Magazine article The Spectator

Television: Peaky Blinders

Magazine article The Spectator

Television: Peaky Blinders

Article excerpt

The big returning show of the week began with servants laying out the silverware at a large country house in 1924. But rather than a shock comeback for Downton Abbey , this was -- perhaps even more unexpectedly -- Tommy Shelby's new home in Peaky Blinders (BBC2, Thursday). Which explains why so many of the guests were carrying guns, and why the family matriarch was using the word 'fuck' a lot more than Lady Grantham ever did.

When we last saw gang-leader Tommy (Cillian Murphy), he was still based in the Birmingham backstreets. He was also having a fairly tough time -- what with juggling two women, trying not to get murdered and being required by the government to start the Irish Civil War. Two years on, however, things are clearly looking up. Not only is he living in squirearchical splendour, but on Thursday we joined him on his wedding day.

After an extended tease of the audience, the bride was revealed to be Grace, the former police informer, whose husband had, it seems, conveniently committed suicide while we were away. The marriage service was performed by Jeremiah Jesus, the dreadlocked black street preacher who'd somehow metamorphosed into a Catholic priest for the occasion.

At first, it sounded as if the celebrations that followed wouldn't be much fun, with Tommy insisting on a strict policy of no cocaine, gambling or fighting. Fortunately, these rules were soon broken, although, in Tommy's defence, he did have other things on his mind. Despite his wealth, he's still in thrall to the biggest gang of them all: the British establishment, led by the shadowy Mr Big otherwise known as Winston Churchill.

This time, Tommy's job is to supply arms to the White Russians. As a result, he had to break off from partying to receive a huge bundle of cash from a glamorous Georgian duchess and to order the killing of a Bolshevik spy disguised as one of the guests. 'It wasn't the day I was expecting,' his new wife told him when they finally retired for the night.

Now, you may think none of this sounds terrifically believable -- but, as well as being true, that would surely be beside the point. Peaky Blinders has never been a work of stark realism. Nor (although I'm less confident about this bit) was it ever intended to be. Like The Night Manager , the show mightn't be as classy as it thinks, lacking as it does such qualities as psychological depth and narrative plausibility. …

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