Note: Contains spoilers for Peaky Blinders season five, episode six
To be fair, a handful of fans had already guessed the truth – especially after a bizarre comment from Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) in last week’s episode…
Remarking on who might provide “certainty in the south” for Oswald Mosley, he told Jimmy McCavern (Brian Gleeson): “I would suggest the most competent organiser of men in the south is Alfie Solomons.” Note the present tense!
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Jimmy scoffed at the idea, telling Tommy: “He’s dead, and he’s Jewish.” But Tommy knew something he didn’t…
How did Alfie Solomons survive? Didn’t Tommy shoot him dead?
The last time we saw Alfie, he had just been shot in the face by Tommy on a beach in Margate. Here he is, milliseconds after the bullet was fired, about to collapse backwards:
That was in the final episode of season four, when Tommy shot his sometime-ally/sometime-enemy “in bad blood”.
Alfie Solomons had provided the Italians with a way to sneak into the boxing match between Goliath and Bonnie Gold, a decision which almost led to the death of Arthur Shelby (Paul Anderson).
“I once told you Alfie, that for business reasons or in bad blood, I would kill you. And I have no business reasons. It seems you have retired,” Tommy explained, in a pre-killing heart-to-heart.
“So this is all purely for bad blood, is it Tommy?” Alfie asked.
But then Alfie had another revelation: “The only thing I’ve got on me is f**king cancer, mate. Yeah. Riddled with it. Doctor told me I might’ve picked it up in France from the gas or something. He even showed me a photograph…”
He claimed to have made himself easy to find because he wanted to choose his spot to die: a beautiful Margate beach. And the cancer meant death was coming for him anyway.
With Tommy hesitating, Alfie (who was supposedly un-armed) whipped out a gun and shot him in the arm – provoking Tommy to return fire.
Alfie Solomons then collapsed onto the sand, unconscious and presumed dead. Here he is, with his dog Cyril snuffling around his body in distress:
After climbing to his feet cradling his arm, Tommy walked up the beach with barely a look back. He left Alfie’s body behind by the sea, rather than disposing of it.
That oversight explains why Alfie was able to make a dramatic return to Peaky Blinders: when he regained consciousness, he discovered he was badly injured – but alive. And Tommy was none the wiser.
What about the cancer?
Either Alfie’s cancer is very slow-moving, or he was faking it all along to wind Tommy up. (After all, Alfie was never known for his honesty.)
When Tommy reunites with him in Margate in the season five finale, the retired gangster clearly has some severe health problems. But it’s not clear whether that’s down to terminal cancer, or whether it has more to do with being shot in the head.
What about the dog?
Alfie was very anxious about his beloved dog Cyril, who he brought to the beach with him for his final moments. “I do hope you’re going to leave the dog out of this,” he warned Tommy, later asking his would-be assassin: “You going to look after this dog?”
“No,” said Tommy.
“Right then. Well his name is Cyril, and he will be very upset and distressed, so you will need to find him someone,” Alfie continued.
And while Tommy seems to have just turned around and left Alfie “dead” on the beach with Cyril by his side, somehow he managed to acquire the hound and give him a home. Maybe Cyril changed his mind about staying with Alfie and decided to leg it after the retreating figure of Tommy?
Either way, here’s Cyril, welcoming his new master Tommy home in series five:
What does the return of Alfie Solomons mean for series six?
That remains to be seen! Alfie is clearly keeping a low profile in Margate, but he may still be a major power behind the scenes… and in a time of rising fascism, the East End Jewish gang may have new challenges to face.