Tommy Shelby is forever tainted by fascism

Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for Season 6 of the Netflix series, Peaky Blinders.

season 5 of Peaky Blinders saw Birmingham crime boss and Peaky Blinders leader Tommy Shelby (cilian murphy) trying, and failing, to outmaneuver his potential parliamentary rival, the notorious British fascist Oswald Mosley (a chilling sam claflin). Tommy hoped to undermine Mosley and his associates by pledging his political loyalty while he secretly kept the British government informed of Blackshirt (British fascist) activities. However, after the Peaky Blinders’ failed assassination attempt on Mosley and the murder of matriarch Polly Gray (Helen Macrory) in the season 5 finale by fascist-aligned IRA members, Tommy is forced to adopt Mosley’s politics to save his own skin.

And although her sister Ada (sophie rundle) has warned him about the dangers of fascism, in Season 6, Tommy is putting up with Mosley both out of political expediency and in the name of his growing business with Boston bootlegger and fascist sympathizer Jack Nelson (James Frecheville). Accompanying Tommy’s descent into the seedy underbelly of right-wing politics is the complete collapse of his personal life. Although it is often alluded to that he is “cursed”, it is his association with Mosley that turns out to be the most poisonous. His connection threatens Tommy’s political career (World War II is already on the horizon), alienates members of his family, and, most importantly, destroys his already fractured marriage to Lizzie (Natasha O’Keeffe).


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Technically, Tommy’s role as a Labor MP gives him the chance to create long-awaited change in his impoverished Birmingham community. But his growing interest in politics also hinges on accumulating power and security for his crime family, making his shaky alliance with Mosley a telling indicator of his fundamentally selfish nature. Though his involvement in Mosley’s right-wing extremism lacks conviction, he is nonetheless willing to ignore the implications of his own “underdog” background, as a working-class gypsy raised Catholic who commands the deepest contempt of Mosley, if it means he can still rule the streets of Birmingham. His link to one of Britain’s most infamous demagogues also means he can keep his scheming cousin Michael (finn cole), nephew-in-law of American fascist Jack Nelson, at bay, and ensure the survival of the long-range family business. The prospect of financial gain, it seems, is too much to pass up. With cash flow the only sure thing in Tommy’s shattered life following the death of his Aunt Polly, he embarks on a series of labyrinthine business maneuvers with the worst men in politics. But with World War II looming and fascism soon losing popularity, Tommy risks alienating both his constituency and his family if he continues to back Mosley’s evil.


In the end, Tommy’s association with fascism also unravels his relationship with his wife, Lizzie, one of the few voices of reason in his orbit. Lizzie’s background as a former prostitute immediately makes her a suspect of upper-class Mosley (a former client) and his wife, Diana Mitford (brilliantly played by amber anderson). Sensing her contempt for his bigoted politics and her deep concern for Diana, the pair ultimately decide to separate Tommy and Lizzie in the name of “the cause”. Lizzie, already grieving the loss of her and Tommy’s young daughter, sees Tommy’s affair with Diana as a final and insurmountable betrayal, worse even than his emotional distance, obsession with work, and Diana’s erratic behavior. she.

Though Tommy is too engrossed in the family business to be devastated by her departure, Lizzie’s absence leaves him even more isolated, just as Mosley and Diana expected, growing more certain of their future political dominance. Mosley’s ultimate plan to undo Tommy’s power is of an equally personal variety. Though Tommy senses his colleague’s long deception, Season 6 viewers wonder if it might be too late. He has the antihero of Peaky Blinders has finally gone down the path of no return with its political alliances? What will he do when World War II draws near and the British public remembers his connection to a friend and ally of Hitler? Most importantly, what will Tommy do now with so few people on his side?


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