Peaky Blinders which aired its first season last year was yet another brilliant original British drama from the BBC starring Cillian Murphy, Sam Neill and Helen McCrory. It’s based on the violent Peaky Blinders gang that ran out of Birmingham in the 1920’s that were famous for slashing their victims with knives in their caps. Cillian Murphy leads the cast as Thomas ‘Tommy’ Shelby, the head of the Shelby family and the Blinders gang. Murphy just has such an enigmatic face and is just fantastic in this role. As a war veteran, the effects are still very much there, and it comes across with his cold, detached nature. He’s also a man of not so many words, and Murphy lets his face do all the talking for him. Calm and collected, he faces a lot of twists and turns within the betting business the family run and also within the family unit itself.
The overall series arc involves Tommy coming across military guns, choosing to keep them rather than get rid; it brings Inspector Campbell to Birmingham and their door, played by the brilliant Sam Neill. The inspector goes through quite a transformation across the first series, from the bible quoting man who says he’s going to clean up the streets and make everything better, to a man who uses brothel houses (whilst mistreating and having rough sex with the whores there too) and ultimately loathing himself for not being man enough for the woman he loves. That woman is the centre of a tricky love triangle/power play between Campbell and Tommy Shelby. Grace, played by Annabelle Wallis begins work as a barmaid in the Garrison, a pub the family has as its stomping ground, and soon strikes an unlikely friendship with Tommy. That friendship soon turns into romance until Tommy finds out the truth in the final episode: Grace is in fact an undercover cop, feeding information to Campbell. Despite this, she begins to have feels for Tommy, believing him to be a good man, deep down inside. Tommy allows himself to feel; to fall in love with Grace only to find out her betrayal. Campbell’s rejection from Grace in favour of Shelby leads him down a dark path and he is quite the sour loser in the final two episodes.
His ultimate plan to try and kill off Tommy within a turf gang war between the Blinders and Billy Kimber, ultimately backfires and fails. The priceless moment comes from a best copper telling Campbell that ultimately it’s his own fault. The final moments of the series are that of celebration for the family, for surviving within the legal betting industry and of shock for the audience. Grace resolves to leave during the episode, leaving Tommy time to think about whether he can forgive her. As he writes a letter to her telling her he does, Campbell walks into the train station, aims a gun at her and shoots. The series cuts to black and we’re still left unaware of what the outcome was. Did Campbell shoot Grace, or choose to turn the gun on himself, leaving her with the guilt of his death?
The second series of Peaky Blinders is currently airing on BBC2 on Thursday nights and it’s 2 episodes in. I’ve yet to start watching it but I’m excited to see where this series goes, particularly with the brand new addition of Tom Hardy joining the cast. One final note about this series is just how brilliant Helen McCrory is in her role as Aunt Polly, the matriarch and real heart of the Shelby family. The boys all include her in decisions and she rules the roost with a strength within her that’s brilliant, a real strong woman within this TV series.
Peaky Blinders on the surface is a drama about criminals and gangs; these characters are all anti-heroes because you shouldn’t root for them, but you do. In various interviews I’ve read, creator Steven Knight has this series mapped out to the start of the Second World War, and I know I for one would love to see this series continue for a few more runs. Cillian Murphy is fantastic in the lead role, and with strong ensemble cast surrounding him, this is a knockout of a BBC drama.
Grace: You think I’m a whore?
Tommy: Everyone’s a whore, Grace. We just sell different parts of ourselves. (Peaky Blinders, Season 1, Episode 3)