tue 23/04/2024

Peaky Blinders, Series 6 review, BBC One - have we reached peak Peakies? | reviews, news & interviews

Peaky Blinders, Series 6 review, BBC One - have we reached peak Peakies?

Peaky Blinders, Series 6 review, BBC One - have we reached peak Peakies?

Steven Knight's Brummie bandits approach the final curtain

Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) doing what he does best

They say this will be the final series of Peaky Blinders (BBC One) and its documenting of the tumultuous progress of the Shelby family, though creator Steven Knight promises there’s a feature film in the works.

This opening episode kicked it off in style – perhaps a little too much style, since the show is now so self-consciously art-directed and signposted with iconic images that it’s difficult to find much human warmth within. Scenes are shot in portentous slow motion and overlaid with the sounds of super-amplified heavy breathing, while interiors are shot and lit like sets from grand opera. The soundtrack of clanging guitars and even a bit of Joy Division now feels less like an innovation, more like an affectation.

At least it doesn’t hang about. Season six began where five left off, with Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) lurching around in the rain-sodden grounds of his mansion pointing an automatic pistol at his head (suicide is the Shelby family curse). In Greek Tragedy style, the ghostly image of his dead, lost love, Grace, loomed out of the mist in front of him.

Fortunately, Tommy had armed himself with an empty gun. And business is always business, so in a flash we were across the Atlantic on Miquelon Island, a French possession just off Newfoundland. The Peakies’ timeline had advanced to 1933, and Tommy’s Atlantic crossing was prompted by the imminent ending of Prohibition in the USA. Since booze would now be available legally, the Shelbys’ whisky-smuggling racket from Miquelon to Boston would be rendered obsolete overnight, to the furious disgruntlement of the about-to-be-redundant boatmen (pictured below, a right bunch of Peakies).

The way that Peaky Blinders has encompassed all manner of social and political events, from the rise of Oswald Mosley’s Fascists to IRA terrorism, Anglo-Irish politics and a burgeoning transatlantic dimension, with walk-ons from the likes of Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin, has all added to its lurid appeal. The danger is, though, that its heightened grandiosity is beginning to make it look like the hybrid offspring of The Godfather and Boardwalk Empire, with its original grungy roots in Birmingham feeling increasingly distant (even if the local accents linger). And while we might agree that politicians, in general, might be categorised as venal, shape-shifting scum, the idea of Tommy Shelby as Labour MP for Birmingham still feels about as plausible as Ascension Island putting an astronaut on Venus.

Sadly, Series 6 has lost something of its soul without the presence of thunderous matriarch Aunt Polly (Helen McCrory), but there are some treats in store. Tom Hardy’s Alfie Solomons is scheduled for a comeback, and the omnipresent Stephen Graham’s in it somewhere, though his identity is being kept under wraps. He played Al Capone in Boardwalk Empire, so maybe that’s a clue.

Whatever, Tommy now proposes to launch a giant and disruptive opium operation in Boston, though his immediate preoccupation is speeding back to Blighty to fend off a cryptic gypsy curse. Warren Zevon expressed it best: “Send lawyers, guns and money, the shit has hit the fan.”

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