Liam Hoofe reviews the season 6 premiere of Peaky Blinders…
After two long years away, Peaky Blinders returned to our screens last night with an atmospheric and typically stylish opener.
The opener picks up where the last episode left us – with Tommy holding a gun to his own head after failing to kill Oswald Moseley. The gunshot fails and Tommy makes his way back to the house, only to be dealt another killer blow.
The untimely passing of Helen McCrory during the filming of the season left the show in an unfortunate situation, but it is one that it managed to handle with grace. McCrory’s character, Polly, the family matriarch, was retrospectively killed off-screen and the show’s characters were given a chance to say their goodbyes. It was a touching tribute to the actor and one that the show handled poignantly. The lingering shot of McCrory’s eyes over the funeral highlighted the mark both the actress and the character have left on the show and those in it.
This tragedy, it seems, is a catapult for Tommy to get his act together, as the show jumps forward four years and we discover that he has gotten sober. We next see Tommy head into a bar in Miquelon Island, a French outpost just off Newfoundland, Canada. Leaning heavily on the Western genre, Tommy sits at the bar and is confronted by locals. We all know how a mysterious man walking into a bar and being accosted by local thugs turns out, but the scene was pulled off in the kind of style that has made the show such a runaway success.
Cillian Murphy was born to play the role of Tommy Shelby and he was at his charismatic best here. The character, on the outside at least, appeared to have it more together than he does in a good few seasons, with a sober mind and a good sense of his enemies.
And it’s those enemies who are moving into position in this episode. Michael, Polly’s son, is now hellbent on taking Tommy out and avenging her loss. Tommy isn’t going to make that easy for him though – setting him up and sending him to prison for the foreseeable future in the season opener. The two will inevitably clash later down the line, and there are plenty of hints to suggest Michael could be Tommy’s final reckoning.
It is Michael’s wife’s uncle, the mysterious Uncle Jack who is Tommy’s key focus at the moment. The Boston-based gangster appears to be Tommy’s way into the American Opium market, but he also has backup plans. The Solomon family, famously headed up by Tom Hardy’s Alfie Solomon are given a reference as the show teases a war between several American gangs.
There are problems back home for Tommy to deal with as well. His daughter is rushed to hospital while speaking in Romany, giving Tommy plenty of cause for concern towards the end of the episode. Arthur, meanwhile, has fallen back into his old ways and now appears to be hooked on opium, something that is no doubt going to cause Tommy a headache in the coming weeks.
As for Oswald Moseley, there was little mention of him in the opener but Sam Claflin has been confirmed to return in the role. Moseley was arguably Shelby’s most formidable opponent to date, and Claflin stole the show every time he stepped up. His return is going to be a big moment, and it’s one that could really define the direction of the season as we get closer to the start of the Second World War.
Talking of scene stealers, Anya Taylor-Joy reminded us why she is one of the hottest actresses around right now. Her performance as Gina Gray, Michael’s wife, was delightfully over the top and twisted. She is going to make a play to put herself at the top of the table, and watching her clash with Tommy should bring an interesting new dynamic to both characters.
The season 6 opener had the difficult task of dealing with the loss of McCrory and handled it will dignity. The episode provided a fitting send-off for one of the most beloved characters in the show and managed to set the table for the coming season perfectly. Tommy Shelby is back, and it looks like he could be better than ever.