during Mosley’s speech at Birmingham's Bingley Hall, during which Barney will take his shot from the rafters. To do this, Tommy needs to bring one more person into the plan. That’s right, Alfie Solomon (Tom Hardy) is still alive after being shot in the face by Tommy last season. He's been wasting away his days on the Margate seafront, shooting at seagulls for fun. Was this just fan-service? Probably, but I will never complain about getting to see Tom Hardy ham it up in this role, and this scene is delightful in all its explicit cartoonishness.
But Alfie is not here simply to provide Tommy with some Jewish protestors; he’s here to act as a sort of Ghost of Christmas Future. This is a glimpse into the depressing, solitary life Tommy could be living if he took Michael’s offer to retire—driven to madness by bad memories and boredom. Charlie (Ned Dennehy) acknowledges this potential fate in a touching scene where he opens up about Tommy’s mother’s suicide. "You’re a gypsy," he tells Tommy, "you have to move around, or it all catches up with you."
Good intentions lead to terrible consequences in the penultimate episode of the fifth season, 'The Shock.'
It turns out Aberama was right to question the plan, though. It was always destined to fall apart. The real-life Mosley was never assassinated, and so, the intrigue here becomes more about how it will all go wrong. And it’s not Arthur’s temper or Barney’s mind-state that ruins everything but an innocent slip of the tongue from young Finn (Harry Kirton), who mentions the murder to football-fixer Billy (Emmett J. Scanlan). The result is a tip-off that ends in Barney and Aberama being killed before the shot at Mosley can be taken.
I should point out that Billy might not be fully to blame here for the tip-off. In fact, that unheard phone-call could have been an intentional misdirect. There's enough reason to believe that Michael could have been behind the foiled plan—given that earlier, Gina mentioned been forced to take the “second option.” The issue with that is I’m not sure how Michael and Gina would have been aware of the Mosley assassination—unless Polly told them, which is possible seeing as she took her son’s side over Tommy when it came to the business proposition.
Whoever it is behind the double-cross, the result is a shellshocked Tommy—left completely befuddled as his hard work falls apart in front of him. “I think it’s about time you and I got off the stage old man,” says Mosley, reframing Michael’s words from earlier in the episode. Tommy is being told his time is up (and just in case you didn't get it, there is the ticking sound of a pocket-watch for good measure). He's getting too old for this s**. It’s time to take his final bow—even Arthur, scared by Tommy’s uncharacteristic panic, begs his brother to end it... that maybe Michael was right.
It’s not in Tommy’s nature to give up, though. That’s another reason why we know he’ll never pull that trigger. Right now, he’s at his lowest; defeated, confused, and broken. But if we know anything about Tommy, it’s that he’ll always find a way back to the top. I assume next season to be all about the redemption of Thomas Shelby—so expect lots of gloomy, slo-mo walking across misty fields.
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-It's a shame that the finale couldn't find space for Ada (Sophie Rundle). She's felt like a spare part all season, to be honest. If she's sticking around for the next season, I hope Steven Knight finds something a bit juicier for her to do other than act as Tommy's confession box. There was no Lizzie (Natasha O'Keeffe) in this episode either, but at least she's had some solid scenes throughout the season.
-Charlie's confession that he was always in love with Tommy's mother was a really heart-wrenching scene. I've talked a lot about how Peaky Blinders is often overblown and ridiculous, so when we get a thoughtful, quiet moment like this, you learn to appreciate it.
-A nice touch with Alfie's mosaic floor spelling out "Lethe" (one of the five rivers of Hades according to Greek mythology)—fitting for a man who survived hell and came back to life.
-Utopia actor Neil Maskell popped up in heavy prosthetics to play Winston Churchill at the beginning of the episode. Tommy's connection to Churchill goes all the way back to the first season, but this was the first time the two had met face-to-face. The meeting didn't do a whole lot for me though... I think I'm just bored of on-screen portrayals of Churchill.
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