When series one of Steven Knight’s ‘Peaky Blinders’ was shown this time last year it ended with what seemed like a cliffhanger setting up a second run with the Shelby family. My take on that final episode was ‘Setting up a second series?‘ and of course, that was the case.
Endings which leave questions hanging and the fate of others open are always the most infuriating in a way (consider the way the stunning final episode of Sherlock series 2 morphed into the disappointing splutter of the first episode of series 3). So it with a resounding thumbs-up that I report that no such problem has blighted ‘Peaky Blinders’.
We’re back on the railway station early on in the episode where Major Campbell (Sam Neill) aims a gun at spy Grace (Annabelle Wallis), and with the outstanding question of ‘who fired the shot’ quickly answered, we are ready to move on.
Here the spoilers might start, in that we know Campbell made it, although now with an onimously clanking metal leg and an even more badass attitude. His hatred for the Shelbys and his amorality that allows him to send an innocent man to the gallows is proof positive of them. We are not sure what has happened to Grace, but a telegram arrives for Thomas so it seems she made it too.
In a music landscape of Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, and Johnny Cash, the Shelbys plan an expansion out to London, although the women of the family demur (notably the wonderful Aunt Polly (Helen McCrory) who can change emotion in a second, vulnerable when seeking the truth about her lost children, and hard as nails in the wash-house). Thomas Shelby (the ever-versatile Cillian Murphy, with a far improved Black Country accent) is about to over-reach himself in arrogance and Gypsy guile, which means more stylized violence set to the wash of American jazz.
This series is incredibly good and the opener just made me want to applaud. I fear for the sanity of brother Arthur, damaged by the war and high on drugs. I see how weak young brother John and his idealistic wife Esme are. I wonder why Lizzie wants to join the business when she is treated like something to use and then discard, as the perfunctory sex scene between here and Thomas makes clear.
But, something brings me back. Whether it is simply Murphy’s towering performance (and he’s brilliant in this) or the well-drawn characters, the writing, the sets or the music, I don’t know, but if you’re not watching this, you’ll be kicking yourself soon, as it is the brightest television series in a long time on British television. Steven Moffat, eat your heart out.