Not many television series manage to sustain their quality as they progress through seasons and subplots become difficult to keep track of for writers. Not to mention when possibilities for content slowly dwindle because of limitations of setting and main plot. The series that do somehow manage to sustain their quality are always remembered well and often celebrated. In this case, though, Peaky Blinders pulls off something even trickier, as this is one of the rare series that gets better with each season, and its final season sets off on that path just like the previous five.
It was not the best of news when BBC had announced that Peaky Blinders would end with the sixth season instead of seventh which was always the plan, therefore, this season had a bit more of an anxious awaiting and worry than just hype, but they really seem to have pushed through the boundaries, even with a decreased episode count.
Steven Knight’s masterpiece continues where it had left us with the biggest cliff-hanger to date back in 2019 and keeps going from the exact point it had taken a break. Though, as the fans have come to expect, a jump in time follows soon after. As such, we witness the latest and final era of the Shelbys. Cillian Murphy’s dry portrayal of Tommy Shelby is as phenomenal as always, Sophie Rundle’s wonderful and incredibly charismatic portrayal of Ada Thorne is as perfect as it has always been, and Finn Cole’s portrayal of the ever-increasingly annoying Michael is almost scary. The hole left by the passing of the great Helen McCrory is quite big as anyone would have guessed, and thus, the first episode of the season is dedicated to her.
The pacing is visibly slowed down this time, though that is not to say that there are less occurrences and events. Quite the contrary, in fact, as the scenes this season have more weight to them than there has ever been, which also adds more of a gloomy feeling than previous seasons (not to say that Peaky Blinders was a light-hearted series ever, of course). For example, the first twenty minutes of the first episode focus entirely on Tommy while ignoring pretty much everyone else, which was a welcome addition as some insight into Tommy’s state was well needed after the events of the previous seasons.
This might sound a bit too simplistic, but in an effort to wrap up, they seem to have greatly reduced the scenes where the gang would be seen just walking in slow motion with music in the background. This, no matter how unimportant it sounds, was a point people used to bring up in previous seasons. I must also admit that there less of those scenes really does make the season better.
Steven Knight is the sole writer of all six episodes of the seasons, which is the way it always was apart from a writer or two assisting Knight here and there. Furthermore, the newly introduced director of the previous season, Anthony Byrne, is also the sole director of this season again. Of all seasons, I find that Byrne is the one director who has managed to encapsulate the universe of Peaky Blinders the best. The fact that he is the final director of the series is also great, as from a technical standpoint, the show ends on its peak.
In terms of tension, every episode adds to the previous and makes the audience finish each episode on the edge of their seats. I have long admired Steven Knight for his various projects such as Taboo, Locke and Allied, and it seems he has taken all his strengths from those projects and enhanced them while learning from the few projects he had that did not have a wide reach or the satisfying critical acclaim.
The soundtrack of the Peaky Blinders has always been some of the best there is, and it does not change much in that sense. From IDLES’ ‘Kill Them With Kindness’ to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ ‘Do You Love Me’, the season has some incredibly catchy tunes, as well as some of the best music the United Kingdom has to offer. Although, it would have been great to hear more songs from IDLES, and it is somewhat disappointing that no songs from Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes popped up this time around, especially given both these bands enhanced their catalogue greatly since the previous season of Peaky Blinders.
So far so good, then. Unfortunately, when the fifth episode comes along, everything takes an unexpected turn.
For one, the slower pace of the first four episodes – which was very fitting as I said – comes to a grinding halt in the fifth episode, and that’s for no good reason at all. My only concern for the first four episodes was if there were too many new plotlines introduced, and unfortunately, the fifth episodes proves me right with Knight dropping the ball on both pacing and storytelling.
What’s worse is that the final episode does nothing to tie up half of these subplots, and the ones that are tied up feel barely relevant and sometimes have plot-holes. There are some amazing scenes in the final episode, definitely, but it ignores most of the cast and focuses on Tommy Shelby alone. Sophie Rundle’s Ada Thorne has jarringly minimal screen time in the last two episodes, which is a disappointing contrast to her development in the series so far. Sam Claflin’s incredible portrayal of Oswald Mosley is largely ignored at that point, and Anya Taylor-Joy’s Gina is not even mentioned towards the end. Also, is there an explanation as to why Anya Taylor-Joy must star in every show? Why did that become the norm?
Nevertheless, it is not difficult to understand Steven Knight’s struggle. Instead of the twelve episodes planned, he had to attempt to wrap up the series with the sixth season. Helen McCrory’s unfortunate passing also caused the show to take on a new direction, for which Knight apparently did not have enough time re-write or re-organise the plot structure. Thus, the season not only fails to wrap up the show, but it even fails to wrap up as a season on its own.
As such, even though this season of Peaky Blinders manages to start off better than ever, the aforementioned issues eventually catch up with the writing. Still, given that we are promised a film to wrap up everything entirely, if this season is viewed with the mindset of ‘in-between season’ that transforms from the TV format to the big screen, there are some delightful shots and sequences to be found here. Not to forget that no matter its shortcomings, Peaky Blinders is still some of the best television has to offer.