Why It's Time For 'Peaky Blinders' To Ride Into the Sunset

Tom Nicholson
·3-min read
Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

From Esquire

So, farewell then Peaky Blinders. The sun will set on Small Heath sooner than anyone assumed. Instead of having two more seasons of gang chicanery, Nazi-thwarting and gunplay to look forward to, as previously trailed, its creators have confirmed there's just one left. The outpouring of grief has been torrential.

Yes, it's sad that the life of one of the biggest TV shows around has just been halved. Given how many balls are still in the air after the end of season five, and how far that cliffhanger ending is from the start of World War II, it feels like there's a lot to sort out if it's going to be a satisfying full stop.

And yet. Perhaps it's about time that Tommy Shelby put that horse he rode into town on out to pasture.

It had a natural lifespan from the beginning. Steven Knight's original intention was to write the story of one family between the wars and, he says, he always wanted the final scene to end with the first air raid sirens echoing around Birmingham. (War fact: that was late June 1940, so the gang might get some early racketeering in before it all ends.) The film – which in the last 12 hours has gone from a "strong possibility" to "going to happen," per Knight himself – will presumably pick up where that leaves off.

More than that, if you strip away all the stuff around Peaky Blinders that make it a pretty irresistible target for mockery – the Peaky-themed LARPing parties, the fiercely devoted fanbase, the constant parroting of catchphrases – it's a period drama about a family. They're a bit feistier than the Downton gang, but it was always about how they reacted to a changing Britain. Tommy Shelby was once an outcast Traveller shattered after seeing hell itself on the Western Front. He took calculated risks, he cared about his family, and he played people against each other. The events of postwar British history flowed around him and the Shelbys, bumping and pulling them as they do everyone else.

Since then things have got bigger, and bigger, and bigger, but Peaky is at its best when it's actually about this semi-mythic family and their duty to each other rather than questions of who might come back from the dead, or what character from the British Historical Universe Tommy will bump into next. At times in the last season he was edging towards being a kind of Black Country James Bond, trying to assassinate Oswald Mosley while taking instruction from his own M: Winston Churchill and his gigantic cigar.

That, hopefully, is what will snap back into focus with season six and the extra giddy-up of knowing it's the last run. The longer things go on, the more convoluted and further unmoored from reality you suspect they could become, and it would be a shame for it to go out as a pale shadow of itself. This way, it can keep the Birmingham soot under its fingernails to the last.

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