The crime family drama Peaky Blinders is undoubtedly the jewel of Aunty Beeb’s eye. It is generally something British TV tends not to be, big budget, sprawling; and with a Hollywood cast list it is ambitious, stylish and ultimately entertaining.
Like any hit show it has its detractors, for instance some think the accents are poor, and unauthentic. But, it’s based nearly one hundred years ago, and regional accents undoubtedly change over time, plus, the Shelby family has gypsy roots, so inevitably their brummie accent may be slightly different to the traditional Birmingham accent we are familiar with.
Having said that there are definitely moments during lead character Thomas Shelby’s shoutier moments, when Cillian Murphy’s Irish Brogue betrays him. But, believe it or not, not all actors have the exact same backgrounds as the characters they are portraying! I know, incredible hey? (Ed – Who knew?)
Another criticism often levelled at the show is that it is not historically accurate. But neither was Braveheart or the Bible, but that didn’t stop them from winning Oscars or, y’know, shaping the entire world respectively.
But anyway, I digress. The first two seasons of the show were spectacular. Simultaneously gritty and sophisticated, with rich characters. The normally beautifully androgynous Cillian Murphy pulling out all the stops in a turn that sees him being both menacing and sensitive.
Murphy is helped by a spring cast which includes both Hollywood stars and relative unknowns. Alongside him poet Benjamin Zephaniah takes his first acting appearance in a recurring guest role which adds some regional authenticity. Sam Neill plays the terrifying CI/Major Campbell, a Belfast bully who is on a mission to bring down Tommy Shelby and co. His departure however has so far left something of a hole in the third series.
Neill’s portrayal had an unhinged quality that is truly difficult to replace. The first few episodes of the third season have missed him badly. So far there has been an elderly Italian gangster and Paddy Considine’s Irish priest who’ve attempted to take over the mantel. Both have not quite lived up to it.
The Golden Boy of British acting Tom Hardy made a return in the latest episode, doing his best Fagin impression. In fairness, he did pick a pocket or two and stole the show. The third season has been a bit of a slow burner, gradually building itself up. The Blinders have been fraternising with Russians in international intrigue, as well as doing undercover government work.
It IS very ambitious, and can be difficult to follow at times. Ultimately however, sometimes the stuff that makes you work a bit to appreciate it, is the stuff that is the most rewarding.
Series 3 of Peaky Blinders is on BBC2 at 9pm on Thursday evenings. Previous episodes are available on iPlayer or Netflix.