Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight knows how to toy with our emotions. Had you clicked on this article during the early stages of the series four finale, you would have presumed it was the death of Arthur Shelby that precipitated the headline. But, no. In a twist even this viewer didn’t see coming, the elder Shelby was resurrected (thanks to Tommy’s scheming) to orchestrate a fittingly melodramatic ending to Adrien Brody’s Luca Changretta – a character that borrowed a little too much from The Godfather.
And so the Shelby family triumphed over the vengeful Changrettas. Despite Luca’s best efforts to carry out his vendetta against the Peaky Blinders – who had killed his father Vicente in a previous series – he lost all his blood relatives to the feud and was left exposed to Tommy’s ruthless negotiations with his American rivals.
You see, there were those who wanted rid of the New York gangster – plenty of dangerous rivals who would be happy to hear the news Changretta had been bumped off in the backwaters of Birmingham at the hands of “some fucking bookmaker”.
“Big f***ks small,” Alfie told Tommy at the start of the episode, and so the Shelby boss contacted the two families in Brooklyn who wanted to take over the Changretta monopoly on the import of liquor into New York. He gave them a tempting offer, convincing them to outbid what the gangster was paying his henchmen and throwing in some barrels of gin to sweeten the deal. Tommy also got in touch with a chap working out of Chicago who goes by the name of Alfonse Capone (who we can only hope features in future series). “You’ve been talking to that fat f***?” drawled Changretta.
Adrien Brody in Peaky Blinders, BBC Pictures, SL
The writing was on the wall for Brody’s character as he suffered a beating at the hands of Tommy who kept him alive just long enough to lay eyes on a very much alive Arthur, last seen garrotted (or so we thought) by one of Changretta’s sidekicks. Arthur was given the honour of firing the bullet into their adversary’s skull. “You don’t f*** with the Peaky Blinders,” he spat as Birmingham’s finest marched out.
Midway through the episode and with the series’ Big Bad despatched, the finale changed pace. First, Tommy paid a visit to the pier at Margate where he found adversary-turned-ally Alfie Solomons. Alfie had crossed Tommy by allowing Changretta’s men to slip through security at the boxing match and attempt to bump off Arthur.
Tom Hardy in Peaky Blinders, BBC Pictures, SL
His betrayal forced Tommy to settle the score but as it turned out, Alfie was riddled with cancer, knew the end was nigh and had picked his spot – although the Jewish mobster had to provoke a reluctant Tommy into doing the deed, shooting the Brummy in the arm and getting a bullet in the head in return. And so Tom Hardy’s quirky, calculating character bowed out of the drama – the second Hollywood guest star to be extinguished within a matter of minutes. It was fitting that it came at Tommy’s hand but Hardy’s character – who has been a regular feature since series two – will be sorely missed when the drama returns.
With his adversaries dead and forced by his family to take a holiday, Tommy fell to pieces. Alfie may have got cancer of the body from his time in France but Peaky Blinders continues to remind us of the mental affliction suffered by the boys who fought in World War I. Tommy’s demons looked set to consume him were it not for a visit from Aunt Poll who hauled him out of his malaise: “we shake hands with the devil, and we walk past him,” she instructed him.
With a new mission on his mind, Tommy wrote to Jessie Eden – “your cause is now my cause” – and convinced her to give him the name and number of a Soviet agent working within the Birmingham Communist Party. But before we started to wonder whether Tommy had turned red, his real motives were revealed. The master manipulator planned to use Jessie and his position to undermine the party from within – in return for a place in Parliament.
“You are quite a creature, Mr Shelby,” he was informed. But that’s the thing about Tommy – just when you think he’s down and out, he pulls, well, a blinder. And far from finding himself at the behest of Changretta, the closing moments of the series showcased Mr Thomas Shelby MP – the new representative for Labour in Birmingham South.