We’re just past the halfway mark of Peaky Blinders’ sixth and final season and the stage is set for big changes that will forever mark the Shelby family. Since the series began, protagonist Thomas Shelby has lost a wife (Grace in Season 3), a brother (John in Season 4) and an aunt (Polly at the start of Season 6), but none have been as sad as the death of his young daughter Ruby last episode from tuberculosis. Episode 4, titled “Sapphire,” opens with her funeral.
“Gold doesn’t work, that was the last message that Ruby taught us,” Tommy says enigmatically at her funeral. Before her Gypsy caravan is set ablaze in the same fashion as Polly’s four episodes ago, Tommy and his wife Lizzie look at her one last time. United in grief, Tommy pledges to make the world a better place. Whether he’ll stick to his word remains to be seen. “The devils who did this will pay, Ruby” he then says, which, oh yeah, he’s going to make them pay BAAAAD!
A couple recaps ago, I said Tommy Shelby is a man who likes his revenge served cold. Turns out he likes it piping hot, too! Rather than stick around to grieve with his wife and son, Tommy heads to the woodland camp of the Baswells, the Gypsy family whose hex he blames for Ruby’s death. “I’m here on behalf of the blue sapphire,” he says, referencing the cursed jewel that started all the trouble in the first place, before mowing a bunch of them down with a machine gun. Vengeance, however, fails to give him peace of mind.
Afterwards, Esme tells him that though he’s lost a daughter, he’s about to gain a son. It turns out before going off to war, Tommy knocked up a woman who later gave birth to a child he never knew about. “He calls himself Duke. His mother is dead. He’s a thief. He works the fairground but he says he wants more to life than big wheels and carousels,” she says. Like father, like son.
Back home, Tommy tells Lizzie he’s going to change the world for the better, but she knows he’s once again got blood on his hands. Down in the wine cellar, Tommy has a heart to heart with his brother Arthur, who’s more damaged than usual. It’s a wonderful scene that hammers home the Shelby’s brotherly bond and also the fact that actors Cillian Murphy and Paul Anderson don’t look at all related. Tommy then has first drink of alcohol in years, and Arthur asks how he’ll kick opium if Tommy can’t stay off the booze. “You’ll stop because the family needs you to,” Tommy replies, which only answers half the question.
Despite only four days earlier having put his kid in the ground, I mean, put his kid in the burning Gypsy caravan funeral pyre, Tommy calls a late night meeting between the various fascist emissaries he’s trying to infiltrate and undermine. While Irish-American gangster politician Jack Nelson awkwardly flirts with fash-loving I.R.A. dame Laura McKee, future Mrs. Oswald Mosley, Diana Mitford, brags about having breakfast with Hitler while watching Jews forced to eat grass, which is so f**ked up even Nelson and McKee are left agog.
Nelson says he’ll get in the ear of U.S. President Franklin Franklin Delano Roosevelt about how the Mosleys represent “the mood of England.” Meanwhile, McKee will help turn the Irish proletariat from national unity to fascism. The camera rapidly spins around the table as they lay out their plan, cigar in one hand, crystal rocks glass full of whiskey in the other, which comes off kind of silly despite the disturbingly timely subject matter. Tommy is asked to prove his allegiance by seig heiling and saying “Perish Judah” (an actual British fascist slogan) and is subsequently given the green light to start importing opium into Boston.
Days later, Tommy gets tipped off that Mosley’s been schtupping Gina Gray, Nelson’s niece and the wife of Tommy’s cousin and rival Michael. Believing Nelson will disown her if he finds out she’s banging his business partner behind his back, Tommy blackmails her for information about Mosley’s upcoming meeting with the Nazis in Berlin. Before leaving, he asks what Michael’s intentions are and says, “If you lie, I will know.” She’s like, “Nah, you guys are good,” and Tommy laughs off her deception. Gina has no choice but to say, “…f**k.”
Feeling pretty good about himself, Tommy decides to finally open the letter from the family doctor marked “URGENT.” After reading that it’s “a matter of urgency,” which is rather redundent, Tommy meets with his personal physician, Dr. Holford, who he says he’s got an inoperable tumor and a little over a year to live. BUMMER DUUUUUDE. Oh well, looks like Tommy better work a little harder to change the world before he ends up in a Gypsy caravan bonfire of his own.
Benjamin H. Smith is a New York based writer, producer and musician. Follow him on Twitter:@BHSmithNYC.