An expertly crafted episode that satisfied every want and whim. Drama does not get any better than this.
The Season 3 finale of Peaky Blinders was irrevocably the show’s finest hour. The entire episode was an assortment of terrific climaxes, in terms of both action and characterisation, well and truly leading us on into the bleak midwinter of the Shelby clan.
After a somewhat sketchy Episode 5, the finale proved once again the primacy of this BBC crime drama. Although set in the humble background of Birmingham, the series has continuously soared in terms of casting, plot, script and design. The amount of filler to be found in the penultimate episode was uncharacteristic of such a stellar show, which displayed, putting it mildly, a promiscuous and heady atmosphere, that bettered our understanding and empathy of a few characters at the expense of its reputation. Although an interesting experiment, and exploration of darker themes and desires, it was an artistic indulgence too far. However, the hedonism we encountered in this episode was forgotten when we encountered a self indulgence of another kind in Episode 6.
The ultimate episode saw every character receiving their due and undivided attention, as the chapter of this Russian escapade draws to a close, and new perils dawn for the Shelby family. An explosive civil war between them looks set to play out in the next two seasons, that have already received the go ahead, and there’s even the potential for a film. It was a thoroughly satisfying watch with sharp changes of pace creating a dizzying and intoxicating atmosphere, minus the sex and debauchery present within the previous episode.
The finale sees the plot, at times confusing and cumbersome, reduced to one single motivation. This clever culmination of events, propelled forward by the desperation of Tommy (Cillian Murphy) to find his son, shrewdly minimises the confusion of the viewer, without compromising on the implications of the plot or the characters.
Tommy must save his and Grace’s only son from the clutches of the evil Father Hughes (Paddy Considine); meaning doing whatever is necessary, including climbing down into the tunnels and digging through the dirt to reach the Russian stash of treasure for the priest. He must allow his brothers to sentence good working men to death on the train of ammunitions. However, these challenges serve as an exposure therapy of the crudest kind, as he is stripped to his very roots, to the very tunnels that changed him on his return to Birmingham after the Great War, and he is reborn.
The priest’s end was fitting – a nasty death for a nasty man – and despite my hatred of him as a character, I am sad to see the back of Paddy Considine, who has challenged Tommy in new ways and arguably helped him through the labour of his rebirth. It’s no longer his family who fuels his actions, with which there has been a growing fracture and even a hint of mutiny led by Polly (Helen McCrory) in the final unforgettable scene; but it is his only son that now motivates him, child of the woman he truly loved. He didn’t choose his family, but he chose to love her – a love that transcended money, over theirs, which was grounded in it.
The Reverend equally serves as a turning point for Michael (Finn Cole), who stares, bloody faced, at the innocence he has just protected in the form of Charles, at the expense of his own. Continuing the show’s cyclical theme, the final encounter with the Princess Tatiana Petrovna (Gaite Jansen), which takes place in fallow fields akin to those at the end of season 2, is especially delectable. You certainly feel an affinity between these two parallel characters, a twisted mirror of one another in their own way, who depart respectively in their exchanged vehicles. He doesn’t trust her just as much as he doesn’t trust himself; another interesting relationship we will all sorely miss.
With the hint of the return, although unconfirmed, of former flame May Carleton (Charlotte Riley), and a family in complete disarray, no matter how many years the series jumps forward by in season 4, it will be too many.
Peaky Blinders, episodes 3-6 are currently available on BBC iPlayer, and the full series is available to buy.