TV Review: Peaky Blinders, Series 2 Episode 1

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Image: BBC
Image: BBC

Peaky Blinders is something I preach about, but being its disciple isn’t easy. There are plenty of critics out there who are ready to give you hell about the wavering accents, jarring soundtrack and its historical inaccuracy. There is an even larger group of people who are completely unaware of its existence. It’s obviously not a perfect show. It is however a personal favourite, so when a second series was announced it was clear that it hadn’t been as calamitous as its critics had made out.

Unfortunately it didn’t begin well. The cliff hanger which series one had ended on was insulting enough to a programme which didn’t need a second series as a way to tie up loose ends, but simply because it deserved one. It turned out that the cliff hanger was particularly frustrating since nothing happened. Grace had fired a gun from inside her bag at Inspector Campbell, but ultimately both survived; it was all wholly underwhelming.

However, as it progressed with its signature Western-style cinematography, and as the slow motion sequences kicked in, my disappointment settled a little. The second series returns with the highly contentious issue of the ‘inappropriate’ soundtrack. I personally adore it, and particularly welcome the addition of PJ Harvey. Critics retort that the soundtrack makes it historically inaccurate. Fans retort that it’s a reminder that this is a stylised period drama with a heightened reality, which cares more about its aesthetics and viewing experience than being an accurate historical time capsule. Haters, please move along.

Whilst wavering accents have also continued into the second series, you can forgive this extremely talented cast. Cillian Murphy remains a chilling, yet torn Tommy Shelby, and Joe Cole continues to shine as his younger brother. Helen McCrory is particularly brilliant as the matriarchal Polly this series, who is affecting in her moments of silence as much as she is in her speech. The extended focus on the sub-arc about her lost children is also a particularly well-written part of the show. New additions to the cast also show particular promise. Tom Hardy entered with a strong portrayal of Alfie Solomons. It’s particularly satisfying to see Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy trying to out-villain each other for a fan girl of the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight trilogy. The standout performance of a new cast member however goes to Noah Taylor as the cantankerous Darby Sabini.

This series promises to be an even more tumultuous affair than the first. Arthur Shelby is a ticking time bomb, and an absolute deluge of unresolved tension exists elsewhere. In a show so glamorous, it’s surprising to see that the increased violence in this series actually proves to be uncomfortable viewing. You don’t revel in watching stylised violence, but wince at scenes which reaffirm that this world is at once both alluring and terrifying. Such are the merits of Steven Knight’s writing which creates heroes of villains, but which also doesn’t mean to normalise their vulgar behaviour. It celebrates our history without dismissing its true content.

Ultimately this series hasn’t failed to deliver. It exudes the swagger and aesthetic of the first series, with a promise for even better storylines and performances. It’s an honour to welcome the Shelby boys back.

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