Peaky Blinders final episode: Just when Cillian Murphy seemed free of this absurd show...

Contains spoilers: The soggy farewell season has unspooled like a series of baroque pop videos

This article contains spoilers

The good news is that, in its last ever episode, Peaky Blinders (BBC One) belatedly claws its way out of the black pit of Nick Cave montages and absurd plot-lines into which it had slipped across its final season.

The bad news is that, right at the moment it seemed Cillian Murphy might at last be free of the spectre of Tommy Shelby, he has been primed to return in a big screen spin-off. Just when he thought he was out, they put that silly hat back on him again.

Peaky Blinders finishes much as it had started nearly a decade ago (warning: spoilers to follow), with Tommy outsmarting everyone and refusing to crack a smile as he does so.


Shelby had been diagnosed earlier in the series with a terminal brain tumour. But in a genuinely jaw-dropping twist we learn this was fake news sold to him by a doctor secretly in cahoots with fascist princeling Oswald Mosley.

Tommy has by then burned his empire to the ground – and reduced his fancy country house to ashes, to boot. He’s also walked away from wife Lizzie and left his criminal holdings and burgeoning political career to his sister Ada. And then it turns out he isn’t a dead man walking after all.

What next for Tommy? A Peaky Blinders movie is in the works, with cameras to start rolling in April 2023. And with Tommy restored to his full powers in Sunday night’s finale, it’s unthinkable Murphy won’t feature.

That is obviously a boost for Blinders fans. But might it be bad news for an actor that some have tipped as a potential next James Bond? And who plays the father of the atomic bomb, Robert J Oppenheimer, in the next Christopher Nolan film?

A Cork-born 007 would, of course, be the good news story the world needs. You can easily picture Murphy’s Bond driving a jet-fuelled Aston Martin along the Carrigrohane Straight, tangling with henchman atop the County Hall and then heading off to an exotic playground for the mega-rich such as Kinsale.

And now Murphy faces the grim prospect of playing Tommy Shelby into perpetuity, like a sort of thespian life sentence.

Peaky Blinders had, it is true, kicked off in reasonably promising fashion in 2013. Yet nine later years, it had devolved into cartoonish hokum. Week after week, Tommy Shelby would strut around looking vaguely upset by something as PJ Harvey blared on the soundtrack. Stuck on repeat, the drama had become besotted with its own, worst clichés.

Steven Knight, series creator and show-runner, tries to have it both ways by portraying the murderous Shelby as a working-class hero. In addition to taking revenge against his enemies – including traitor-nephew Michael Gray – Tommy in the concluding episode sets out his vision for creating public housing for the masses.

One minute he's Al Capone with an English midlands accent, the next a People Before Profit Twitter account made flesh. It's lurching writing that Knight can't carry off and that Murphy struggles to sell.

The cult of Peaky Blinders also has the potential to typecast Murphy as a charismatic baddy skating by and nothing but grumpy charm. Things always go Tommy’s way, never more so than in the finale. All hope appears lost, with foes from across the Atlantic lining up to finish him off. On one side there is Captain Swing, the IRA operative played by Charlene McKenna; on the other the fascist conspiracy fronted by Mosley and by Boston gangster Jack Nelson.

Tommy, who can apparently read minds as easily as he wear a flat-cap, outfoxes them all. In Birmingham, his brother Arthur manages to stay off the opium long enough to chin Swing. And in Canada, Tommy switches a briefcase packed with dynamite and blows up his enemies – before shooting Michael in the face.

Knight, to his credit, saves the real surprise for last, with the big reveal about Tommy’s faux illness. However, not even that twist could entirely redeem a soggy farewell season that has unspooled like a sequence of baroque pop videos. Take away the music and what would Peaky Blinders be? A hokey costume drama with nowhere to go.

It has somewhere to go now, with Knight forging ahead with his movie. Murphy, for his part, will no doubt enjoy his time away from Tommy, playing Robert Oppenheimer and – with luck – featuring in the future awards season conversation.

But as all that is happening will Murphy really want to go back to Tommy and to Peaky Blinders’ simplistic portrayal of a world in which everyone loves a bully and a brute?