“Peaky Blinders” – Season 3
Created by Steven Knight
“Peaky Blinders”, whose third season is now available on Netflix, has been one of my favorite shows since it bowed in 2013. Brilliantly conceived, beautifully shot, incredibly well-acted and superbly written, it’s a joy to behold. If you haven’t seen it, then the best way to describe it is, at its very root, a MUCH better version of “Boardwalk Empire”. It’s about a family business (re: gang), trying to survive and thrive in a corrupt world, directly after World War One – only this time in Birmingham, England instead of Atlantic City, NJ. That’s the one-sentence pitch. In almost every OTHER way- tension, stakes, writing, acting and production – it easily surpasses “Boardwalk”.
We’ve waited over two years for season three, and, subsequently, I swallowed it up in one night (only six episodes per season, so it’s an easy binge). My concern was that the long break would somehow diminish it, or that the actors might not be able to wear their characters as well, or that a show so filled with style, might forget about the substance anchoring it all underneath. I needn’t have worried. Under Knight’s steady hands, the season blisters by – yet takes the time to fill out the lives of its characters, moving far beyond Murphy’s Thomas Shelby. The storyline, this go-round, is a bit…odd, yet certainly of this world, and is a fitting response to the end of season two. It just takes a minute to grasp the subtle (and not at all subtle) changes in scope.
The dialogue is utterly mesmerizing. Especially as spoken by this ensemble. Cillian Murphy has found an even darker and internal layer to Tom. Helen McCrory’s Polly no longer serves simply as a counterpoint in the running of the family business. Instead, she is given her own emotional arc…which she accomplishes with heart-wrenching depth. There really are no weak performances amongst the other dozen or so minor characters, save one. The young and beautiful Gaite Jansen (whose character name I won’t divulge, since it will possibly give away plot subtleties) never really manages to match the other performances around her – which, unfortunately, makes it easy to criticize. Although, in her defense, her character is written such that it would be very difficult to really bring it. But let’s give a freakin’ award to Paul Anderson. Anderson’s Arthur Shelby, Tom’s older brother, was quite good as the unabashed muscle in the first two seasons, but Knight asks him to go on a FAR more three-dimensional journey here, and he is, quite simply, sensational. Possibly even overshadowing Tom Hardy’s performance from last season. And we’ve moved on from Sam Neill’s evil Major Campbell, to an even darker negative force, in the guise of Father John, played with more creepiness, more authenticity and more stake, by the always-great Paddy Considine, than Neill ever brought to the first two seasons.
One of the shows most notable production choices is to play contemporary music rather than music from its native time period. It’s what first hooked me on the show (specifically Nick Cave’s “Red Right Hand” – which returns as the opening theme). Continuing this season by making liberal use of new Radiohead, The Kills, Queens of the Stone Age and PJ Harvey, the convention still works wonders and almost never takes you out of time and place…with the exception of Bowie’s “Lazarus”. But, to be fair that has less to do with it’s very rational inclusion, plotwise, and more to do with to my tendency to cry, instantly, whenever I hear it. It will probably not have the same affect on you (at least I hope not).
To sum up, I cannot recommend this show highly enough. There are a total of 18 episodes now, so it’s no big feat to start from the top. It’s utterly unique, brilliantly produced, and presented with some of the best television acting performances out there. Oh, and Tom Hardy plays an orthodox-Jewish gangster with the strangest cockney accent ever. Seriously, stop watching reruns, make yourself some popcorn and get to “Peaky Blinders”. Chances are good you won’t be getting much sleep for a minute or so.