A cracking cast, fantastic writing and an ideal soundtrack: here’s Liz Buckley on why the start of series three is in her diary.
Oh Peaky Blinders, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I’m actually going to count the ways I love Peaky Blinders, and talk about its central character Grace, so this is the most literal love poem you’ll ever read. But that’s Birmingham for you.
The cast of Peaky Blinders is a dream. Having Cillian Murphy, Helen McCrory and Sam Neill kick off series one is a better list of credits than many big-budget Hollywood films could muster. And that’s before you add Tom Hardy in series two playing his finest London gangster role to date (I think we all know there’ll be more), with upcoming series three adding Paddy Considine as a corrupt, cigar-chewing priest for mindblowing good measure.
The cast of Peaky Blinders is so damn good, they can casually add rasta poet and living legend Benjamin Zephaniah as a gangland preacher called Jeremiah Jesus without acknowledging at any point that that’s mental.
“There are SO MANY accents in the programme – the Birmingham gang, the Black Country gang, the Irish and London connections, the Romany gang, the Italian mafia – and all of them are somehow, occasionally, Welsh.”
The cast of the programme has the additional charm of being one big… well, gang. Real-life husband and wife Tom Hardy and Charlotte Riley are both in lead roles; Joe Cole and his younger brother Finn Cole are Shelby gang members and Jeffrey and Matthew Postlethwaite are recurring characters. I am fully expecting Tom Hardy’s rescue Labrador Woody to collect racketeering money in series four; he already attends all the premieres.
The writing on Peaky Blinders is phenomenally good, but what I love about it the most is the lack of hurry. In an age of television that aims for instantaneous satisfaction, fearful of losing an audience, this is a slow seduction as cool as its characters – it has a plan and you’re never in on it.
You may initially doubt the sophistication as you dip into episode one, but the Peaky Blinders are in no hurry to woo you; they know you’ll fall in love with them. Your fate is more inevitable than theirs. The script is as carefully chiselled as Cillian Murphy’s cheekbones and there’s beauty and a style to be appreciated here.
Nothing is insignificant, and the viewer is always being set up, albeit less violently, along with the rival gangs. When our (anti)hero Thomas Shelby pops into the ‘connected’ Garrison pub to nab a bottle of rum from the new barmaid Grace (on the house, naturally), I remember the disappointment I felt that it didn’t matter if the rum was light or dark. From his clothes, his manner, his quiet brooding, I wanted this man to care about the drink, the details, the choice.
I was an untrusting idiot – later you quietly see that the rum was to be used as antiseptic. This is the tone for Peaky Blinders ever after: nothing is as it seems, nothing disappoints and you should never assume you’re the smart one. It’s far cooler than you can imagine, and that’s the only thing you can trust.
The biggest, and perhaps only real criticism of Peaky Blinders I will allow is the accents. I’ll agree that sometimes it is a challenge to completely ignore what I’m going to describe as… ‘unexpected’ deliveries. There are SO MANY accents in the programme – the Birmingham gang, the Black Country gang, the Irish and London connections (north and south), the Romany gang, the Italian mafia – and all of them are somehow, occasionally, Welsh.
For a programme set in Birmingham yet with few Birmingham actors, filmed in Liverpool, with an American playing an Irishman, an Irishman playing a Brummie and a darling of the National Theatre sounding exactly like Mark Williams’ “You ain’t seen me, roit?” from The Fast Show, it’s certainly the biggest inflection stew you could cook up. But this my friends, is nonetheless part of the charm. Personally, I find it as endearing as ‘Allo ‘Allo.
With Cillian Murphy having a natural Cork accent but trying to sound like Slade, Sam Neill having grown up Stateside with New Zealand parents but drawing on his family’s roots in County Tyrone, an actress from Oxford playing a Galway barmaid and so on, it’s no wonder Cillian Murphy has spoken about walking around on set with his hands over his ears so he can’t pick up anyone’s else’s lilt. And I think we’ve all done that while watching the programme, to be fair.
The soundtrack to Peaky Blinders is so entirely ideal that I’ve written before of my love for it and will do so again. Let’s press play while we’re waiting for series three to start:
Peaky Blinders returns to BBC Two on May 5.5415 Views
Department manager at an independent record company. Liker of Frank Sinatra and Nick Cave. Very sudden laugh. Pasty but tasty. Quite tired.