I’m quite a selective viewer of TV and, especially as the weather improves, I don’t spend a lot of time in front of the screen, but I did enjoy Peaky Blinders very much. I know a lot of you like to binge watch the whole thing, so I’ll avoid spoilers if you haven’t seen series 6, but here are my ten reasons why I thought it was absolutely compelling viewing.
- Cillian Murphy
Cillian Murphy as Tommy Shelby is perfect as the central character. He rarely smiles. He is an unlikely patriarch, intelligent, enigmatic and powerful. He has always been a quick learner and, at this point in the series, he is the one who makes all the decisions and is seldom wrong. Murphy gives a perfect performance of a flawed hero, immoral but with that strange morality that encompasses family, honour and fairness.
2. The script
Beautifully scripted, the characters’ language is spot on. There is a lovely array of characters from Black Country boot boys post WW1 to American gangsters profiting from Prohibition. And then we meet Oswald Moseley and Diana Mitford…. The script is fast paced and perfect for every role. That’s before we get to the incredible lines created for the character of Alfie Solomons.
3. The acting
The acting from every character is often breath-taking. The timing, the rapport, the awareness of subtext, the ability to create multi-faceted characters who provoke sympathy however bad their actions, is sublime. Every character is a winner.
4. The music
We live in an age where incredible music choices are made to accompany action in films, that epitomise the moment perfectly. From Mozart’s Lachrymosa to Sinead O’Connor, Nick Cave and Patti Smith, so much is evoked by the stunning choice of music.
5. The ‘walk’
Nick Cave sings Take a little walk to the edge of town and the song is synonymous with the inevitable violence at the end of Series 6. The character of Tommy Shelby is often seen walking away from or towards the camera, symbolising the unavoidable moving forward to the next stage of the drama, or away from what has just happened. There is a strong sense of progression, inescapable consequence and steely courage in the gait.
6. Dramatic tension
Heaps of dramatic tension make Peaky Blinders so watchable – not just the cliff-hangers at the end of each programme or, indeed, at the end of series 6. But there are moments you just didn’t see coming, moments you did see coming but were dreading, and moments where you just want to cheer. I’ll never forget Polly Gray’s high heels on the cobblestones, before she tells the nun, “If I come for you, and I still might yet decide to come for you, I will wear high heels so you can hear my approach on the cobblestones and have time to repent.”
7. Helen McCrory
She was such a role model. I loved every moment Polly Gray was on the screen. She was strong, stylish; she fell in love and was vulnerable; she took revenge and was steely; she understood what it was to be a mother and cried. She had some great lines, such as “We live somewhere between life and death, waiting to move on. And in the end, we accept it. We shake hands with devils and we walk past them.” We loved her and, although she didn’t star in series 6, her presence was there, in every episode. Beautifully done.
8. The Romani language
There was a moment when I worried a little about the Shelby heritage, given the prejudice against Romani people that is still present. But maybe the extended Shelby family are the most important Romani characters since Heathcliff. There was an early error in an earlier series where Tommy goes to visit Queen Mary Lee and they have a conversation in Romanian, which isn’t accurate. But later, the language is perfect. Ruby warns Tommy about ‘Tickna mora o’beng’ – a green eyed man, the devil. And Tommy is a great role model – he is brave, he has a sharp mind and sharp wit. When an auctioneer mocks him about what he does, Tommy replies, “Import and export. But I also sell pegs, and tell fortunes.”
9. Benjamin Zephaniah
I’ve met Benjamin Zephaniah several times years ago, and he’s a great person. He’s also kind, gentle and peaceful, so to see him as a street preacher with a big gun in his hand actually made me laugh out loud with the shock of it.
10. Tom Hardy
What can I say? What a role! What an actor! What great lines! However good Peaky Blinders Series 6 was, and it was superb, I was always waiting for Tom Hardy to come on screen as Alfie Solomons. Perfect performance and delivery. Again, he was a character who could have been easily misrepresented, but Tom Hardy created him with humour, warmth and empathy. And oh, some of his lines were magical.
“He is of mixed religion, therefore he is Godless.”
“I’ve heard very bad, bad, bad things about you Birmingham people.”
“Tommy Shelby: I’m going to shoot Oswald Mosley.
Alfie Solomons: I hope you do a better job on him than the one you’ve done on me, yeah?”
If you haven’t seen Series 6 yet, you’re in for a real treat. Huge thanks go to Steven Knight, the show’s creator.
And I hear that the cancelled seventh season will be swapped for a film. If there is, I’ll definitely be going to see it!