Peaky Blinders Season 6 Episode 4 : Tommy Shelby reaches a new low in Peaky Blinders’ most depressing episode yet. Is there a light at the end of this tunnel with two episodes remaining?
Plot of Peaky Blinders Season 6 Episode 4
What a bereaved hour. Perhaps after that, all those Peaky Blinders admirers who strive to be Tommy Shelby will realise that there is nothing to envy beneath the high cheekbones and sharp tailoring. Remove the money, the cars, and the power, and all that remains is agony, grief, and now, a deadline. Between one and eighteen months. To fucking change the world.
Tommy will not live to see the onset of World War II, if Dr Holford and the country’s top three brain surgeons are correct. (He might make it to the Battle of Cable Street at the last minute, and if he does, he’ll almost certainly bus in the anti-fascist protestors himself.)
Tommy will also not survive to see Mr Churchill become Prime Minister, but if his method succeeds, he will have assisted him in neutralising the fascist menace in Britain and preventing Mosley and Mitford from welcoming the German chancellor and his new world order with open arms.
As a viewer, the deathly meeting was a horrible place to be, and not simply because of the whirling camerawork. Diana Mitford‘s carefree portrayal of the time when Jews were forced to eat grass in order to delight the Nazi elite is based on a boast supposedly made by her sister Unity following a meal with Julius Streicher.
These repulsive individuals and their repulsive brags. “We are the United Kingdom. We embody the mood in which England is in.”
If only Mitford’s comments had been merely a brag; the brick through Ada’s glass indicated otherwise. How pervasive fascist mentality was in interwar Britain is something to confront, all the more so since so many school history classes focus on the ‘we fought evil’ myth while glossing over domestic evil.
Confronting the truth – even in the stylized, mythological, and untethered-to-reality world of Peaky Blinders – is necessary work for drama, all the more so when our other recent television portrait of the era, Downton Abbey, insists on an abridged version of history populated exclusively by nobles with golden hearts.
Karl’s bigotry against his sister – “that thing” – and his schoolyard warnings about what would happen “if they gained power” demonstrate how urgent the Nazi threat felt. Karl’s discovery that his Communist father was actually Jewish (a plausible retcon influenced on Freddie Thorne actor Iddo Goldberg’s Jewish ancestry) renders him just as vulnerable to the Nazis’ “cleaning” as Elizabeth.
Ada dealt with the bigots in the Shelby fashion, yet she must be feeling the fear. This incident was pervaded by fear. It led us straight from Ruby’s funeral to Tommy’s vengeance on the Barwell family, with two sombre Sinead O’Connor songs accompanying us.
Cillian Murphy has truly been put through his paces this season, fitting, yelling, and collapsing many times per episode. Murphy has been fantastic, but if it’s this depressing to watch, imagine what it must be like to act. Make that poor man a beach vacation and a sitcom, not the next James Bond.
How will his attack on the Barwell camp affect Tommy-want tobe viewers? As Lizzie’s repulsion shown, it’s a difficult one to reconcile with admiration. Tommy’s balance-sheet morality dictates that he can grow his good deeds until they offset his bad, but he must understand that this is not always the case. He recognises now that gold is not the answer and is placing his bets on goodness instead.
Is he truly capable of just stepping from one boat in life’s canal to another, of exchanging his pile of bodies for something serene, honest, and good? This drama began with the question of whether it is truly possible to escape one’s roots and has finished with the question of whether it is truly possible to atone for one’s crimes.
If ‘Sapphire’ represents the point at which Tommy switches boats, then it represents his nadir, the point at which everything comes to a halt. Tommy’s lowest points were highlighted throughout the programme, from Ruby’s burial to the gypsy camp shooting to the Nazi salute to the tuberculoma diagnosis. Where his unexpected offspring Duke (Conrad Khan) fits into all of this – is he a blessing or another curse? – will be revealed in the season’s final two instalments.
Even though we know the Nazi salute was a meaningless gesture, it was a cursed image that added extra problem for any fan who looked up to Tommy Shelby as a role model.
Tommy has always viewed politics as a series of hollow gestures and a means to an end, but even imitating that ugliness backfired on him — as evidenced by the subsequent rage-filled Scarface moment.
To exacerbate his anguish, the scene included the reappearance of a memory from Tommy’s past. Jack Nelson compelled Laura McKee to perform ‘The Black Velvet Band,’ the same song Grace sang on that Garrison bar stool in season one.
It was an appropriate option when Grace was undercover and spying on Tommy, and it is an appropriate one now that Tommy is undercover and spying on the fascists.
Tommy now has an unwilling companion in his undercover operation, as a result of the tight eye he’d maintained on Gina since she stepped off the steamer from Boston. Gina and Mosley’s covert glances at last season’s ballet did indeed mean something – and the result is a new spy for Churchill in Berlin.
While the salute was the episode’s enduring image, it also provided us with others. Arthur’s most emptied barrel was leaking into the wine cup. Tommy’s first sip of alcohol in nearly four years was blood-red and heralded a rebirth from his empty mechanical left-right-left-right march.
Tommy and Arthur’s hands were gripped together as brothers. And then there was the canal tunnel from their boyhood — miles of darkness and swimming rats until they came to a corner and saw a beam of light. That is where we are at the moment, Tommy informed Arthur, and it is also where the concert is. Sixth season has been a sea of darkness. Some illumination appears to be overdue.