The fifth series of the good, the bad and the Brummie was left beautifully poised for a bloody final reckoning. Here are all the talking points from the explosive penultimate episode…
Linda survived but soon left Arthur heartbroken
Well, at least another Shelby wife didn’t die. Last week’s cordite-scented cliffhanger saw the righteously furious Linda Shelby (Kate Phillips) attempt to take vengeance on husband Arthur (Paul Anderson), only for Aunt Polly (Helen McCrory) to gun her down.
As we rejoined the Shelbys, they lay Linda on the dining table and saved her life. Tommy (Cillian Murphy) skilfully dug out the Derringer bullet from her shoulder and gave her opium for the pain, “even the pain in your head”. Self-loathing Arthur admonished Polly (“You should’ve let her do it, Poll… I deserved the bullet”) but was slightly cheered by the news that Aberama Gold (Aidan Gillen) wanted him to be best man at his and Polly’s wedding.
There was to be no fairytale reconciliation with Linda, though. When she regained consciousness, Arthur desperately tried to win her back by suggesting they emigrate together and leave the thug life behind but Linda was unmoved, spitting: “I’ve got a better idea. You stay here, living inside your head, your life, your war. I’m glad I didn’t shoot you. It would’ve been a kindness.” With that, she drove off alone, while Arthur watched despondently from a window. You wouldn’t want to be in his enemies’ shoes right now.
Mosley’s populist speech had echoes of modern politics
While the Shelbys attended to family business, Oswald Mosley (Sam Claflin) made a rabble-rousing speech to their gathered guests, announcing his “new political party for a new decade”, the British Union Of Fascists - led by him, shoulder-to-shoulder with his deputy Tommy.
Based on transcript of real Mosley speeches, the slick patriotic rhetoric soon veered into anti-Semitism - and writer Steven Knight made knowing nods to US politics with Mosley’s mentions of “Britain first” and “false news”.
Tommy’s ever-wise wife Lizzie (Natasha O’Keefe) was singularly unimpressed, as was Aberama, who spat on the ground and pointedly walked away. Tommy assured his family that he had a plan and they needed to trust him. “Again,” said Polly, with a sigh and a puff on her cigarillo.
Aroused by power, Mosley vowed to sleep with the ballerina who’d just starred in Swan Lake. Cue a slightly gratuitous sex scene in which he seemed more interested in looking at himself in the mirror. What a charmer. We eagerly await his comeuppance.
Politician dictated terms to Tommy. Or tried
The rampantly arrogant Mosley laid down the law to his host. The Shelby company lawyer was a Jew, so he’d have to go. Tommy would also cede control of the northern racecourses to their “mutual friend”, Billy Boys leader Jimmy McCavern (Brian Gleeson), whose Glaswegian gang would be the party’s “soldiers in the north”, controlling tallies and breaking up demonstrations. Oh and Tommy needed to drink less. Ever defiant, Tommy duly downed two whiskies.
When Mosley leeringly suggested that Lizzie join he and the ballerina in bed, she was repulsed: “You’re bad, Tommy, but that man is ****ing evil.” Once again, Tommy reassured her that he was only playing along to bring Mosley down. In the meantime, he was supplying the government with intel on Mosley’s organisation, in return for favourable terms on defence contracts.
Lizzie, though, reckoned Tommy’s motivations were more moral - stopping the march of fascism because somebody had to. As sister Ada (Sophie Rundle) theorised, had Tommy Shelby finally started to believe in something?
Ben Younger killed by familiar foes
Talking of that intel, Tommy met his army contact Colonel Ben Younger (Kingsley Ben-Adir) to hand over evidence of Mosley’s links to organised crime, along with a list of facist-sympathising MPs. Younger’s operation, however, was rattling the wrong kind of cages and he’d been threatened by government agency Section D, who battled Tommy back in series three.
When the camera lingered a little too long on Younger pulling up outside Tommy’s office, alarm bells rang. With good reason, it transpired, as he was blown sky-high by a car bomb. Children playing on the cobbles were blown backwards by the force and their flaming football bounced off down the street. Tommy rushed to their aid but a 10-year-old boy named Peter was tragically killed.
Tommy broke the news to Ada, who was shaken but admitted that although Younger was the father of her unborn baby, she didn’t love him and had no plans to marry him. It will go down as an IRA assassination but Tommy was sure it was Section D in retaliation for his movements against Mosley. Shadowy forces were at work.
Opium hijack led to London shootout
The Peaky Blinders struck a deal with Brilliant Chang (Andrew Koji) last week to smuggle the Chinese’s million-pound opium shipment up to Birmingham via the Grand Union canal. Yet when the expedition party of Arthur, Aberama and Isiah (Daryl McCormack) went to collect the “flour” from Poplar docks, they walked into a trap.
Local hoods the Titanic Boys (a real-life inter-war East End pickpocketing gang) were lying in wait - but they didn’t reckon for kamikaze Arthur spraying the docks with slo-mo machine gun fire. “To any of you still alive,” he bellowed as the dust settled, “you do not **** with the Peaky ****ing Blinders.” Somebody had been talking and rival gangs were circling. “Let ‘em come,” growled the increasingly belligerent Arthur. As Tommy drily noted: “He’s in the mood for a quarrel.”
Back in the Black Country, they gave 10 sacks of “flour” to McCavern for him to sell in Glasgow. The Billy Boys kingpin faced off against Arthur boxer-style, adding that Aberama was welcome anytime to try and avenge his son. McCavern is excellent at making enemies. Has he made a foe too far?
Golden oldies stood out on soundtrack
The musical highlights of this episode were a pair of stone-cold Brit-rock classics: Joy Division’s elegiac Atmosphere during the boy’s funeral scene and Black Sabbath’s antiwar anthem War Pigs as Tommy put his plans into action. “Evil minds that plot destruction” indeed.
Tommy recruited old friend from unlikely place
In a scene reminiscent of The Silence Of The Lambs, Tommy visited an insane asylum to see his shell-shocked war comrade Barney Tyson (affectingly played by actor-musician Cosmo Jarvis). Drugged and straitjacketed in his padded cell, Barney was said to be dangerous but he was meek as a lamb with Tommy, who filled him in on the fates of their brother-in-arms. “Them that are gone are the lucky ones,” said Barney sadly.
Tommy offered his old friend a cyanide capsule hidden in his teeth but Barney refused it “in the hope that things might change”. After they shared X-rated memories of a certain French waitress, the reasons for Tommy’s visit were made clear. Barney had been the best sniper in their unit, a sure shot who never missed, and Tommy had a job for him. He offered to break Barney out and equip him with a state-of-the-art BSA rifle with telescope sights. All he had to do was wait for a big bang. Boom.
Masterplan left us poised for finale
Before the credits rolled, Tommy spelt out his strategy. Barney would shoot Mosley when he was on-stage giving a speech, with Tommy standing next to him. Tommy would then take over as party leader, while Arthur and Aberama “took care” of McCavern. “It’s going to be a busy few weeks,” he said grimly.
In next week's finale, family tensions surface after a surprise announcement and Tommy puts his plan into action - but has he underestimated his opponents? Meet you back here to unravel the Peaky plot threads.