Peaky Blinders season 6, episode 3, “Gold” sees tragedy strike yet again with Ruby’s death, and its hidden meaning implies an ominous turn on the horizon for Tommy Shelby. The show’s final season follows Tommy (Cillian Murphy) trying to become a “better man” and finalizing a final deal with Jack Nelson’s (Jack Frecheville) Boston gang before leaving the life. This deal is put on hold when Tommy’s daughter Ruby (Orla McDonagh) falls ill and begins to have visions. Despite his attempts at self-improvement, Tommy is convinced that Ruby’s illness is a curse and that he is being punished for his previous misdeeds.
In the Peaky Blinders episode, Ruby deteriorates enough to be admitted into the hospital. Instead of believing in scientific practices, Tommy searches for Esme (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) to learn what he can do to quell the Romani curse that he believes is responsible for Ruby’s illness. Esme reiterates Tommy’s belief in the curse, saying that to lift all the curses placed upon him would be “a lot of lifting” and that her own curse “is in there somewhere.” Tommy believes he can solve the issue with his wealth; however, when he returns to the hospital he learns that Ruby has already died of tuberculosis.
When Lizzie (Natasha O’Keeffe) breaks the news to Tommy, she mentions the specific time that Ruby died: 5:17. In a short exchange of words, she repeats the precise time. This repetition serves a purpose and is likely a reference to the biblical verse, Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” This verse suggests that Tommy will not complete his ambition to become a better man. If he returned to the faith and once again embraced God, he might be reborn. However, as the past five seasons of Peaky Blinders have shown, Tommy is too hubristic and embittered to be “in Christ” and therefore cannot complete his transformation to become a better man. As a result, it is likely Tommy will resort to his old ways of alcohol and violence, finally fully self-destructing.
The second part of the verse, “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” is not a reference to the Peaky Blinders deaths of Ruby or Polly (Helen McCrory). Instead, it is a statement of Tommy’s desire to change into a more reasonable person. Tommy takes steps to fulfill this desire in Peaky Blinders’ time jump by renouncing drugs and alcohol. As a result, he wishes to be less impulsive and violent. In Peaky Blinders season 6, episode 2, he even informs Jack Nelson that the last man he killed was “Tommy Shelby. He drank whisky.” Nonetheless, Tommy admits that in moments he can regress into his old self, as he did when Esme told him about the curse and he asked her if she had whisky.
Unfortunately, Tommy will not become the “new creation” he desires because he will likely never reconcile with God. Although Tommy is a Catholic, he confesses to Jack that he does not believe in God. This is proven when after asking God to spare Ruby, he still decides to try and lift the curse in Peaky Blinders season 6; he believes he alone can strike a bargain with death. He wants to be the savior and it’s just one example of Tommy’s hubris. In the Peaky Blinders season 6 premiere, Tommy tells Michael (Finn Cole), “I have no limitations.” Indeed, as Lizzie says, he is “not a normal man.” However, this belief in himself, even above God, is what will stop Tommy from achieving his goal of becoming a better man, “a new creation.” Additionally, of course, the idea of the new replacing the old is a warning to Tommy of his greatest fears about Michael usurping his throne.
Like a hero in a Greek tragedy, it appears that Tommy Shelby’s hubris and self-destructive habits will cause his downfall. The cruel death of Ruby only makes the inevitable more likely. Tommy will fail to better himself and become a man of action and violence again. When he does, expect a lot more guns and razor blades in Peaky Blinders’ final episodes.