Peaky Blinders: What Tommy’s Drinking Relapse Really Means in Season 6


In the sixth season of “Sharp Visors”, a surprisingly sober Tommy Shelby appears, but later in the season he has a relapse. A relapse on the screen usually leads to disastrous consequences. However, in the case of Tommy, he drinks alcohol moderately, and his refusal of sobriety is not directly considered. That’s what Tommy’s relapse really means.

Alcohol has always occupied a central place in the “Sharp Visors”. Along with smoking, it serves as a symbol of the activity of the working class after the First World War. The Shelby brothers have different relationships with alcohol; Arthur has always been more addicted than Tommy. In season 6, Arthur struggles with substance abuse, and Tommy swaps whiskey for water — at least in the first few episodes. However, despite his abstinence, Tommy eventually relapses and returns to the bottle.

In many cases, substance abuse is a narrative device symbolizing inner turmoil and struggle. Nevertheless, for Tommy, there are many stereotypical outcomes missing in “Sharp Visors”. This is because Tommy’s relapse into drunkenness is a symbol of self-acceptance, both for the role he plays in Polly’s death in season 6 and for his personal shortcomings. It’s no coincidence that Tommy’s abstinence begins immediately after Polly’s death, and his return to drinking falls at a crucial moment in the story. However, in the movie Peaky Blinders, Tommy’s addiction has to be changed to complete his character’s arc.

Tommy’s abstinence was self-punishment for Polly’s death

Along with Tommy’s suicide attempt, Polly’s death is a key motive behind his decision to quit drinking. By the end of season 5 of Sharp Visors, Tommy is afraid of alcohol, and it’s easier for him to blame his influence than to take moral responsibility for his mistakes. By refraining from his addiction in season 6, Tommy can distance himself from the person he was in previous seasons.

This can be clearly seen in his repeated excuses for sobriety. During season 6 of “Sharp Visors” Tommy is constantly scolded for not drinking whiskey. “You didn’t touch your drink, Tom,” Michael accuses, to which Tommy responds: “I’ve gotten better. Now I understand that whiskey is just fuel for the noisy engines in your head.” Then Michael’s associates continue to attack Tommy’s masculinity, but he is not embarrassed by it. Tommy deliberately separates his personalities. In season 6 of Peaky Blinders, Tommy considers himself untouchable regarding his past misdeeds. In his distorted opinion, Tommy, who consumed alcohol, caused Polly’s death, in a crime of which a sober Tommy is innocent.

Tommy’s breakdown was a sign that he had forgiven himself

By the end of season 6 of Peaky Blinders, Tommy has accepted the man he is and is content to die. Sober, he is forced to eventually confront his shortcomings, and finally forgiving himself, his sobriety is no longer required as a form of punishment. It is for this reason that Tommy can reconcile Michael’s murder with the realization that Michael’s hatred of him is justified. It is important to note that Tommy does not drown his sorrows as he has done in the past. He drinks wine at meetings and toasts, but no longer drinks whiskey from dawn to dusk.

Having forgiven himself, Tommy no longer needs to blame his vice. He faces the prospect of his own death without remorse; this is in direct contrast to how Tommy copes with his imminent execution in season two. Sentenced to be shot by Major Campbell’s men, he shouts to the sky: “Almost everything, damn it!” In season 6, Tommy is quietly approaching death, it is vital that he is preceded by a sip of whiskey. The important thing here is that Tommy lets the coin decide his fate. Having abandoned him under the influence of alcohol, Tommy cannot blame whiskey for the final decision he makes.

Tommy’s relationship with alcohol should be questioned in the movie “Peaky Blinders”

In the finale of “Sharp Visors”, the question of Tommy’s alcoholism remains unanswered. The impact of his relapse is partially negated by the fact that Tommy assumed he was dying. Considering how he survives the Season 6 finale and avoids the shadow of a fake terminal illness, there’s room to discuss Tommy’s relationship with alcohol in the upcoming movie “Peaky Blinders.”

Although very little is known about the film, including whether Killian Murphy’s Tommy Shelby will return at all, his addiction needs to be studied. The character must reconsider his sobriety along with Arthur, who seems to have turned a corner by the end of season 6. How the “Peaky Blinders” deal with Tommy’s addiction will be essential to a satisfying conclusion to the story.