EXCLUSIVE: SPOILER ALERT: This post contains details about the series finale of Peaky Blinders…: Peaky Blinders, the award-winning, fan-adored period gangster epic created by Steven Knight drew to a close in its TV series form on Sunday night in the UK (it debuts in the US and elsewhere via Netflix on June 10). The finale, which has been unanimously praised, also leans in to the much touted movie to come, which Knight, in our discussion below, says will take place during World War II. Here’s our post-mortem on Peakyand a look forward.
DEADLINE: So, let me just start with this: Thank you for not killing Tommy
STEVE KNIGHT: You can’t kill Tommy! It’s good the fact that it’s the last episode cause people think he might actually die, whereas if there’s another series… you know what I mean? So you do have that on your side.
DEADLINE: How does it feel to be here now, nine years later?
KNIGHT: Oh great. I’ve just been looking, which I don’t usually do, I’ve just been looking at the reviews and that’s fantastic. I think they’re the best that we’ve ever had for Peaky which is amazing. Not just the reviews, again which I don’t normally do, I’ve been looing at what people are saying on the internet and it’s absolutely amazing. The fact that critics and the fans… I think a lot of people when it’s the last series they sort of fold their arms and say “prove that you’re not gonna do what other series have done” and so there is sort of an expectation , but I think it’s passed that with flying colors.
DEADLINE: You guys went through hell and back during the pandemic and also lost a beloved cast member. How has the cast responded?
KNIGHT: It was such a rollercoaster, the making of it — because of Helen, and because of the pandemic so it was really tough. It’s very corny but it is a bit of a family including the crew. So everybody is really proud of it. It is really emotional, but because of the film I really want to keep everything as much as possible the same, not to sort of go “Oh my God, we’ve got to do something different here.”
DEADLINE: You had previously said you wanted to do seven seasons, so in terms of having shifted down to six amid the pandemic and all, how much of what’s going to be in the movie would have been in season 7?
KNIGHT: The thing is that when I’m writing anything, but particularly Peaky, I tend to not have a plan except something very, very broad. So for the film, it’s actually set in World War II which I think I probably wouldn’t have done for series 7; I’d have probably taken it up to the war but because it’s a movie then I think we need a sort of gear change.
DEADLINE: After the Season 6 finale last night, it feels like there are still things to tie up, notably Tommy’s fight against facism…
KNIGHT: That’s why during the war it becomes very relevant because the worst predictions have all come true.
DEADLINE: So those guys, Oswald Mosley, and others are all going to figure in the film?
KNIGHT: And it is.
DEADLINE: I found the series finale to have a sort of >godfather-y feel
KNIGHT: Well that’s always a compliment, I have to say.
DEADLINE: How much of that is director Anthony Byrne and how much is you writing that in? Whether it be Godfather references like Michael getting shot in the eye and an overall settling of accounts, or even an Odessa Steps callback? Are you doing these tributes consciously?
KNIGHT: I write it in. Nothing gets done without it really, so it is scripted. That’s why I love television. I’ve probably said this ad nauseum but television is what you write is what gets shot as opposed to movies.
Sometimes it’s conscious. Sometimes it’s things conspire in such a way. In other words, if you’re doing 1930s, you’re doing gangsters, you’re in North America — you know what I mean — the look is gonna be resonant of Godfather. But there are bits – oranges and using those symbols and bits that represent that. But there’s lots of other references that are there as well which hopefully people can enjoy.
DEADLINE: In terms of how this final TV season sets the movie up, are we looking at Duke and some of these characters that have come in late in the game?
KNIGHT: Yeah, because in reality the first world war generation by the time the second world war is in terms of age as it was perceived in those days, and what I want to do is have this new generation come through. I’m really interested in Duke, I’m really interested in Isiah and just watching a new generation come through but with the older generation still there.
DEADLINE: After a movie, are you thinking ahead at all?
KNIGHT: Yeah, I want to see what the movie tells us. It’s always the way in the writing of it. If you don’t start with a rigid beginning middle and end, which I don’t, and just let it go, somehow you find out what’s going to happen next. Certain people will come to the front, and I like the idea of wartime, or post-war Britain, cause it’s a very different landscape and I think it would be great to explore that. It brings a whole new look, and people dress differently and act differently so it will be interesting.
DEADLINE: Talking of new looks, the art-deco of Gina’s place was really innovative to see… And as Anya Taylor-Joy plays the character, she’s menacing
KNIGHT: Yeah, the way she does what she does is pretty amazing. She she’s terrifying.
DEADLINE: How did you find the ending? Were there alternative versions you tossed about?
KNIGHT: The ending is the one thing where you have to actually really really really concentrate rationally because there’s no way out after that. There’s no way of retrospectively taking it somewhere. It’s gotta end, and that’s why I think the ending is always the most difficult. But finding a way to tie that up does take some rational thought whereas other parts of the script where you can just let it go, that’s where you have to really be sensitive.
In my mind, there were other ways for it to go. I mean I never thought that Tommy would die, but there were other ways for him to survive as well.
DEADLINE: Back in 2013 when the series started, you had Tommy on a black horse. At the end of this series finale, he’s on a white steed…
KNIGHT: Does that mean he’s now a good man?
DEADLINE: Thank you for asking my question for me!
KNIGHT: Well, what I want to do — that’s the implication — but when we find him during World War II, is he a good man? Have you been redeemed? Let’s see. I don’t know that yet either.
DEADLINE: And yet, you have said through the years that you would like to redeem him…
KNIGHT: Yeah, or bring him back to life. The way I like to think of it is that he began the series as dead inside, as were a lot of people after World War I, and then slowly he sort of thawed out. But it’s a painful process because as the feeling returns, it’s painful. So that’s what we’ve been witnessing; that’s why I wanted to end it on the 11th hour and peace at last. In other words, his first world war ended when he fired that shot and didn’t kill the doctor.
DEADLINE: We have discussed over the years how this show has been important to you: the Brummie-ness of it and your family having been part of the Blinders. You do so much and have so many irons in the fire all the time, but is it the most personal thing you’ve done?
KNIGHT: It is a personal thing because I set out, partly it was, I wanted for Birmingham to have a swagger, for Birmingham the city where I grew up to have its identity internationalized. That was an ambition, and that’s happened, so it’s not just the response to the TV series as a TV series. It’s the consequence of it entering the culture in lots of different countries and people dressing like it and having tattoos like it and all of that. But all of that comes back to Birmingham… and just the fact that people tell me, if they’re from Birmingham and when they go abroad, people immediately say ‘Peaky Blinders.’ I just think it’s really great. It’s a job done. And as a consequence, I’m building studios in Birmingham and we’re going to be making lots of content up there. So hopefully it’s a bit of a legacy for the city as well.
DEADLINE: Let’s take a couple of detours. When Tom Hardy’s Alfie Solomons turns up in the finale it’s just at the right time to inject a bit of a breather. Hardy has always been a fan favorite, and you and Cilliian have worked with him multiple times. Is Hardy ad-libbing those scenes at all?
KNIGHT: At the beginning, when he first shot one of the first episodes he ad libbed a lot – he doesn’t do that anymore, which is good. I remember the very first time, the scene was written to last about four minutes and it lasted about 20. He just set off — which is brilliant because a lot of it was really good. But he tends to stick to the script now.
If you’ve got Cillian and Tom Hardy together in a scene it’s just such a luxury that you think I better make this really good.
DEADLINE: And so ahead in the Peaky universe? What’s happening with the ballet that’s due to kick off in September?
KNIGHT: The way they do things with ballet is really great and terrifying. They book the theater and then say,”right let’s make it”and the theater is booked and people have bought tickets and you think, “right, we better do this.” But we’re in very good hands. It’s all written, but the actual shape of it, the choreography is coming round, it’s just so good. I just love it.
DEADLINE: Is it going to be a new story or a callback to the series?
KNIGHT: It’s a story that people know, it’s the story of Tommy and Grace basically.