Is Thomas Shelby machiavellian

Peaky Blinders season 5 was the first to end on a cliffhanger that didn’t leave Thomas Shelby on top.

This post contains spoilers for Peaky Blinders season 5.

For the first time in Peaky Blinders history, Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) hasn’t ended a season on top. Through the ups and downs of each of the previous four seasons, Shelby has somehow managed to finish each with at least somewhat of a win. Season 5 was different.

Season 5 left Shelby’s world spiraling, and all of us very concerned with what might by coming next.

Initially, it’s easy to pin Shelby’s season 5 failure on the intelligence and forethought of his newest opponent, Oswald Mosley (Sam Claflin), but that would be giving the rising fascist too much credit. The only person who can bring down Thomas Shelby is Thomas Shelby himself.

Seeing Grace Shelby (Annabelle Wallis) return to Peaky Blinders was an early season surprise that surely made a lot of fans very happy. It was quickly implied that she was not there to help Tommy through hard times, but as a representation of his current mental state. The vision of Grace is Tommy’s “out” on all of the chaos, politics, death and corruption. More simply, Grace is his reason for ending the life that he is living. We see this in the car scene, when Tommy hesitates to start his car in fear of it being wired to explode. Grace encourages him to “join her.” We see her again at the end of the season, with Tommy holding a gun to his head, delivering the same message. It’s clear that Thomas Shelby is in a dark place.

Through the better part of five seasons, Tommy does an incredible job of playing within his league. He understands hierarchy and politics more than he lets on. He aligns himself and the Shelby Company with the right people at the right time and 99 percent of the way he manages his way through season 5 is peak Tommy. The problem is, it’s beginning to break him down mentally. The visions of Grace, the love of his life, convincing him to take his own life are beginning to take their toll on Tommy. If there was ever a time to confide in someone alive, now would be it.

The highlight of season 5 was Tommy Shelby piecing together his plan. He broke his old sniper out of the mental ward and put him in place to take out his foe, cleared his plan with future Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill and even reunited with the once-dead (so we thought) Alfie Solomons (Tom Hardy) to work towards a mutually beneficial goal. Oswald Mosley was as good as dead. The scene with Shelby piecing his plan together with Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” playing in the background is one of the better scenes of television this decade. Everything about it was iconic.

What Tommy couldn’t account for is how stupid and careless the younger Peaky boys can be. Finn Shelby (Harry Kirton), who has a budding drug problem and a little too much trust in someone he shouldn’t, doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut. He leaked Tommy’s plan to Billy Grade (Emmett J. Scanlan), who (we think) told Mosley as an act of revenge towards the Shelbys for putting him through hell with their illegal gambling operation. Billy’s final scene was him picking up the phone after Finn left the room.

Finn and Michael Shelby (Finn Cole) are supposed to be the future of the Peaky Blinders gang. Unfortunately, they aren’t even close to being ready to lead the way Tommy and Arthur have to this point. At least, Finn isn’t. Michael, who was in America, made a huge mistake by not pulling the Shelby Company money out of the stock market before the crash, which severed his relationship with Tommy. While he seems back on track with a plan to make up for his losses, Tommy doesn’t give him the time of day anymore. Finn, on the other hand, has proven to be reckless and loose-lipped. Two things that the Shelbys do not need at the moment.

Instead of another extremely satisfying season end with the Shelby Company on top, season 5 saw Tommy’s mentally unstable friend Barney shot dead, Aberama Gold (Aidan Gillen) also dead and the Peaky Blinders’ world sent into chaos as Arthur (Paul Anderson) and Tommy were left wondering how the hell Mosley found out about their plan in the first place.

Tommy took off, wandered into a field, being coerced into suicide once again by the vision of Grace, asking him to join her, and we are left with another two-year waiting period before we find out if Tommy pulled the trigger or not. (Safe to say probably not, since there are two more seasons of Peaky Blinders in the works.) Regardless, the ending made clear Tommy Shelby’s biggest threat: Himself.

While Shelby thinks he is secretly at war with an all-knowing opponent in Oswald Mosley, he’s actually at war with his own mind. His lack of trust (often warranted) has led to him not confiding in the right people at the right time, and the wrong people at others. Arthur was an emotional wreck throughout season 5 and having him running point on the Mosley take-down probably wasn’t ideal. The Peaky Blinders are broken and Tommy is going to have to rebuild some relationships to get them back to the power they once were. Starting with his relationship with himself.

If Thomas Shelby wants the Peaky Blinders and the Shelby Company to reach their full potential, he’s going to have to kill Oswald Mosley. To do so, he’s going to have to kill his demons first.

(Sorry Grace.)

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Peaky Blinders season 5 is available now on Netflix.