TV

Peaky Blinders review by Jim Shelley 


‘The Peaky Blinders are coming!’ a little kid shouted as he came running into the gang’s local pub midway through the opening episode of their new series, as if warning drinkers and viewers alike. ‘The Peaky Blinders are coming!’

They certainly were. In fact of course they were already here, as Poldark discovered to its/his cost – too late.

The show announced its return after nearly two years away in typical style, blazing into Season Five with ‘Black Tuesday’ – virtually a Greatest Hits compilation that summed up its history and where it was today perfectly.

One to watch: Peaky Blinders announced its return after nearly two years away in typical style, blazing into Season Five with ‘Black Tuesday’

One to watch: Peaky Blinders announced its return after nearly two years away in typical style, blazing into Season Five with ‘Black Tuesday’

Tommy Shelby himself would have enjoyed and admired the way, more significantly Peaky Blinders seized its chance to take centre stage.

Liberated from the confines of Wednesday nights on BBC2, didn’t so much ‘take over’ from Poldark as barge him out of his traditional 9pm Sunday slot. As if Steven Knight’s bloody post-WW1 epic had no regard for the fact it/he had only two episodes to go before his retirement, and the BBC was too scared to try and stop it.

Like the Shelbys, Peaky Blinders just couldn’t wait,

Barged out: Liberated from the confines of Wednesday nights on BBC2, didn’t so much ‘take over’ from Poldark as barge him out of his traditional 9pm Sunday slot

Barged out: Liberated from the confines of Wednesday nights on BBC2, didn’t so much ‘take over’ from Poldark as barge him out of his traditional 9pm Sunday slot

What could have been a passing of the crown from Captain Ross to Sergeant Major Shelby just became a humiliation.

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As salt in the wound, Poldark’s farewell episode tomorrow has also been relegated to being a mere warm-up for Peaky Blinders’ second installment.

Poor Ross. Peaky Blinders represented the new breed with razors instead of swords and scythes; lethal flat caps instead of three-cornered pirate hats; severely shaved haircuts rather than the curly locks and hairy chest of the old has-been.

It remains to be seen whether Tommy’s show will sell-out like the previous working-class hero/rebel’s.

Since it started, Peaky Blinders made huge amounts of money, becoming increasingly respected at home and influential abroad, especially in America.

Mixing things up: Peaky Blinders represented the new breed with razors instead of swords and scythes; lethal flat caps instead of three-cornered pirate hats

Mixing things up: Peaky Blinders represented the new breed with razors instead of swords and scythes; lethal flat caps instead of three-cornered pirate hats

Just like Tommy and co. in other words. Steven Knight is feted in Hollywood and the series sold to over 180 countries. ‘Black Tuesday’ found Michael in Detroit, Polly in Monte Carlo, and the Shelbys’ houses and hotels, cars and cocaine habits, still getting bigger, as they had exponentially during the first four seasons.

But, also much like Tommy Shelby and his family, despite all this Peaky Blinders never changes.

It just gets… more.

‘Black Tuesday’ opened in October 1929 with the Shelbys reeling from the Wall Street Crash. 

But the episode still had more money and power, more shoot-outs and slow motion; more violence and arty photography; more sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll than ever.

Because of this, inevitably, at times the episode bordered on self-parody (Helen McCrory’s outfits for example) and strayed perilously close to becoming not just Brummie imitation Scorsese but sub-‘Lock Stock’-period Guy Ritchie cliché openly pandering to American viewers.

Wild: The episode still had more money and power, more shoot-outs and slow motion; more violence and arty photography; more sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll than ever

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Wild: The episode still had more money and power, more shoot-outs and slow motion; more violence and arty photography; more sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll than ever

The episode had everything you’d expect from its grand return or season debut, except perhaps something that we didn’t: a special ingredient that took it to another level the way other gang dramas like Gomorrah, Boardwalk Empire, or The Sopranos had long before they reached their fifth series.

Peaky Blinders didn’t take any chances with its audience or give us something we hadn’t seen before.

On the contrary, the biggest development in its protagonist’s story – Tommy Shelby becoming an MP – is basically the same as Poldark’s.

Admittedly, this allows the interesting introduction of Oswald Mosley to fill the void left by the villains played by Tom Hardy or Adrien Brody – and hopefully re-ignite Tommy’s morality.

Playing it safe: Peaky Blinders didn’t take any chances with its audience or give us something we hadn’t seen before

Playing it safe: Peaky Blinders didn’t take any chances with its audience or give us something we hadn’t seen before

This is ambivalent at best. Steven Knight suggested we should feel more sorry for Tommy than the Times journalist he had assassinated for example, a man whose homosexuality he genuinely seemed to despise.

Mind you, Cillian Murphy can have that effect.

As great as it was to see Arthur or Ada and the other gangsters’ molls knocking back the drugs and drink, and nagging their men, it’s Murphy’s bewitching performance as Tommy that carries Peaky Blinders. Much like Salvatore Esposito, Steve Buscemi and James Gandolfini did with Gomorrah, Boardwalk Empire, and The Sopranos respectively.

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Like them, Tommy is finding more power doesn’t bring more responsibility, just more problems – with his family, his empire, his children, and his mind.

Even when the show is so familiar you could play Peaky Blinders’ Bingo, watching Tommy’s torment and ruthless response to his enemies (real or otherwise) will be riveting.

And coming on BBC1 on Sunday nights at 9pm, very much a sign of the times.

Carried it: As great as it was to see Arthur or Ada and the other gangsters’ molls knocking back the drugs and drink, and nagging their men, it’s Murphy’s bewitching performance as Tommy that carries Peaky Blinders

Carried it: As great as it was to see Arthur or Ada and the other gangsters’ molls knocking back the drugs and drink, and nagging their men, it’s Murphy’s bewitching performance as Tommy that carries Peaky Blinders

 



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