Let's Discuss That Crazy 'Peaky Blinders' Season 5 Finale
Peaky Blinders loves a dramatic cliffhanger season finale. Remember that time Tommy Shelby sent his entire family to jail??? But the plot threads left dangling in the fifth-season finale, "Mr. Jones," make it the British series' most ambiguous ending yet, and sets the stage for countless hours (and maybe even days!) of wild speculation about what went down. This will almost certainly vex millions of people until the next season arrives at some distant point in the future (hopefully 2020), even though we know a decent amount about Season 6 already.
Have you finished Season 5 yet? If the answer is no, GET OUT OF HERE RIGHT NOW -- shoo!!! But if you're ready, let's see if we can't solve the mystery of the traitor -- or traitors! -- in the Shelby family's midst, and attempt to decipher what it means for Season 6.
More: Where have I seen all these Peaky Blinders actors before?
Tommy's big plan for the end of this season was to off his political rival and frenemy Oswald Mosley, a fascist smack-dab in the middle of Parliament who, as it turns out, is almost literally Hitler. (And he was a real guy, by the way! Weird that we never learn about British Hitler in high school anymore.) Tommy broke an old war buddy named Barney, who was an expert sniper, out of a psychiatric asylum so that he could shoot Mosley during a Nazi-esque rally. But, if you've seen the very end of the episode, you know that this plan failed, tragically. In the mayhem, Shelby ally Aberama Gold was also taken out by a masked, stabby assassin.
Like Tommy, I have no idea who's behind the plans-thwarting betrayal, and opinions about whodunnit vary wildly online. The Season 5 finale is a departure for the show, which generally wraps up with one of Tommy's unlikely, brilliant plans working out precisely the way he'd planned, or close to it. But this time, there's no neat ending and, until Season 6 arrives, we probably won't know for sure who the traitor is. Let's separate the possible finks from the red herrings, and try to circle in on who might have beaten Tommy at his own game.
Billy GradeWhy it might be him: In a gaffe that super-bully Arthur would have pummeled him for, youngest Shelby bro Finn unfortunately let slip a choice bit of intel to the very reluctant football-match fixer Billy Grade -- namely, that "they're shooting a fascist tonight." Immediately after Finn leaves (for where? where the hell was Finn even going?), we see Billy reaching for the wad of cash and then the telephone. Could that mean he knows someone close to Mosley and was about to tip them off about a potential shooting, or was he making a call to another would-be Tommy thwarter? It's vexingly unclear. But given that Arthur has essentially made him an indentured servant, I wouldn't be surprised if he was an informant for another party.
Why it might not be him: For one thing, Billy is fully aware of what would happen to him if Arthur found out he was the mole. But Billy also wouldn't know Barney's sniping location, given the incredibly vague info that Finn (stupidly!) divulges. Furthermore, just prior to picking up the phone, Finn handed him a wad of cash and told him to call up some girl to take out -- he may have merely been setting up a hot date.
Verdict: Red herring. He doesn't know enough.
Johnny DogsWhy it might be him: According to Aberama Gold earlier in the season, Johnny Dogs was the only other person who knew where Aberama was camping with his son Bonnie when the murderous Billy Boys showed up. Did Johnny tip them off? By extension, could that indicate he might be compromised and working with Mosley in some capacity? In the finale, he's backstage along with Arthur and Aberama but he's the only one of the three who isn't attacked by a masked assassin. And he does obviously know where Barney's sniping location is. Also: Tommy explicitly states earlier in the season that Johnny Dogs is the only person he can trust, which could be foreshadowing.
Why it might not be him: Nothing happened in Season 5 that would point to Johnny wanting to betray Tommy, and in fact, he didn't seem upset with anything the Shelbys were doing all season. Tommy saved his life when Aberama beat Johnny with a hammer and didn't seem to mind when Johnny later used his home office to have sex with the newest member of the Shelby kitchen staff. And in the finale, Johnny seems genuinely appreciative to get the bonus for taking part in the Mosley assassination plot.
Verdict: Red herring. Johnny Dogs is super-loyal.
Michael Gray & Gina GrayWhy it might be him/her: Few characters this season have inspired as many theories as Michael's new American wife, Gina. That's largely due to how little is known about her background and how pointedly antagonistic she is to Tommy, Polly and others from virtually the second she meets them. Not helping matters: Michael, who had been handling the Shelby investments and business affairs overseas, married her on the voyage to Birmingham, allowing Gina (and writer Steven Knight) a convenient means of cloaking her maiden name. Could it be... Changretta? Doubtful -- even Michael would have enough sense to steer clear of a Changretta. but it wouldn't exactly be surprising if a big reveal about Gina's background were on the agenda for Season 6; maybe she's a long-con-playing, vengeance-seeking daughter of Adrien Brody's tiltingly behatted Luca Changretta using an alias or somehow affiliated with the Spinietta crime family. More likely, she's working with Mosley in some capacity, given how attentive she always seems to be during Shelby family meetings, and how, at Tommy and Lizzie's party, she already knows that Mosley is a baronet when Michael points him out -- and how she later exchanges a knowing look with Mosley during the weird ballet performance. (Many fans have theorized that she is also the mostly unseen woman Mosley has sex with in his dressing room before his speech, but that makes zero sense logistically or logically.) One final point in favor of Gina being involved with thwarting Tommy's assassination plot: her final speaking line of Season 5, right after Tommy rejects their proposal and tells Michael and Gina to leave, is "Guess we're going to be forced to take the second option."
Why it might not be him/her: It's too obvious. Michael is clearly rising against Tommy but seems to prefer doing it by the "rules," or he wouldn't have put together a prospectus. It's possible he's in league with the IRA -- remember the phone call Tommy received from a Northern Irish operative who claims Michael was scheming against the Shelbys. But there's not much else besides that call to go on (although perhaps the IRA is Gina's "second option"). The few details that have trickled out about Gina, like that she has a New York-based family who is very experienced in distributing drugs, and her influencing of Michael to blow up his relationship with Tommy, makes me certain that something is up with her. (Many fans have also posited that Gina may be lying about being pregnant, but there's no verifiable proof of this and I can't see how that would make much strategic sense for her in the long term.) Whether it all adds up to thwarting the Mosley assassination is another thing, as Gina wouldn't have known where the sniper was, either, since that conversation took place after she and Michael had left the chaotic family meeting where they made their proposal to restructure/take over the Shelby organization.
Verdict: Red herring. I will say that Michael and Gina likely have something to do with undermining Tommy, but I'd also bet that "the second option" doesn't actually refer to what went down at the Mosley rally. I'm also not convinced that Michael knows the entirety of what Gina's up to, if she is, in fact, up to something, and that he might not be too happy when he does find out her full agenda.
Polly GrayWhy it might be her: Polly has had doubts about Tommy before and did predict that either he or son Michael would die if the two of them went to war with each other. She also delivered her resignation the same night as the rally, and listened to the radio broadcast in a seemingly anxious and wistful way. But a seemingly small yet curiously timed question from Winston Churchill at the outset of the finale about who killed Inspector Campbell, and Tommy's response Polly did it, makes it theoretically possible that Churchill is putting the screws into her somehow, and to avoid prosecution, agrees to help stop the plot against Mosley. That would be a wild twist -- but it also corresponds to another fan theory relating to that smaller second meeting Tommy convened with Arthur, Johnny Dogs, and Aberama Gold where he revealed the assassination plot and who Barney was. Two moments during that meeting has led some to theorize that Polly was still at the pub: a shot of Tommy looking at her smoldering cigarette, which previously had not been there, and a shot that implied that someone may have been watching Tommy and the others in the mirror from a hiding place.
Why it might not be her: She does seem to be fed up with Tommy's way of doing business and is concerned about losing her son in a power struggle. Her resignation seems legit. It's also interestingly timed, following both the larger family meeting and Tommy's second, smaller strategy meeting. But family is the most important thing to Polly -- she'd go to prison before giving up a Shelby to save her own skin, especially if it was to stop the killing of a fascist (which she'd be much more likely to be in favor of), and especially one who behaved so atrociously at Tommy's party.
Verdict: Red herring. She fights for her family, not against, despite the resignation.
Winston ChurchillWhy it might be him: The Season 5 finale began with an intriguing meeting between Tommy and the future British Prime Minister, making his first appearance since Season 2. They discuss boats, digging gardens, and the best way to eradicate weeds -- it's all an elaborate metaphor about, I believe, the proper method of ridding society of its problematic elements, a.k.a. Mosley but also possibly the Shelbys. Churchill seems to have deduced that Tommy hasn't been palling around with Mosley for genuine reasons and gets Tommy to all but reveal the assassination plot. The cigar-chomping politician also inquires about who murdered Inspector Campbell (Tommy tells him that Polly did it) and suggests that he should visit them in Birmingham someday. Mosley also mentions in his speech that Churchill recently denounced him from the floor of Parliament, which could be inferred to mean that he'd prefer to neuter Mosley in the political arena, rather than allowing him to be martyred. Finally, the men who took out Barney and Aberama, and very nearly Arthur, appeared to be well-trained and stealthy in a secret agent kind of way.
Why it might not be him: There's a pretty good chance that Churchill might have something to do with thwarting Tommy's assassination plot. But there's also a good chance that he doesn't. For one thing, it's unclear why he'd bother, as he also shares Tommy's concerns about Mosley. Yes, he might be worried that martyring Mosley could help fuel the rise of fascism in England, and he may want to school Tommy about how things are done in politics. But why would his men target Aberama and Arthur? And why would a real-life character who pops up only briefly play such an enormous role in the outcome of the season? It doesn't make a lot of sense narratively.
Verdict: Red herring. Cool cigar, though.
Alfie SolomonsWhy it might be him: I mean, he betrays Tommy every goddamn season, and his surprise return in the finale is his first appearance since Tommy shot him in the face and left him for dead.
Why it might not be him: Why would Alfie stop the assassination of a fascist spreading hatred about Jewish people? Especially with Tommy paying him and his army of protesters cash to carry out his side of the bargain? A bigger strike against his involvement in thwarting the assassination is that Tommy is the only person in the biz who seems to know that Alfie is alive, and Alfie genuinely seems to be loving his low-key new lifestyle in Margate, where he sits and watches ships passing through one lens of his binoculars -- all that would be lost by betraying Tommy in a scenario like this where Tommy isn't targeted to be killed. And I'll paraphrase myself -- forgive me: "Why would a character who pops up only briefly play such an enormous role in the outcome of the season? It doesn't make a lot of sense narratively."
Verdict: Red herring. But it's very good to have Alfie back!
Tommy ShelbyWhy it might be him: Okay, okay, I know. It's insane. But is it???? On one hand, Tommy's grasp on reality has been deteriorating throughout this season, what with him smoking as much opium as his lungs can handle and those increasingly disturbing visions of his dead wife, Grace. Could he have some weird Jekyll and Hyde thing going on, sabotaging himself without even knowing?? It's a stretch, but stranger things have happened, although maybe not on Peaky Blinders. On the other hand, he could be knowingly busting up his own plan to ferret out a rat in his organization.
Why it might not be him: OK, the hallucination plotline isn't viable, so let's rule that out. But in terms of purposely thwarting himself: Why would Tommy go through the trouble of breaking Barney out of the mental institution, hire Alfie to send minions to Birmingham to stage a riot, and rage so hard after his plan goes pear-shaped if he's behind the thwarting? It makes no sense.
Verdict: Red herring. A Fight Club situation would be so dumb.
Oswald MosleyWhy it might be him: All season Mosley proved his ability to know, well, everything, while also pretending not to know anything. He's a master manipulator whose been at least a step, and probably more like three steps, ahead of Tommy since the Season 5 premiere. He dismissed the concerns of his security chief Jimmy McCavern about Peaky Blinders members being spotted in the building and also the rumor about a posse of Jewish men seen coming up from London. Did he know about the potential assassination before taking the stage, thanks to his army of spies? He did seem to be responsible or in cahoots with whoever was responsible for Ben Younger's death by car bomb, which could have been carried out by the IRA (which popped up briefly earlier in the season in that phone call with Tommy), or the shadowy Section D organization (which was introduced in Season 3 and also mentioned in a Season 5 episode). The latter, although more likely to be something Winston Churchill would have influence on than Mosley, was a real-life agency tasked with carrying out clandestine operations and likely employed the kind of people who used silencers and have the ability to deftly stab someone like 100 times in 10 seconds (R.I.P. Aberama). But the big thing that points to Mosley: It makes the most sense.
Why it might not be him: In the dressing room afterward, Tommy screams to Arthur that Mosley didn't know anything. Maybe he didn't!
Verdict: Mosley did it, right? So far, he's the only man that Tommy hasn't been able to beat.