Peaky Blinders 3.1 Review — Displacement

Steven Knight has always been clear about the primary thematic concern in Peaky Blinders“Can people from this background escape, become respectable, get away?”  The first episode of Series 3 makes clear that in the same way the Shelbys have gone international, Knight has taken his exploration to a new level.

The Wedding Source: Peaky Blinders
The Wedding

The first episode of Series 3 is largely a “table setting “episode that brings the audience up to date and lays the foundation for the coming story.  Yes, it starts with a wedding.  Yes, it introduces the Russians.  Yes, the family is complicated.  Yes, there are moments of violence and beauty.

Sometimes, it’s funny.

Twice Arthur gets lots in Tommy’s mansion, at one point requesting a map; Grace’s well behaved family contrasts with the lively Shelbys.  Their positioning on opposite sides of the church and later the wedding dinner table illustrates this tension.

And sometimes, it isn’t funny.

Arrow House Source: Peaky Blinders
Arrow House

As I watched Episode 1, I never felt entirely comfortable.  Like Arthur, I was lost in Arrow House.  Where was the show I fell in love with?  Who were these people I thought I knew bossing around servants?  Sitting under portraits?  Living in this mansion?  It was unsettling, and I wasn’t sure I liked it.

Until the end.

In the last scene, Tommy, Polly, Arthur, and John get into their fancy cars and drive home to Birmingham – to Radiohead’s sublime “You And What Army.”

Small Heath
Small Heath

And then they walk back into their house, peeling wallpaper in the background, coats hanging on hooks, a shot we’ve seen before.

Then they enter the betting shop.  They’re home.  Tommy moves through the betting shot with the easy confidence we saw in Series 1.1.  He’s in control.  He greets people and returns to the character we have known.  Finally.  (As Cillian Murphy told Spin, “You and Whose Army” at the end of episode one was just — it was like it was written for the show. It was extraordinary.)

That’s when I realized I’d been holding my breath.  Here.  This place.  This is the show I fell in love with.

Going Home Source: Peaky Blinders
Going Home

Steve Knight and Director Tim Mielants have put the audience in the same place as the Shelbys.  We’re all displaced, lost in the unfamiliar.

The Betting Shop
The Betting Shop

In Series 1, when Tommy and Grace crash Kimber’s party, Tommy looks down over the posh crowd and says, “I still prefer the Garrison.”  In Series 2, he rebuilds The Garrison to look more like the jazz clubs in London, but the echoes of the old pub linger under all the gold paint.

In Series 3, the Shelbys will take on the Russians. but that’s not their real enemy.  Knight wants to see what happens when the Shelbys confront a more subtle antagonist:  their personal history and its intersection with the social fabric of Great Britain.

Publication Date:  7 May 2016; updated on 13 July 2016

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Related Posts

Peaky Blinders Review:  Romany Culture and Tommy Shelby’s Otherness

Peaky Blinders 3.6 Review:  Family, Power, and Revolution

Peaky Blinders 3.6 Review:  A Disappointing Finale

Peaky Blinders 3.6 Review:  What I Liked in Series 3

Peaky Blinders 3.5 Review:  Addiction, Fog, and Ghosts

Peaky Blinders 3.2 — Fear, Part II

Peaky Blinders 3.1 — Fear, Part I

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