Peaky Blinders: The Godfather Prequel?

Guest Post by J.F. Alvarez  (@eyrejfa)

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.

Peaky Blinders, Series 3
Peaky Blinders, Series 3
Peaky Blinders, Series 3, Episode 2
Peaky Blinders, Series 3, Episode 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

<I>The Godfather</I>
The Godfather

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

Source: robertviglasky.com
Source: robertviglasky.com

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.

Source: robertviglasky.com
Source: robertviglasky.com

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.”

Final Thoughts

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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2 thoughts on “Peaky Blinders: The Godfather Prequel?

  1. Well Peaky blinders used to be my all time favourite show but obviously not anymore. I can’t describe how devastated and gutted am i. After killing off Grace i didn’t continue watching the show and i kept thinking about it for the rest of the week! I was literally searching everywhere on the internet hopping i’ll find something that will confirm Grace’s isn’t dead and she’s still alive but i didn’t. Eventually i decided to complete watching the show and the fact that there wasn’t a funeral or how Tommy was saying things like ‘stolen from us’ instead of saying she died or went to heaven, only gave me more hope that Grace is actually alive with so many more things but i really don’t have enough time to mention’em now. Anyways with that little core of hope i decided to search for more infos, i started reading their interviews and everything until i finally found that deadline interview on Google and what i’ve understood that Annabelle Wallis didn’t know that SK is planning on kill off Grace and that was the way with every other character!! And i saw a video of SK saying that he doesn’t usually plan his storylines, he write each one of them by its time i don’t actually know how to explain that. However i came up to a conclusion that it might be SK’s way of making the audiences decide the plot of the series! Maybe he wanted to kill off Grace for so many reasons but in the same time he didn’t confirm her death, and what i mean by confirm is, 1/ bullet in the heart not shoulder 2/ proper funeral 3/ clear posts grieving Grace’s death on their social media profiles. So i think SK was playing it safe with us ( the audiences ) to see whether we accept the way his series is going or not and if not there will always be an alternative to fix it since her death wasn’t really clear. However, after reading your blog which is btw amazing and i totally agree with everything you write i started thinking that what you said is really making sense especially that i didn’t know about the time jump which mad me really sad but i guess we will have to wait and i really hope she’s not dead because i’m not watching the show without her. Sorry for the long comment but this season has me worked up.

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  2. Thanks for the comment, ALAA! First off, this incredible blog is the work of @APBFanGirl, so we should give her a round of applause for the wonderful work she puts into this. I wrote the guest post and yes, like you I grieve the loss of Grace. It was done so poorly that people thought she has to be alive because how else can you explain such a shitty exit? Considering every death on this show has been given a final death scene but we don’t see Grace’s who is a Shelby? Ice cold. I don’t think SK is playing it safe. In fact, I’d say that PB had very little regard for Grace’s character which is why they felt they didn’t need to acknowledge anything (SK favors May and in part prob b/c she happens to be married to Tom Hardy). He wrote Grace so out of character so that all of her great qualities from s1 were gone b/c he wanted to show that they weren’t meant to be (though clearly they are as evidence of s1-s2). But given the hype around the bride I think SK wanted to make something clear: This is the Tommy show (not a love story) and just his. The female characters (all underdeveloped) sans Polly only serve to fuel the male characters story lines, period. Every female SK has written since s1 Grace has been written so poorly (but acted beautifully). Its not even 6 mos after Grace’s death and Tommy’s thinking of May? Yet in s2 it had been two years since he had seen Grace but thought of her every day? So he and the baby (who looks JUST like Tommy, nothing resembling Grace) will forget all about Grace come s4 and May can come in and fix him like Grace did s1? gag. Lizzie was about to leave end of s2 but stays even after her boyfriend is murdered? and allows Tommy to bend her over like he did in s2? No, these characters are written from a very macho perspective. PB is a beautifully shot music video with incredible acting and good one liners/speeches but that’s not enough for me. The story line and character development are what make a good show IMHO so I’m feel pretty meh about s4.

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