Peaky Blinders series 1 finale review

Peaky Blinders delivers a slick, strong finale to its first series, which has been an absolute triumph...

This review contains spoilers.

Due to the anticipation that surrounds them, drama finales have the potential to be very divisive. In this instance I am fully convinced that the vast majority of people will think that the Peaky Blinders finale is a brilliant way to cap off what has been a great series for the BBC.

It is rare that an ending seems to hit every right note and leave you feeling satisfied with the resolution for each character. Writer Steven Knight has achieved that here. It was a slick, well-structured finale that demonstrated the strong pacing and complicated plotting that has made the entire series a real pleasure to watch. 

As with the whole series, the ending is driven entirely by character and their motivations. The bittersweet ending stays true to the characters built over the course of the series. On top of that, everything was pulled off with a great sense of panache and style.

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The best way to begin this review is to look at the ending. The final few minutes were superbly executed. The drama was gripping to the final moment, as Campbell catches up with Grace at the train station, pointing his gun at her, with Tommy back at home reflecting on his feelings for her. The ending sequence was beautifully shot, and acted with real conviction. 

Sam Neill is at his best in the finale, embittered and twisted by Grace’s rejection of him. While Tommy’s story came close to being a story of redemption through his love for Grace, Campbell’s story is the antithesis of that – a true fall from grace. (Excuse the pun) Arriving in Birmingham as a supposedly moral, Bible-quoting police officer, he ends the series as a murderous client of prostitutes. It has been a swift but believable character shift. If series two is commissioned, then surely a conflict between Campbell and Tommy is going to be the main focus. 

Tommy Shelby has been an endlessly compelling and complex protagonist. As the story has unfurled, the extent to which the war damaged him was revealed. His character evolved from a caricature gangster to a fully formed anti-hero. This could only have been handled so well with a capable actor. 

Cillian Murphy has been superb throughout, and is the stand-out performer in a very strong cast. Annabelle Wallis invested Grace with a mix of guile and delicacy, while Helen McCrory is majestic as Aunt Polly. Like Tommy, she is a very damaged character maintaining a stiff upper lip, and she is all the more interesting for it.

I can finally put aside my grumbling about the pregnancy storyline, as Ada and Freddy prove integral to the resolution of the Shelby and Kimber conflict. Ada finally shows the Shelby backbone as she takes a stand between the two factions. I wish her character had shown this much spark throughout, but the moment was incredibly satisfying.

The finale had plenty of visual style too. There was imagery reminiscent of Westerns, with the long, narrow street outside the Garrison acting as the battleground for the two warring factions. There was also a sprinkling of Tarantino too, with a definite nod to Reservoir Dogs thrown in for good measure. The music added to this style, bringing atmosphere without being overbearing. 

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The BBC must be congratulated on commissioning Peaky Blinders. Both dramatically and stylistically, the series is an absolute triumph. It may not be absolutely perfect, but it has been an engrossing and entertaining journey. According to writer Steven Knight, a second series is definitely on the cards. It can not come soon enough.

Read Tom’s review of the previous episode, here.

Peaky Blinders is available to order on DVD from the BBC Shop here, and Blu-ray here

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