Episode 1 of Peaky Blinders Season 6 kicks off with Tommy still reeling from the failed assassination on Oswald. At the estate, after seeing the ghostly images of Grace again, Tommy fires his gun… but it’s empty. Lizzie arrives, telling him grimly that Arthur took the bullets out. Disgusted, she drops 6 reasons for him to give up on the ground and walks away, calling Tommy a coward.
Tommy’s decision not to kill himself is met with an interesting development when he heads back to his office. Receiving a call with crucial intel, he learns the attack was carried out by three Dublin brigades of the Republican Army.
Tommy is told his organization has been restructured, including three bodies dropped off as collateral; the sniper, Aberama Gold and Polly Shelby. This, of course, occurs off-screen.
We don’t actually see Polly for obvious reasons (RIP Helen McCrory) but we do see her portrait. Her caravan is burned as a symbol of passing, courtesy of a somber Michael. He vows revenge on Tommy, and given the bad blood that’s been brewing between them, that’s perhaps hardly a surprise.
We then cut forward four years in time. We’re on Miquelon Island, Newfoundland territory in France. The date is December 5th 1933 and there’s a chill in the air. Snow clings to the ground in a patchwork as Tommy Shelby crunches past the frost and bitter wind to arrive at Hotel Robert.
Tommy has the meeting room booked for later on, but for now he’s drinking water. The thing is, he’s upset a lot of men on this island, with Tommy’s influence forcing good people out of jobs and leaving their livelihoods ruined.
Although Tommy’s choice to drink water is solely based on him giving up alcohol, the other men see it as a betrayal of their values and a way of him laughing in their faces.
Jean-Claude, the ringleader of a group sitting on the edge of the bar watching this play out, demands he toast but as things take a turn for the worst, Tommy shows off his skills, drawing his gun and shooting the wall – and a stray pigeon – to show how serious he is.
Tommy doesn’t kill anyone though, pointing out to them that he’s a lot more calmer and rational than he was before. Polly’s death has – at least for Tommy – helped to steady the ship. He has a reason for getting revenge now, and it’s clear he’s playing the long-game.
The last day of prohibition sees tommy organize a meeting with Michael and his men. Michael is in-lieu with Jack Nelson and his gang in Boston. Tommy wants to team up for a lucrative new deal.
Specifically, Tommy wants to take advantage of the new shipping systems about to take place. Now, Miquelon is situated on a little island that can easily ship things off to both America and Canada, making it prime real estate for smuggling illegal narcotics. The FBI have no jurisdiction here and over the past four years Tommy has been working to smuggle opium with his men from Shanghai.
Using the boats that are currently abandoned, it’s the perfect opportunity to pounce on this and make a lot of money. It also helps that Tommy and the police commissioner are on good terms, thanks in part to him paying him off to the sum of 12 million francs.
However, the Americans need to speak to their associate in Boston, Uncle Jack. When Tommy tries to end the meeting early, pointing out he doesn’t drink whisky anymore, they pour him a large glass and force him to tell a poem.
After reciting one from memory, Tommy drops another bombshell for the group. There’s an informant in the ranks. Someone who “has a Bleeding heart tattoo with Maria written in red”. On his way out the door, he helps out those behind the bar, dropping his business card and retorting that: “every catastrophe is another opportunity.”
Unfortunately, Arthur is all catastrophe and no opportunity. He’s using again, struggling to deal with Polly’s death. Ada tries to step into the role of tough-love-sister but it’s clear she’s out of her depth.
Returning to Tommy though, he has a plan. Of course he has a plan. After making a deal with Michael and handing over the opium, he gives a tip-off to the police with exact instructions on where he’s going and what he’s doing. So naturally, he gets arrested.
Over in Boston Prison, Michael is seething. Gina is furious too when she shows up, demanding to know what’s going on. Michael believes Tommy about the informant in his company, but of course this is all to foster paranoia and disarray in the gang. He demand Gina speak to Jack Nelson (Uncle Jack) and get him out.
Instead, Gina heads home and starts dancing about. However, Tommy shows up as Gina offers him a drink. What is everyone’s obsession with Tommy drinking?
Anyway, Jack has a message for Tommy: “no deal.” Gina boasts that Jack is far and away ahead in business, given he’s meeting with the President of the US. He doesn’t have time for “little boys.”
Tommy bites back and points out he’s the one who’s the informant. Why? Well, he intends to give Jack a dilemma that’s going to make him think twice about crossing Tommy. His message? If Jack is a no-deal, he’ll go across and sell to the East Boston Jews, run through the Solomon family, which is likely to cause all-out war and a shift in power, if it goes ahead.
Tommy phones home, where Lizzie reveals that Ruby is not doing too well. She keeps muttering Romany words and Tommy, concerned for her wellbeing, decides to board the next steamer over to England.
Before that though, he visits Michael where he’s shocked to find out Tommy is the informant. While he stews in anger, Tommy points out that he’s going to meet up with Nelson, while Michael is to rot in prison a while longer – by Jack’s orders.
Just before he leaves, Tommy kicks the hornet’s nest a little harder, revealing that Gina is on her way over to London with Jack and his three hand-picked associates. Tommy will be sure to keep her company if need be. Michael is livid.
The Episode Review
Peaky Blinders is back and this episode roars out the gates with a really solid chapter, setting up the conflict to come while also seeing Tommy as a far more measured and rational man than before.
With the recurring joke of everyone offering him a drink, Peaky Blinders maintains that undercurrent of dark humour while also simultaneously keeping things in the realm of tense and unbridled period thriller.
Peaky Blinders has some brilliant cinematography too and that much is especially apparent here, with a return of the fantastic set design, production and costuming departments who deserve some recognition for their great work.
The way Polly’s death is handled was both respectful and mature, with no need to actually show her body or bring the deceased back to life in creepy CGI re-enactments (oh, hello Star Wars).
This conflict is personal though and with Tommy playing the long-game and Arthur seemingly out of this fight for the foreseeable future, this final season looks set to kick things off in a big way. Roll on the next episode!