This is the first post in a three-part series.
Yes, there are spoilers.
First, I recommend clicking here to visit Rachel Garlick’s website. She’s the London-based artist who did the storyboards for Series 3 of Peaky Blinders. Included on her website are the storyboards for a few scenes, and they’re worth a look. I’d like to focus on the storyboards she’s included for 3.2, Scene 57 because they provide a fascinating look into the changes from script/storyboard Tatiana to film Tatiana.
First, consider what the viewers saw in 3.2. Initially, Tommy and Grace have a disagreement over Tatiana when Tommy asks her to remove the necklace: “Why? Because you think it would look better on her?” Grace asks. After that, Tommy and Grace reaffirm their love for each other; the assassin shoots Grace; chaos follows; and then there’s that final gorgeous scene, almost painting-like in terms of its texture and lighting, while Tatiana stands off to the side, watching.
Garlick’s storyboards indicate a slightly different original plan.
First, the emergence of the assassin is much clearer – notice how his action is foreshadowed in the storyboard. I would argue that by ignoring this in the filming, the effect is to make Tommy and Grace’s last time together more intimate and focused. It is a gift for the audience, one last, beautiful moment.
Second, Grace’s death is much clearer.
The storyboards show that Grace was shot squarely in the chest. It would be difficult for her to survive such an injury. This was probably changed from the original script to create a cliffhanger: Would Grace survive? Tune in next week to find out!
It also allowed for the series’ beautiful closing shot. A gun wound, Grace, her dress and the floor covered in blood, wouldn’t have allowed for that.
But the third difference involves Tatiana. Notice how in the final storyboard, she is not standing to the side; instead, her face is reflected in the sapphire Grace is wearing. Such an image makes clear that Tatiana is responsible for Grace’s death.
The symbolism here is fascinating: Tatiana’s face reflected in a Russian sapphire (cursed by a gypsy, which is the Shelbys’ Romany heritage), given to Grace by Tommy as an expression of love, which Grace wears and ultimately leads to her death. In this version, Tatiana is, literally, part of the gypsy curse – which would explain more fully Tommy’s need to see Madam Boswell in 3.3. There’s more to the trip to Wales than Romany superstition.
Director Tim Mielants’s decision to change this is less clear. Does he want revise Tatiana’s character from how it was written? Or would it have been too unbelievable for Tommy to work with her (and by extension the Russians) if Tatiana were so overtly implicated in Grace’s death? After all, Tommy killed the Italians because of their involvement. Why would he forgive Tatiana? Or did it just seem cheesy and inconsistent with the mood of the closing scene?
I would argue the intention was to make Tatiana’s character more ambiguous. Because she is a duchess and because she is Russian, she is not like the other characters Tommy has encountered. But in the television program, she’s not overtly responsible for Grace’s death. Surely Steven Knight and Tim Mielants knew that viewers would be both angry about Grace’s death and disappointed to see Tommy begin a relationship (even if it’s just business and sex) with the character who had caused Grace’s death.
Garlick has posted other storyboards that show Tatiana’s character is treated differently on film than it was initially. (I’ll be blogging about those differences in future blog posts.) But I hope that someone will ask Steven Knight and Tim Mielants about this change. Even though it is a minor touch, it had a significant impact on the story. I’d like to know why. I’d also be curious to know what you think.
For more great insights, Nom de Guerre has blogged more about this topic here.
Publication Date: 11 July 2016
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