Finale time. But not the final time we’ll see the members of Shelby Company Ltd.
With two more seasons commissioned, we’re basically hanging up our flat caps for a bit and pressing the snooze button.
Not that there’s anything soporific about Season 3’s finale; a punchy hour which both proves that the show’s got more than enough energy for another two seasons, but also that it isn’t so excited for the future that it can’t keep its eyes on wrapping up this portion of the story with a thoroughly Peaky Blinders execution.
Tommy’s son is kidnapped by the Economic League. It turns him from glacial gangster to vulnerable, breathless parent, and Cillian Murphy handles such an instant transition effortlessly; the knife-quick edits and spinning camera augmenting the bottomless panic of a missing child. And that panic is even more paralysing knowing little Charlie’s in the hands of an unashamed paedophile Father Hughes.
That bastard Father Hughes. Paddy Considine’s so good that you can feel your blood pressure rising every time he slithers up onscreen with the smug attitude of a big greasy snake that’s decided to live in your toilet, rent free, and will laugh at your privates every time to attempt to have a wee.
I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to punch someone more. Hughes, that is, not Considine. Or the toilet snake. The only thing Considine should be hit with is plaudits. He’s been the most memorable villain the show has ever had, and remember, we had two seasons of Sam Neill and his accent and limp.
Desperate to get his boy back safe, Tommy’s willing to do anything that Hughes and the Economic League tell him, including blowing up the train full of tanks, and putting a deadline on delivering them all the Russian jewels that Tommy was planning on stealing. He’s even prepared to go where he swore he’d never go. Down in the clammy, claustrophobic tunnels he fights his PTSD to literally dig his son to safety. As far as Tommy will go in business, he’ll go even further for love.
Someone’s sold Tommy out. Despite his initial suspicions that it’s someone in his family, the culprit turns out to be Alfie Solomons. Annoying for Tommy, but great news for anyone who needs an excuse to expose themselves to more Tom Hardy (in a televisual sense, not a ‘loose-buttoned mac on the street’ way). Drink it in folks. He’s back in 2017 with BBC’s Taboo, but for now we can enjoy him groaning Alfie’s gangster philosophy and violent-but-immutable logic from under that beard.
And just as things are getting fist-clenchingly heated with Solomons, Michael (Finn Cole, who I’m sure is being groomed for greater things in Peaky Blinders, and all the better for it), finally pops his murder-cherry by popping a cap his henchman’s head.
Do people still use the phrase ‘pop a cap’? In Peaky Blinders times it probably means putting one of those razor-blade lined flat caps on your head.
Emboldened by taking one life, and keen to exact revenge on his abuser, Michael confronts Father Hughes for a messy, Tarantino-style death. Is it as much as we’d like to see Hughes suffer? No, but there’s a catharsis to watching an intensely evil man realise he’s dying with a knife in his jaw. Better than having a cap popped in him.
That terrific image of Michael, bloodied and quivering on one side of the doorway, while Charlie plays with his bricks, hammers home an innocence he can never return to.
Hughes’ death is part of the sweeping montage of death and success that sees Tommy blowing through the vault, and Arthur and John blowing up the train about 10 seconds before they needn’t have. Considering the show didn’t have a train to blow up, the sequence is smartly shot. But there’s never been a single frame of this show that hasn’t been.
Victory dug, shot, and exploded from defeat, Tommy settles up with everyone, including the crazy Russian duchess who I hope we’ve seen the back of. Money in pockets, families set up, dreams in motion.
Everyone in the Shelby clan has plans that no longer involve betting on horses or engaging in Russian orgies. Aunt Pol wants a dull but sexy life with Ruben. Arthur’s off the America with Linda. It could almost be the end of the show for good – a surprising happy ever after, by order of the Peaky-fucking-Blinders, as Arthur would put it.
All those plans are about to be arrested. As are the people making them. Tommy’s made a deal with some powerful people (the government?) to testify against the Economic League. But it means that everyone else in the family is temporarily carted off to chokey in slo-mo, so it’ll take ages to lock them up. I’ll be honest, I didn’t fully understand exactly how and why Tommy had sold them out, but then neither did the Shelby family, so I feel in good company.
Tommy watches his family get taken away by the rozzers. Does part of the set wobble badly as Aunt Pol is being cuffed, or is that a door in the wainscoting? That’s probably something we can discuss in the wait between this season and the next.
But right now we can reflect on a strong finale. One that represented the entire season in being well-shot, well-acted, well-edited, and well ‘ard. Most importantly, it demonstrated that this is a show in rude health. Proof that we can start looking forward to the next time we see Tommy’s cheekbones.
Or, as Arthur would so poetically put it, Halle-fucking-lujah.
Aired at 9pm on Thursday 9 June 2016 on BBC Two.
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