Why did Tommy Shelby kill his horse in the Peaky Blinders season five premiere? The episode “Black Thursday” was praised as one of the best in the series. However, one sequence in particular might leave Netflix viewers wondering about the thematic relevance of an animal being murdered execution-style. The disturbing event actually connects to the beginning of Peaky Blinders – and also for the end of the 5th and 6th season.
Played by Cillian Murphy, Tommy wears a lot of hats in Peaky Blinders. First and foremost, he is the leader of Birmingham’s titular criminal organization and the one who operates with a specific code of conduct. As a World War I veteran, Tommy understands the value of strong leadership. Tommy is also a Gypsy who fully believes in spiritual curses, which ties into his existential dread following the death of his wife Grace in Peaky Blinders season 3, the result of Vicente Changretta’s failed attempt to kill him.
Before Tommy was shown killing animals in the Peaky Blinders in the season 5 premiere, the audience discovers that his son, Charles, overheard a conversation in the Rokka gypsy language and discovered that his father killed a horse. Tommy talks to Charles immediately, explaining the reason for his actions: the horse was sick and so he was killed out of mercy. “I put him to sleep” Tommy says, “What do you do.” However, the young man is not convinced and says: “No, it’s what YOU do. Shoot horses, shoot people. Everyone says!” Tommy then leads a dark burial ritual and claims the horse is now “free… in the dark.” Tommy’s daughter Ruby asks if he’s crying, which prompts the Peaky Blinder to remember the real mercy killing. After shooting the sick horse, Tommy points the gun at his own head. The memory serves as a reminder of another horse he “put to sleep” inside Peaky Blinders season 1, and horses are a recurring motif throughout the series.
The horse and the gypsy curse are connected
Inside Peaky Blinders’ In the second episode, Tommy discovers that his newly purchased horse has been cursed by a Birmingham Gypsy family, the Lees. A groom named Curly says that Tommy acquired the animal at a fair in “bad feeling,” and that an old woman put a spell on the horse, resulting in a disease that spreads from one hoof to the rest of the body. Tommy approaches the horse and a gunshot is heard, but the act itself is not shown. Tommy pulls away and winces. From that point forward, the leader of the Peaky Blinders continually struggles with the consequences of his actions. Inside Peaky Blinders in season 5, the black horse wanders through Tommy’s mind. After killing a real horse, he asks someone to tell Charles that “Sometimes death is a kindness.” As it turns out, the symbolism of the black horse is a crucial component of the Peaky Blinders season 5 finale.
“Black Tuesday” begins Peaky Blinders 5th season. The episode immediately references the real-life Wall Street crash of 1929 and Tommy’s inner turmoil. Peaky Blinders 5 season ends with “Mr Jones,” an episode that includes two revealing sequences referencing a black horse. First, Tommy visits Alfie Solomons (Tom Hardy), a gangster he apparently killed in Peaky Blinders season 4. Alfie is recruited to help assassinate politician Oswald Mosley (Sam Claflin), and reveals that he had a recurring dream about the Peaky Blinder that nearly killed him. Alfie claims he saw Tommy in a field with “a big black horse.” In the vision, Tommy says “bye,” and a shot is heard (“bang”). Tommy says nothing in reaction, and then leaves, declaring that “I will continue until I find a man I cannot defeat.”
Curiously, Peaky Blinders season 5 ends with Tommy retreating in his mind once again after a failed attempt to kill Mosley. He sees his late wife, Grace, who is in front of a black horse and suggests that Tommy should take his own life (“It is so easy. It’s so smooth.”) The final image shows Peaky Blinder screaming with a gun pointed at his head. An online theory suggests that the previous sequel may in fact be a time jump that foreshadows how Peaky Blinders ends, implying that the visions of Grace and the black horse become too much to bear. Tommy is the man he can’t defeat, so he leaves on his own terms. This didn’t happen until the end of Season 6, however, which continued the horse theme differently.
Peaky Blinders Season 6 Continues the Horse Motif Beautifully
Since horses continue to be a big reason throughout the Peaky Blinders timeline, the show’s final season would be remiss if it didn’t include more horse symbolism. In fact, a horse plays a significant role in the season 6 finale. The finale once again saw Tommy planning to take his own life, carrying his own funeral trailer to solidify the deal. However, he decided to change his plans and let his funeral trailer burn to the ground as he rode – this time, however, it was white. The white horse secretly reveals his destiny as the new and improved Tommy, who is in search of peace and is trying his best to be a better person. The black horse seen throughout the series represented Tommy’s own dark nature throughout the events of the show. With Tommy deciding to ride a white horse in Peaky Blinders Season 6 means he has left the past behind and is starting a new way of life. It will be interesting to see how the horse motif appears in the Peaky Blinders movie when he finally materializes.