Warning: contains spoilers for Peaky Blinders series six episode six “Lock and Key”.
It’s almost two years since Tommy Shelby disappeared over the horizon on a white horse, having dismantled the life he’d spent over a decade building through blood and strategising. Where Cillian Murphy’s character rode to after the credits rolled on Peaky Blinders finale “Lock and Key” is anybody’s guess, a question mark that Murphy adores.
Speaking to Lauren Laverne for BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs a month before the 2024 Academy Awards ceremony, Murphy – who received a Best Actor nomination for Oppenheimer – praised Peaky Blinders’ inconclusive finale, telling Laverne: “I felt like we’d done such excellent work and I really loved the ambiguity of the ending.”
Leaving behind the character of Tommy Shelby, Murphy continued, “was a little bit of a relief at that point. I was ready to take a little break.” Filming six series on the trot, one of which was delayed by the 2020 Covid-related industry shutdown, plus the sad loss of actor Helen McCrory from cancer in 2021, had clearly taken its toll.
“It was a good time to have a little respite from it,” said Murphy. “I think we all needed a break from each other, you know?”
That break may well be nearing its end. It was announced in early 2021 that Peaky Blinders’ planned seventh series would be replaced with a feature film. Many expected production on the movie to follow straight on from the series finale, but two years on, there’s still no sign of it.
Peaky Blinders creator and writer Steven Knight told Radio Times magazine in late 2023 that he was just finishing the film’s script and planned to start shooting in mid-2024. On Desert Island Discs in February 2024, Cillian Murphy confirmed that he was “totally” up for making the film, but spoke in somewhat less concrete terms than Knight:
“I’ve always said that if there is more story to tell, and if Steve Knight delivers a script that I know he can deliver because he’s such a phenomenal writer, I’ll be there. I mean, if we want to watch like, 50-year-old Tommy Shelby [laughs], let’s do it.”
Seeing 50 wasn’t something Tommy Shelby was expecting to happen in Peaky Blinders’ final series. Tricked by a fascist conspiracy into thinking that he was dying of a brain tumour, Tommy had taken his leave of the family and gone into the hills to shoot himself like a sick horse. A visitation from the ghost of his young daughter Ruby stopped him from pulling the trigger, and taught him that the tumour wasn’t real.
Tommy confronted the doctor responsible and held him at gunpoint but when the clock struck 11 just as he was about to shoot, Tommy stopped and intoned his final words on Peaky Blinders: “The eleventh hour. Armistice. Peace at last, peace at last.” When he returned to his camp to find it set alight, he rode off into the distance.
Where Tommy went, and, having rejected the wealth and power he’d accumulated, how he used his new freedom will surely be answered by Knight’s follow-on movie, set a few years down the Peaky Blinders timeline during the Second World War.
One benefit of leaving this two-year gap between the series finale and the feature film moving forward? Depending on how the 2024 Academy Awards fall, the Peaky Blinders movie poster has a decent chance of being able to boast ‘Oscar-winner Cillian Murphy’ when the time comes…
Peaky Blinders series one to six are available to stream on BBC iPlayer in the UK and on Netflix in the US.