‘No-one close to you makes a choice without your opinion Tom. Not Arthur, not me, not Ada. We can’t escape you. Your lethal hand is always on our shoulders.’
And so it ends. After 36 episodes and nigh on a decade of extreme violence, eye to eye vengeance, Nick Cave’s tolling of the bell, some severe haircuts and somehow making the Birmingham accent as cool as fuck, Series Six brought the curtain down on the best TV drama in the world ever! No less complicated than the previous five series yet severely restricted by the tragic loss of actress Helen McCrory and being filmed during the pandemic, through necessity, set in the post prohibition period between 1933 and 1936, the first five episodes focused almost entirely on a newly sober Tommy’s grappling with an existential crisis of such magnitude that it dominated scene after slow burning scene of intense, beginning to end dialogue.
Needless to say Cillian Murphy was as brilliant as ever, but I couldn’t help feeling like I was watching a heavy duty Shakespearean play rather than a Sunday night period drama, with every other big character such as Tom Hardy’s brilliant Alfie Solomon’s (‘Tommy, if you are about to express profound emotion, you might be better served expressing it to someone who gives a fuck’), Oswald Mosley and key Shelby family members like the heroin addicted Arthur, his estranged wife Linda, Ada, Lizzie and dead brother John’s wife Esme flitting in and out of scenes seemingly at will. Not to mention Mosley squeeze and committed Adolf fan Lady Diana Mitford, Michael’s wife Gina or her Uncle, shady Boston businessman and politician Jack Nelson.
While there was some action to be had, the most shocking being Tommy’s massacre of the Barwell family as payback for his belief that old Ma Barwell’s gypsy curse had killed his daughter, the storyline continued to creep along like a Shelby Company barge making its way down the Grand Union Canal. The whole series was clearly building up to a grand finale which arrived midway through the last episode when Tommy’s long lost son Duke established his credentials by killing off Billy the traitor, Arthur foiled an IRA plot to kill him in a classic Peaky Blinders bloodbath and Tommy blew away Michael at point-blank range. Most crucially of all, we discovered that our hero’s terminal Tuberculoma diagnosis was a Fascist plot all along so he lived to rise again, presumably in the planned film version. Phew!
As for the soundtrack. Well, like the drama itself it meandered along with too much Thom Yorke and not enough Nick Cave, ‘Red Right Hand’ only being used sparingly. What was once the innovative use of some suitably dark and dirty contemporary songs to chart the inner turmoil and actions of its protagonists seemed to have been reduced to using music as minor accompaniment like every other TV drama. Indeed, only once or twice was it the tour de force it had once been. But hey, unlike Tommy Shelby OBE, you can’t have everything can you?
Episode 1 & 2
Anna Calvi / You’re Not God (Download November 2019)
An oldie but goodie soundtracks the recap of Series Five and Tommy Shelby’s arrival at Oswald Mosley’s campaign night, two hugely egotistical chaps who contrary to Anna Calvi’s claim clearly do believe they are God.
Joy Division / Disorder (Unknown Pleasures LP June 1979)
Accompanying Gina’s visit to Michael in prison came the rather unlikely sound of Joy Division following up ‘Atmosphere’s appearance in Series Five with ‘Disorder’. Not that I would ever object to hearing Ian Curtis on mainstream TV.
End Credits Song Episode 1 & 2
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds / Red Right Hand (Let Love In LP April 1994)
It’s been said before but I’ll say it again, as soon as ‘Red Right Hand’ became the Peaky Blinders theme song in the autumn of 2013 it took on a life of its own far beyond the work of Nick Cave and will be linked forevermore to our favourite gang of fictional, Brummie hoodlums.
Idles / Kill Them With Kindness (Ultra Mono LP September 2020)
Idles provided the soundtrack highlights to Series Five and blow me if they didn’t do the same thing in Episode Three, albeit that their tale of using compassion and benevolence to defeat their oppressors was strangely at odds with Arthur and Isaiah’s mission to dish out some righteous retribution to Liverpool docks union man Hayden Stagg, played by guest star Stephen Graham.
End Credits Song Episode 3
Thom Yorke / 5.17 (Download March 2022)
Even at his best Thom Yorke can be a little dreary, a little boring. However, being a firm favourite of screenwriter Steven Knight he had to be fitted in somewhere, and I must admit, piano ballad ‘5.17’ did sound particularly appropriate to end an episode centred around the illness and subsequent death of Tommy and Lizzies daughter Ruby from TB.
Sinead O’Connor / In This Heart (Universal Mother LP September 1994)
I love Sinead O’Connor and as gut wrenching as it is, there’s nothing better than the acapella ‘In This Heart’ to play at the fictional funeral of a seven year old child.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds / Do You Love Me? (Let Love In LP April 1994)
Occasionally Peaky Blinders soundtrack songs have been known to be a little obvious, Nick Cave’s rather brilliant ‘Do You Love Me?’ a fine example. Used to accompany sleazeball Oswald Mosely’s shagging session with Michael’s wife Gina while Tommy hangs around outside, surely ‘Do You Love Me?’ wasn’t a question on anybody’s mind, or was the song insinuating that Gina’s visible come on to Tommy went deeper than she was letting on?
Gilla Band / Lawman (Girl Band: The Early Years EP March 2015)
The intro of ‘Lawman’ tried to do what far better songs have done before by sound tracking Tommy as he strode purposefully down the street, in this case on his way to delivering a bomb to Arthur’s opium supplier. It doesn’t wholly work, largely because the Gilla Band are no White Stripes or PJ Harvey, but that’s hardly their fault.
The Smile / Pana-vision (Download April 2022)
The final dose of Thom Yorke came in the guise of his collaboration with Jonny Greenwood in The Smile, the delicate piano lines and melancholic atmosphere of ‘Pana-vision’ perfectly to the scene in which Tommy prepares to end it all.
End Credits Song Episode 6
Lisa O’Neill / All The Tired Horses (April 2022)
As the end credits for the last ever episode of Peaky Blinders rolled, I was surprised that Nick Cave’s malevolent theme song didn’t strike up to accompany our man as he urged his white steed on towards the green hills beyond his burning caravan and freedom, but Lisa O’Neill’s version of Dylan’s ‘All The Tired Horses’ will just have to do. Until the next time anyway!