Yes, there are spoilers.
I’ll admit it: I’ve been hard on Peaky Blinders this series. That’s not to say I don’t still love the show, but the handling of Grace’s death as well as the treatment of the female characters have given me pause. However, there’s still a lot to praise.
Where to begin? I’ll focus on three performances that I thought were especially strong.
Peaky Blinders has always been his show, and in Series 3, he continues to show why. Consider the wide range of emotions Tommy conveys: His love for Grace; his tenderness with Charlie; his ruthlessness with his business; his frustration with his relationship with Linda; his recklessness in his relationship with Tatiana; high physical strength and vulnerability. I’ll point to two particularly strong scenes. The first is his prayer of repentance demanded by Father Hughes. It’s exhausting to watch. The second is his moment of khlysty with Tatiana. Notice the emotions that move across Tommy’s face during that encounter. He says little, but the depth of his feelings is clear.
Paul Anderson has done exceptional work since Series 1. This series, however, saw him taking Arthur to a new level. Gone (for the most part) were the substance-fueled binges. Instead, we saw a married (and soon-to-be-a-father) Arthur take a new approach. Arthur is torn by the double life he is trying to lead. On one hand, he feels loyalty to Tommy and the Peaky Blinder he has always been. It’s who is he, and how he has defined himself. (As Anderson put it in an interview: “They are family, brothers, and their relationship will always be strong. The love, the hate, the support – it is all there as before, but with some big shifts in store for this series.”) On the other hand, his marriage to Linda has allowed him to find a more controlled self. Anderson staggers between these two personae, and the conflict is always visible on his face. Check out his work in three scenes: His killing of the Russian spy; his behavior at the Russian orgy; and his conversation with Michael about getting Charlotte an abortion. This is top-notch work.
Michael Gray spends Series 3 coming into himself, moving beyond the crime-free life Polly had wanted for her son into a violent self he is eager to explore. We had been set up for this development at the end of Series 2 when Michael tells Tommy, “I want to make real money. With you.” In Series 3, not only does Michael make real money, but he alao embraces violence. Michael revealed that he had been molested by Father Hughes, which provided some motivation for Michael’s decision, but there is a question here about nature versus nurture. Try these three stand-out scenes: Arthur and John teacher Michael how to shoot; Michael kills Father Hughes; and Michael pays for Charlotte’s abortion and leaves the room, even though she begs him to stay.
Director Tim Mielants and Director of Photography Laurie Rose have absolutely outdone themselves in Series 3. Think about the use of light when Tommy walks through the factory floor or into a prison cell. Consider the use of focus when emphasis moves from one character to another. But I think there’s wide agreement that the pivotal scene at the end of Episode 2 set the standard. Amazing stuff. Peaky Blinders is consistently beautiful.
The music in Series 3 didn’t disappoint, either. It’s hard to pick favorites, but I’ll take four that really stayed with me.
Radiohead’s “You and Whose Army”
For me, this was the best use of music in Series 3 — the closing montage in Episode 1. It’s the song I’ve listened to over and over. Part of it is the music; part of it is recognizing the Shelbys returning to Small Heath, the safe full of money, and Tommy’s confession: “I’m a gambling man, Pol.” I loved everything about it.
David Bowie’s “Lazarus”
This was such an emotional scene: Bowie’s music, his history and art being echoed in Peaky Blinders; Tommy’s frailty and return to addiction; all those blues and grays. Perfect.
Leonard Cohen’s “You Want It Darker”
The khlysty scene is something I want to write about at length later. For now, I’ll just say that Leonard Cohen is exactly what this part of the story needs.
The Kills’s “Monkey 23”
Peaky Blinders has introduced me to The Kills, and I’m pretty sure my life will never be the same. There was plenty of great Kills music to choose from, but I like this one because of the way in which the tone of the music fits perfectly with the action on screen. All of the Shelby brothers have monkeys on their backs. Peaky Blinders is about how they deal with those issues.
The characters on Peaky Blinders always look sharp, and Series 3 was no exception — though I’m not crazy about the Peaky Blinders in fedoras. I’ll stick with three items, but there was a lot to choose from.
Tommy’s Brown-and-Black Tie
He always looks so dapper, and I’m not sure why I liked this one so much, but it really worked for me.
This is the dress she wore to the gala — shimmering with lots of fur. Grace looked terrific in it, and she knew it. The gown sparkles just like she does, even though, in the end, it became her shroud. Still, absolutely beautiful.
Stolen by her mother when she was cleaning houses, Polly looked absolutely gorgeous in it. I was so glad she wore it for her portrait because we got to see it multiple times. A woman of class, indeed. (And I thought Polly totally rocked those sunglasses, too. My kingdom for her coat.)
Great Sets and Props
The sets and details used in Peaky Blinders are always terrific. The show is meticulous. There is Tommy’s house with its elaborate grounds. There’s the betting shop, which will always be home. There is the Black Country Living Museum, which never gets old. And then there are the details. There are Tommy’s cigarette cases and whiskey decanters. But the portraits were easily my favorite props for this season. I know there’s the family portrait as well as the portrait of Grace by herself, looking down on what’s going on. My hands-down, favorite prop was Tommy with Grace’s Secret. Paul Anderson leaked a picture of it on his Instagram account last winter, and I could hardly wait to see it. I wasn’t disappointed. “We hung him on the wall,” Anderson wrote. Indeed. And it was absolutely perfect.
I wasn’t always happy with Series 3 of Peaky Blinders, but there was also a lot to celebrate. Bring on Series 4.
Some graphics are from farfarawaysite.com.
Publication Date: 7 June 2016
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