The sixth and final season of British gangster hit “Peaky Blinders” has arrived.
Now streaming on Netflix, the season closes out some aspects of the story while leaving plenty up in the air, since there’s a movie in the works, too. This makes it as dramatic as ever, but underwhelming as an end to this story in its TV series incarnation.
Ever since it premiered in 2013, the show has followed the Shelby mob family in Birmingham, England, through the aftermath of World War I, as they’ve risen from the streets to the halls of Parliament, and clashed with various enemies. Led by Tommy Shelby (Cillain Murphy), the family includes his aunt Polly (Helen McCrory), her son, Michael (Finn Cole), Tommy’s brothers Arthur (Paul Anderson) and John (Joe Cole), their sister Ada (Sophie Rundle) and Tommy’s wife Lizzie (Natasha O’Keeffe), who is a former sex worker turned secretary turned society wife.
By the final season, Tommy’s allies include unpredictable Jewish gangster Alfie (Tom Hardy) and his main adversary is fascist politician Oswald Mosley (Sam Claflin). Season 5 ended with Tommy failing at his plan to assassinate Mosley.
Although it’s not the show’s fault, there’s a hole at the center of the story in Season 6. Co-star Helen McCrory tragically died of cancer in 2021 at age 52, and the show has adjusted to this by axing Polly.
The choice to kill Polly rather than write her off in a gentle way (she could have run off with a lover) makes Season 6 feel grim. The story begins with Tommy away from his family, making business moves near Newfoundland and speaking French, Michael is gunning for Tommy, blaming him for Polly’s death, Arthur is back to his old self-destructive habits, addicted to opium, Ada and Lizzie are stressed out holding down the fort back in England, Alfie has gotten into opera, and World War II is on the horizon.
“Peaky Blinders” has always been an entertaining show, full of scenery chewing performances, anachronistic rock music that makes the period-drama feel kinetic, and bombastic action. Season 6 is no different. It holds several delights, including Afie saying, “Speaking as someone who has been dead for a number of years, I can only heartily recommend it.”
But, it doesn’t reach the heights of the show at its best. Although Polly and Lizzie’s arcs have been highlights, the show has always been the weakest at giving its female characters enough to do – and giving them roles that defy the “mob wife” stereotype. Sans Polly, now there’s just Lizzie, Ada, and Michael’s wife, Gina (Anya Taylor-Joy), and none of them get dynamic plots.
As for Tommy, he’s a character who’s compelling even when he’s just thinking. But in the final stretch of a dark drama about an antihero, every story in this genre has to make a choice once and for all about whether to redeem him, or punish him for his actions. “Peaky Blinders” has always been too enamored with Tommy to punish him for long, but it also likes wallowing in his darkness, which leaves the season feeling like it can’t make up its mind on what note to take for its swan song. And since this story will continue in a movie, his fate in Season 6 doesn’t feel like it has much gravity, since it’s not his true final word, anyway.
Ultimately, the season is worth tuning into. But, because of the impending movie, it doesn’t feel like much of a series finale – it just feels like business as usual, by order of the Peaky Blinders.