Tom Hardy's Exit From Peaky Blinders Was An 11th-Hour Decision

You'd be hard-pressed to find moments of genuine levity in the dreary and blood-soaked world of "Peaky Blinders." Instead, you'll find the insatiable aspirations of Thomas "Tommy" Shelby (Cillian Murphy), a man who's built an empire to fill the hole inside him, even as the bodies of vile enemies and family members alike pile up. The closest you get to some illusory or twisted sense of geniality comes from the bonkers, scene-stealing charisma of Alfie Solomons (Tom Hardy). So when he was seemingly killed off at the end of season 4 there was a general lament over the loss of such a devilishly entertaining personality, especially as his was one of the few that rivaled Tommy's. 

Although he was first introduced as a wily antagonist leading the Camden Town-based Jewish gang, it didn't take long before Solomons' idiosyncrasies made him a fan favorite. Those up to date on "Peaky Blinders" will know there's no reason to fret: Alfie didn't stay dead for long. Kudos to the show's writers for managing to not only give a character many didn't want dead a satisfying send-off, but also finding a way to write him effortlessly back into the story. Behind Alfie's deftly handled death and resurrection was something even more surprising — a chaos of behind-the-scenes squabbling over questions of how to bring him back and whether he should have been killed off in the first place.

Alfie's death was never a certainty

There was so much back-and-forth in the writers' room before the 11th-hour decision to kill off Alfie Solomons was made that few knew what was actually going on. Paul Anderson, who plays the fantastically mustachioed Arthur Shelby, clued in Digital Spy on the details. "I didn't know that was coming," the actor said. "We were unsure ... there was a whole thing about whether or not Alfie would live or die, or get shot or not. It was up for debate and discussion."

Alfie's death is somewhat alluded to throughout season 4. His plans to betray Tommy by sneaking in assassins for Luca Changretta (Adrien Brody) all but ensured that the Peaky Blinders would come looking for vengeance. But in true Alfie fashion, not all is as it appears: for one, it's revealed that he's dying of a painful cancer, so his backstabbing of Tommy turns out to be an elaborate play to die at his hand over the cancer's. Of course, Alfie never planned to make it easy for him, which probably explains why he shoots at Tommy as well.

The surreal final confrontation between both characters on a beach in Margate is the closest they ever get to any sort of reconciliation. Despite Alfie's begrudging respect for his attempted killer and the beauty of that entire scene, Hardy was no less reluctant about leaving "Peaky Blinders." According to Anderson, he knew "Tom didn't want to go," begging the question of how anyone managed to convince him otherwise.

How to kill Alfie Solomons?

Much like one of Tommy's many plots, Alfie's death came together at the last minute. Not only was it absent from the script for the season 4 finale, but even while they were shooting the scenes leading up to his beach showdown with Cillian Murphy's character a decision had yet to be made. Director David Caffrey conveyed a sense of urgency and tension over the indecisiveness on BBC Sounds' "Obsessed With... Peaky Blinders" podcast. He recalled that the shooting between Alfie and Tommy "hadn't been written. Steve [series creator Steven Knight] had just come up with that two days beforehand." They hadn't scouted the location where they'd eventually film yet (Liverpool's Formby Beach), and once they did, more time was needed to chart the tides for continuity.

Caffrey also revealed that it was Hardy and Murphy's idea to have their characters "fire their guns together and both fall over." So clearly Hardy had some say in at least how Alfie would die. Given how unsure everyone had been about killing Alfie off, you'd think that once they'd done so, he'd at least stay dead. 

Bringing Alfie back seemed out of character for a show that prides itself in sending characters to dramatic and untimely deaths. Not to mention the fact that they'd used the same trick with Arthur during the very same episode in which Alfie supposedly dies. To bring Alfie back would be some Jon Snow resurrection-level of audacity. But cut to the season 5 finale and there he is, back from the dead with that acerbic and much-missed wit. So how did Hardy manage to worm his way back into the show?

Hardy wanted back in

At one point during Tommy and Alfie's first meeting, since the former's unsuccessful attempt to kill the latter, the subject of the divine comes up. More specifically, Hardy's character explains that since his return from the dead he's been claimed by some to be a god. Apparently, the actor wields the same kind of power as his character; according Steven Knight, the only reason that Alfie came back is because Hardy wanted him to. "The plan changed, let me put it that way — because Tom does love this character," he told Independent. And just like that, Alfie was back, although now with some gnarly scars on the side of his face to show for it.

One of the reasons resurrecting Alfie worked is because the character stopped antagonizing Tommy long before he was knocked off. Even his betrayal lacks maliciousness and greed, as it's done for personal reasons, as opposed to business-related ones. When Alfie reappears it's as someone Tommy goes to for help in securing men for his plot against the fascist Oswald Mosley. But it also reveals that the undertones of respect between the characters have only gotten stronger. Tommy might dodge his questions but it's clear Alfie is still one of the few men who truly seems to understand him. 

Between that and just how damn entertaining Hardy is to watch, it's understandable why few raised their voices in complaint over his return. Now, all that remains to be seen is what role Alfie will be playing in the upcoming "Peaky Blinders" movie. I think I speak for plenty of people when I say I hope it's a large one.