Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) said that he will keep going until he finds the man he cannot defeat – that man must be his cousin, Michael Gray (Finn Cole). The latest episode of Peaky Blinders showed that Tommy has the upper hand over Michael, however, when the time comes, Tommy may decide that the cost of defeating Michael is his soul. Season 5 saw the conflict between the pair escalate. Michael was responsible for Shelby Company Limited losing money in the Wall Street Crash and when Michael and his wife Gina (Anya Taylor-Joy) proposed a restructuring of the company, Tommy was convinced that Michael was after his crown. This history inevitably means conflict is on the cards.


In Peaky Blinders‘ Season 6 premiere, Michael found a poignant new motive to topple his cousin. The IRA informed Tommy that they were responsible for the failed assassination of Oswald Mosley and the deaths of several characters. The biggest loss was Michael’s mother, Polly Gray. Following the tragic death of actress Helen McClory, Polly’s death was written into the show. At her funeral, Michael addressed his mother and swore revenge on Tommy, who he blamed for her death. In her final meeting with Tommy, Polly predicted the conflict, “There will be a war and one of you will die. But which one, I cannot tell.” In Season 4, Polly correctly predicted that Lizzie’s baby will be a girl and there is reason to believe she will be right again.

When their feud comes to an end, Michael must be victorious and kill Tommy. This is not because Michael is a better strategist or more powerful than Tommy, but because Tommy would oppose his positive character change by killing Michael. During Peaky Blinders‘ time jump, Tommy Shelby became sober and in his own words, “a better man”. If Tommy reverted to his old ways and killed Michael, he would regress into his worse self again. The poem Tommy recites to Michael and the associates of Uncle Jack suggested that he is tied to this new path of forgiveness, whereas Michael may not be.

Tommy suggested that he wants to leave his life of crime and violence, he proposed to Lizzie that once his business with Michael and Uncle Jack was done, there would be “no more”. Peaky Blinders has proven that rarely comes true as John and Polly had similar wishes. To enable a more peaceful life, Tommy has forsaken alcohol and practiced resorting to reason over violence. When confronted in the bar, he acted out of self-defense and spared his aggressor’s life. This change appears to have placed Tommy on the path to recovery since he attempted to take his own life at the beginning of the episode. If Tommy killed Michael he would revert to his immoral state and become suicidal again.

Tommy recited William Blake’s “A Poison Tree” in Peaky Blinders‘ latest episode. The poem appeared to contrast how Tommy and Michael have dealt with their anger since they last met. In season 5, Tommy vented his doubts and frustrations to Michael and since then, has attempted to become a better man. Thus, Tommy’s wrath has ended. Michael, meanwhile, has secretly vowed revenge on Tommy, his “foe”, and became further enraged when Tommy was responsible for his arrest. Michael’s wrath has grown and will be seen to the bitter end.

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Tommy appeared resigned to the fact that one day soon, Michael will try to kill him. When he told Michael in the meeting, “taking revenge sometimes requires time. You have to pick your moment. That moment will come”, Tommy was not just referring to revenge against the IRA – he was acknowledging the revenge that will head his way. The war that Polly prophesized has begun but the final battle may come either this season or in the subsequent Peaky Blinders movie. When it does come, however, Michael must kill Tommy, otherwise, Tommy will slip back into his old self and the cycle of violence may never end.

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