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Peaky Blinders - The Road to Hell - Review

By approaching Peaky Blinders’ final series as a character study for Tommy, I’m now slowly starting to warm to the season – The Road To Hell is continuing to explore his inner conflict as a character – we’ve already seen him give the Nazi salute under deep cover; but the show pushing itself in a direction where things are finally ramping up for the endgame really looks set to end things on a high note. After a season of stops and starts you have the pieces set, laid out across the board: Michael is out of jail with a single mission: to kill Tommy Shelby – and Polly’s words linger over both characters. One of Tommy or Michael will live – and the other will die.

Hayden Stagg got to show up again – after leaving me thinking that Stephen Graham was only going to be in one episode – and his confrontation with Tommy was brilliantly done – Stagg nonfussed by Tommy’s threat – with the scene at the start with Tommy paying a visit to Chinatown “By order of the Birmingham Open District Council” – to remind us that he’s really there for; what he believes – to have that power over people’s lives – but would like Graham to do more than just illustrate character arcs to us before our eyes – hopefully he’s a piece of the puzzle in the finale; and maybe going forward. Stagg and Alfie Solomons on the same screen – wouldn’t that be a delight, as it was with Tom Hardy and Aiden Gillen? What we got more of however was Conrad Khan’s Duke – who feels at odds with the world that he’s just been thrust into. I was worrying that if the show moves on Tommy-less it wouldn’t have enough personality in its new generation to keep me interested but Khan is excellent – preferring the quiet of the open air to the nosy bookmakers – and his brilliant exchange with Arthur was classic dad humour at its finest – he’s made an instant impression. I questioned last week whether introducing him at this late stage was a good idea – but in addition to serving Tommy’s character arc – like this whole series has been about – it serves a narrative purpose. I can’t wait to see Duke in the future – whether that be just for the movie or beyond. You don’t get someone as good as Conrad Khan just for a few episodes especially when he so clearly resembles a younger Tommy – the show ripe for a reboot – just as Tommy looked pre the war, this is what Duke looks like – pre a war that is yet to come. Tommy may not make it to WW2 – but you’d expect Duke to be fighting on the front lines as the dark side of Tommy’s coin. Have you watched County Lines yet? You should watch County Lines.

We all know that Tommy is facing a ticking time bomb and his days are numbered – this is about what he can now accomplish before he’s done. I’m fully expecting Knight to go full Tarantino on us and have Tommy kill Mosely – and what the hell – even Hitler – but you never quite know what direction the finale will take – and fitting in with a character piece – the series threatens to keep the finale personal – a grudge match between Tommy and Michael, played out one last time. On paper, it’s an easy win for Tommy – he’s already bested Michael once this season – but that was a Tommy before the loss of Ruby; before his diagnosis.

Tommy is at least aware that he’s out of place with the dinner guests of Mosely and Mitford. He’s scum, like them – but he’s not a fascist – and it fits in with his playbook of trying to do every good action to accommodate a bad one. Stopping fascism may not wipe his slate clean – but it gives him an edge to build on. That doesn’t stop him from shagging Diana Mitford in a barge in exchange for her husband financing the building of canal-side houses for the poor – but it’s another way of Knight bluntly illustrating Tommy’s beliefs. She wants to set Tommy up with a marriage with a “less scandalous past” – which is insulting to Lizzie – who’s better than all of them.

We also got a slight diversion with the referee who took a stand against the Peakys and a reminder that they’re fixing football matches as well as horse races – they have their eyes everywhere. I felt that bringing in Graham as a Liverpool fan, no doubt – kicking a ball, we’d be almost getting a match between Liverpool and Birmingham – but that hasn’t happened yet. But blood is the word of the hour – and Nelson’s viewpoint that it is Britain’s main currency. A chilling condemnation – if there ever was one – that lays the groundwork for the finale in a way that makes The Road to Hell easily the best episode of the season so far. Just as fascinating as it was to watch Tommy and Duke’s journey – a highlight for a sympathetic villain has been Michael’s journey from where he started out – brought into a world that he is so clearly out of his depth in. If this is the penultimate hour of Peaky Blinders – it’s a restoration of faith that this show won’t end up quite like Game of Thrones.

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