Peaky Blinders

“They call them the Mafia.  Yeah, there’s fiftenn ‘ov ’em.  They wan’t kill us all, but we got guns and grenades and Polly’s back, so we’re gonna be okay, yeah.

Curly – Season 4 Episode 2 “Heathens”

I will say first off, this show is not for everyone, it is raw, rude and violent, but I love it.

The Peaky Blinders were a Birmingham street gang active from the 1890s to about 1910. Writer and Creator Steven Knight borrowed their name for this series about an Irish Traveler family who run a bookmaking and protection racket in Birmingham, England. The first season begins in 1919, not long after the three oldest brothers return from fighting in France during the First World War. Thomas Shelby, the second oldest brother, has plans and ambitions to grow.

I’m a big fan of gangster stories. The Godfather, Goodfellas, Gangs of New York, I never really got into the Sopranos though. I watched more than a few episodes, and I liked it, but it didn’t grab me the way it did other people. I devoured every episode available of Peaky Blinders.

The acting is superb. These are terrible people but Cillian Murphy, Helen McCrory, Paul Anderson make them sympathetic and human. The costumes, sets and visual design transport you to the past. And then there’s the music!

On a gathering storm comes
a tall handsome man
in a dusty black coat with
a red right hand

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “The Red Right Hand”

Sometimes (too often in my opinion) when directors and producers try and use modern songs in a period setting, the results are jarring. It snaps you right out of the immersion they are trying to build. It’s the exact opposite here. Despite the setting being 1920s England, the music by Jack White, Dan Auerbach, PJ Jarvey, Radiohead and others pulls you in deeper. Everything is chosen perfectly and all the pieces fit together like a jigsaw puzzle that’s both horrifying and beautiful to look at.

One of the things that makes the show so good is how short the seasons are. That sounds odd to say, but having only six episodes per season (or series as the BBC prefers to call them) means the writer and producers have the time to make sure each one counts. That every script has been honed and fine tuned. Every episode has been written by the same person, creator Steven Knight and each season but the first directed by a single director. So there is a uniformity and consistency that you don’t get with shows that have twice, three or even four times the number of episodes to watch.

Tom Hardy is another wonderful thing about this show. He only has small guest appearances peppered throughout seasons 2, 3 and 4 but holy crap is he amazing. I didn’t even realize it was him I was watching, until I saw his name in the credits and to look up who he played, just to see if it was the same Tom Hardy I was thinking of. It was, and it goes to show how badly his acting ability was misused by Chris Nolan in that last Batman movie.

Each season begins a little further in time than the previous one. Each telling the tale of the growth of the familys power and influence and the prices they pay for it.

I’ve read that Mr. Knight plans for the story to encompass the time between the two world wars, over a total of seven seasons. Four have been released and the fifth is due this year. I can’t wait.

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