Gangster dramas are my jam.
When I first heard about Peaky Blinders, a gangster drama set after the First World War, I immediately watched the first two series back-to-back on Netflix. Like many, I loved the fact that we were seeing an English period piece from the perspective of the working class. Needless to say, when Series 3 dropped on Netflix, I called in sick because what could be more important than finding out what happens to the Shelby family? After finishing the series in three days, I was stunned. There were many twists and turns that I didn’t see coming (who can forget that ending?), but what I could not get past was that the catalyst and Tommy’s character development for Series 3 was taken straight from The Godfather.
Now it’s expected that gangster dramas give a wink or acknowledgement to their bible, but to have such an obvious plot and character developments literally ripped off and transplanted into a show that had started out with its own unique characters and story lines is disappointing to say the least.
Grace Shelby/Apollonia Corleone
When we were first introduced to Grace she had her own story, was flawed and strong (she stood up to Tommy in the pilot). When Tommy pulled back the veil to reveal Grace’s face, I was thrilled, thinking there would be more character progression for another female Shelby. I mean, the possibilities are endless as far as story lines featuring Thomas Shelby’s wife.
Instead, Steven Knight did something appalling. He turned this heavily flawed bad-ass character who killed two people and shot Campbell into a bubbly Stepford Wife and promptly killed her off for man-pain. (Part of me wishes he killed Grace at the wedding, so we wouldn’t have to see such tragic character stupidity.)
My first reaction was that she wasn’t dead as she was still moving at the end of Episode 2.
Surely, Mr. Knight has more creativity than that to kill Grace with a bullet meant for Tommy, just as Apollonia Corleone was killed in a car bomb meant for Michael? We barely saw Apollonia, but we knew she was beautiful and Michael was in love with her. In Peaky Blinders Series 3, characters frequently emphasized how beautiful Grace looked, and all she did this series aside from plan a party was have a lot of sex with Tommy (even as a “ghost” she still got in his pants). In The Godfather it is Apollonia’s murder that leads to Michael’s descent into darkness. Now SK wouldn’t dare use the same exact plot for his passion project would he? It’s one thing to name one of your characters as a tribute to The Godfather (in this case two), but it’s another altogether to use the exact same catalyst and premise for an entire series.
After I finished Series 3, I wasn’t fully convinced of Grace’s death (no body + no grave = fair game in my book). There were many red herrings in Series 3, so it is possible Mr. Knight could legitimately bring her back into the plot for Series 4 with a shock/twist that wouldn’t compromise the Series 3 story line (yes, even with the two-year time jump).
However after the Deadline interview where Grace’s death was practically confirmed, I was disappointed. To take a character we’ve known since the pilot, drastically change her personality for the worse (her last line on the show was a petty comment regarding a necklace), and kill her off for a story line that has been used by countless other gangster dramas (recently in Sons of Anarchy) was a let down.
I genuinely thought SK was better than that, but this is his baby so he can do what he wishes. It’s just a shame that SK turned this once complex character into a sex object/baby incubator and couldn’t even give her a death/funeral scene. (Every male character, big and small, in Peaky Blinders has gotten at least one of these things – the Russian spy, Father Hughes. The Digbeth Kid, Danny Whizz-Bang, and Freddie Thorne).
May Carleton/Kay Adams-Corleone
May Carleton is coming back (all you May fans rejoice as she won him in the end). There were so many red herrings of her return that I half expected her to ride through the door on Grace’s Secret’s in the finale. (You best believe she has Grace’s Secret in her stables.) May was the woman Tommy hooked up with for business as well as to get over Grace. May is bold, fearless, manipulative and a bit desperate. (I couldn’t get over the fact she told Tommy he could pity her and be in love with Grace as long as he stayed with her.)
However the minute Grace came back in the picture, Tommy tried to break it off with May. He ended his relationship with May the second time when he made his choice to marry Grace. B y the way, I had no doubt it would be Grace not because of love but because family is everything to Tommy, and Grace was pregnant with his child.
However now that Grace is truly gone and Tommy has fully embraced his gangster side, he’s going back to his second choice who fell for his gangster side. (Grace fell for the good and bad side of Tommy as we saw in the “you’ve seen me” scene in Series 1.) They’re both widows now so they have more than horses in common.
Kay is Michael Corleone’s second wife and is of higher status than Michael which is symbolic as that is what Michael was aspiring to be when we were first introduced to him in the films. It’s only after Michael loses Apollonia that he goes back to Kay. May is from the aristocracy and is what Tommy is ultimately aspiring to be despite his talk to his family at the end of episode 6 (SK did say he wants to see Tommy become Sir Thomas Shelby). Now that Tommy has lost Grace he is going back to May or as he puts it, “I’m going to buy a racehorse and have it trained.”
With all that being said, I enjoyed Series 3 but not as much as the first two for their original story lines and characters. The acting was off the charts, the cinematography was amazing, the music was perfect, and there were some really good speeches and one liners. As I mentioned before, SK can and will do whatever he pleases with this story (as he should), but I hope he pulls some major twists that no one sees coming and completely obliterates the majority of comparisons I made above. If anyone has the creativity and talent to do that and do it in a way that surprises and propels the story forward, it’s Steven Knight.
This is the first of two blog posts by J. F. Alvarez exploring the relationship between Peaky Blinders and The Godfather.
Published on 23 June 2016
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