T

he Peaky Blinders are back – and Steven Knight’s tale of Brummie gangster life in the inter-war period looks set to reach a blood-soaked crescendo in the BBC drama’s sixth series, which marks the final chapter for the disturbingly dysfunctional Shelby family.

After season five’s dramatic conclusion, the question on every fan’s mind is which pawn abandoned allegiance to the Shelby clan, betraying top dog Tommy (Cillian Murphy) by unravelling his plan to assassinate fascist leader Oswald Mosley (Sam Claflin).

Alongside the inevitable slo-mo shots of the Peaky Blinders striding through the mist to some anarchic rock – and the inevitable heartbreak of losing the series matriarch Aunt Polly, played by the actress Helen McCrory, who died from breast cancer last year – the latest series will also introduce us to a slew of new faces. Buzz around incoming cast members like Stephen Graham and Conrad Khan only makes us more impatient to find out who they’ll play, and how they’ll shake up the delicate balance of power in Birmingham’s Small Heath.

Friends, foes and stubbornly enduring criminals – here’s your guide to who’s who in season six.

The Shelby siblings

Thomas “Tommy” Shelby (Cillian Murphy)

BBC/Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd./Robert Viglasky

Now Labour representative for Birmingham South, bookie Thomas Shelby OBE (the B should stand for blackmail) will do anything to make his shady family business succeed – but his opium addiction, which began after his traumatic experiences on the battlefields of WWI and has since led to hallucinations of his late wife Grace, has led him to become paranoid and to experience suicidal thoughts.

Last seen: Screaming and placing a pistol to his own head, after his plan to assassinate Mosley was thwarted. Yet we never hear a gunshot before the credits roll – so it’s safe to assume Tommy will be back at the helm of series six.

Arthur Shelby Jr (Paul Anderson)

BBC/Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd./Matt Squire

More brawn than brains, Arthur puts the error in terrorise as he commits blunder after blunder, rarely trusted with important decisions in the family trade. After returning to his cocaine habit and murderous tendencies, his wife Linda departed for good (but we’ll see) in the penultimate episode of series five, leaving his mind fully focused on gunpowder, heathens and plot. Dealing with the persistent force of PTSD, the oldest Blinder brother steps up to handle their biggest rival yet.

Last seen: After arming Alfie Solomons’ men to make the planned hit on Mosley, Arthur attempts to console his brother, who’s seething over the mole that’s seemingly infiltrated his inner circle. He offers him a drink inside before Tommy storms off into the mist. Lost and lonely, Arthur’s fate never seems to change.

Finn Shelby (Harry Kirton)

BBC/Caryn Mandabach/Robert Viglasky

The youngest Shelby brother became part of the business in season four. Later, he was given the responsibility of fixing football games – and turned to cocaine to pass his time.

Last seen: Spilling the plans for the Mosley assassination to bookmaker Billy Grade (Emmett J. Scanlan), who then made a mysterious phone call. Soon after, the plot to kill Mosley goes awry, marksman Barney (Cosmo Jarvis) is killed and Tommy is betrayed.

Ada Thorne (Sophie Rundle)

BBC/Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd./Matt Squire

The only Shelby sister has taken a dwindling role in family meetings recently, which has hopefully given her character the space to process the death of her lover Ben Younger (Kingsley Ben-Adir), an intelligence officer and the father of her second child, who was blown up in a car bomb. Poor Ada isn’t new to lost loves – her Marxist husband Freddie Thorne died before series two began, leaving Ada to raise son Karl in the grim conditions of the Great Depression.

Last seen: Attending a Shelby assembly, rightfully focusing on her own issues. With two dead lovers and two children to handle alone, Ada could really use a break.

Leading ladies

Lizzie Shelby (Natasha O’Keeffe)

BBC/Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd./Matt Squire

Loyal lover and now respectable wife of Tommy, Lizzie stuck by her boss as more than his personal assistant when no one else did. After the entire Shelby clan was almost executed, bar Tommy, Lizzie saw him through every rough patch (and every other woman who took his fancy). Following their wedding in series five, she and daughter Ruby are officially part of the family, which in this gene pool is a life sentence in more ways than one. It’s her marriage versus the mirage of Tommy’s first wife Grace, and Lizzie refuses to lose this late in the game.

Last seen: Shooting a gun into the air to get the attention of Tommy away from the drama involving Aberama.

Linda Shelby (Kate Phillips)

BBC/Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd 2019/Robert Viglasky

It’s not a woman’s job to fix a man, and no one proves this more than Linda Shelby. She seemed to tame Arthur’s wild side early in their marriage, but when they returned to Birmingham, he fell into the same bad habits. She realises she can’t live this way and leaves Arthur for London to find a lawyer willing to help her divorce a Shelby. Her decision will probably make for a less awkward Christmas dinner.

Last seen: Driving into the distance, away from Arthur and the Shelbys for good (she swears). She’d previously been shot in the arm by Aunt Polly, after brandishing a gun (how else would one react, really) at Arthur for his vicious attack on her widower “friend.”

Captain Swing (Charlene McKenna)

BBC/Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd./Matt Squire

Charlene McKenna, who made a measly two-minute appearance in the last season, is expected to take on a bigger role in the coming series. A BBC breakdown describes the IRA member as “formidable”, “calculating” and “a woman of her word”.

Last seen: Warning Tommy of Michael’s betrayal, confirming his fears.

Esme Shelby (Aimee-Ffion Edwards)

The widow of dead Shelby brother John appears in the new trailer and in photos of the new series facing off with Tommy in a graveyard (fitting, as she’s one of the many ghosts of his past).

Last seen: In season four, unable to attend John’s funeral before taking her children on the road to go and live with “decent people.”

Grace Burgess (Annabelle Wallis)

BBC/Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd/Tiger Aspect/Robert Viglasky

Although she died in season two, Grace’s spirit has had a lingering presence throughout, with Tommy chasing her spectre through opium highs and outlandish sexual conquests. Fan theories hang around the character making an unexpected return from the dead, but for now she remains a ghost.

Last seen: As a misty hallucination of Tommy’s before he heads off to shoot himself – or so we’re led to believe.

Crooked Characters

Oswald Mosley (Sam Claflin)

The real-life leader of the British Union of Fascists, Mosley stands as enemy number one for most of season five – and probably well into the next one, too. His character’s fate is yet to unfold but the real Mosley faced imprisonment and political disgrace in his own lifetime.

Last seen: Escaping unscathed after remarkably pre-empting the murder plot against him (thanks to a possible tip-off). He remains under the close eye of one Winston Churchill.

Michael Gray (Finn Cole)

BBC/Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd./Matt Squire

Black sheep (or black cat according to Tommy’s superstitious dream about betrayal) and Shelby adjacent, Michael stood as Tommy’s clear successor but has since emerged as a secondary antagonist. The former accountant can wield a pen or a gun with equal skill and steps away from the books in season four to prove this. Unfortunately, the Shelby cousin loses the kingpin’s trust after failing to warn him about Luca Changretta’s plan to kill Tommy. Returning from exile in New York as a newlywed to Twenties broad Gina Gray, his business plan is rejected by Tommy and the resentment builds.

Last seen: Trying to take over after failing to sell Shelby Company Limited stocks pre-market crash. Michael is a broken record, craving redemption as he proposes another plan, at his wife’s coaxing, ­to enter the American narcotics business with Chinese contacts.

Gina Gray (Anya Taylor-Joy)

BBC/Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd./Matt Squire

Michael’s scheming Yankee wife has family in the American drug underworld. After returning to Small Heath with Michael, power-hungry Gina is as unflappable as her bleach-blonde finger waves. She and Michael are expecting a child, who will surely enter into the perilous family trade.

Last seen: Appearing with something between a smile and sneer, Gina’s backseat coercion of Michael to take over the Shelby Company is shunned by the Shelby siblings (Arthur succinctly notes, “F*** the Americans”). Her role in the unravelling conspiracies will be one to watch.

Alfie Solomons (Tom Hardy)

BBC/Caryn Mandabach Productions

Too entertaining to die, dependably two-faced Alfie Solomons leads his Jewish Camden Town gang to double cross Tommy time and time again. He received a gunshot to the face for his efforts, which apparently never killed him – Solomons is clearly too entertaining to die. Although retired, Alfie is deeply invested in dethroning Mosley and his antisemitic thugs. Other real life gangs may have been more notorious, but history favours the funny.

Last seen: Tuning in via radio to the planned brawl with Mosley’s Scottish bodyguards, anticipating the fascist leader’s death. The foiled plans leave his men entangled in a rumble they now must sort out for themselves.

New Faces

Stephen Graham

British TV’s busiest man Stephen Graham is set to make an appearance in the new season – but we don’t know much about his role. The Liverpudlian will retain his accent (killing off rumours of him reprising his Boardwalk Empire role as Al Capone).

Amber Anderson

The actress, who previously appeared in Emma alongside Taylor-Joy, has shared some behind the scenes shots showing her in costume on set on Instagram. If any cig-wielding character will give Tommy a run for his money, my money’s on her. Indeed, there’s already some speculation that Anderson will play Diana Mitford, Mosley’s wife.

Conrad Khan

The County Lines breakout star, who hails from North London, has not spoiled much about his upcoming role in the show – but he’s only just outgrown his Peaky buzzcut, typical of any rugged gunman in this cast. We can surely expect an exciting performance from the 21-year-old previous Bafta Rising Star nominee.

James Frecheville

The Australian lead of the film Animal Kingdom already has a Peaky Blinders connection as Finn Cole, who plays Michael Gray, starred in the TV adaptation of the same movie (which is also about a criminal family). Now their paths will cross in the final season with Frecheville’s mysterious appearance.

Peaky Blinders returns to BBC One and BBC iPlayer on February 28. Series one to five are on BBC iPlayer now



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