If you’re like me, and I expect most of you are, then you have Netflix. Not only do you have it, but you know it’s vast library better, than Norman Bates knew his own Mother. Personally, I have thrown off the chains of cable and dish, and only go boldly streaming through a Roku for all my TV viewing now. My wife says I’m cheap, I say I’m a pioneer. I have also found that I enjoying binge watching my tv shows, much better than waiting week-to-week. Waiting just seems so last century! I’m a man of learned-community-college-education and demand my Breaking Bad now! I can’t wait like some Neanderthal.
So I binge…
My last binge obsession, is Peaky Blinders. It’s so amazing I’ve watched the six episode first season twice in the last 2 weeks. There is a good chance you have an ad for this, Netflix is pimping it heavily right now. Once you watch it you’ll understand why.
Peaky Blinders is story of the criminal escapades of the Shelby family in Birmingham, England set after the First World War. The Shelby’s are downright gangster. Full of Irish swagger, with their razor blades sewed into the peaks of their caps. Thomas, the middle of brother, isn’t satisfied with their current piece of underworld real-estate, he wants more, and no one is going to get in the way of his plans.
Thomas is played by Cillian Murphy, and it’s the role of a lifetime for him. He’s never been better. Murphy has dead eyed Irish charm, that would sway the mind of vicar himself. Thomas, like most the Peaky Blinders, is a veteran of the WWI, and a decorated veteran at that. Paul Anderson and Joe Cole portray this older and younger brothers, Arthur and John, respectively. Arthur, though the oldest isn’t a leader, more a man of action. John, is the sensitive one. They also have a much younger brother, perhaps 9 or 10.
On the female side of the Shelby clan is Ada (Sophie Rundle) the boys sister and their Aunt Polly (Helen McCrory), whom ran the “family business” for 5 years while the boys were away at war. McCrory is particularly good, and is the voice of reason throughout the series. She is Thomas’s closest advisor.
The Shelby’s are family first, even when Ada falls for Thomas’s boyhood friend, and local Communist agitator, she’s still family. The only thing next to family, is the family business, along with stolen goods, guns, robberies, the main business is gambling, particularly horse racing.
Every gangster needs a law man to chase him, and Peaky Blinders doesn’t disappoint. Inspector Chester Campbell (Sam Neil) is devilish. Neil is absolutely in top form here. Campbell is down from Belfast on special assignment to find stolen guns that the Blinders have. Like Thomas, his moral compass is constantly struggling to find North. Neil steals every scene he’s in, and the scenes occupied by both he and Murphy are particularly meaty.
Campbell is forced to make an un-easy alliance with Thomas early on. This sets in motion numerous fist-a-cuffs between the Birmingham boys-in-blue and the Peaky Blinders. Luckily, for the Blinders most cops are more loyal to their payoffs then the loth to uphold and defend the laws of the land. It makes for some great fun.
Besides the police, the Peaky Blinders have run ins with the local Communist party, crazy thieven pikey gypsies, the Italian mafia, the IRA, and a big-shot criminal enterprise run by a strange little cat by the name of Billy Kipper.
Everyman must have is damsel in distress, and Thomas’ comes in the shape of Annabelle Wallis (Grace Burgess), a lass from Belfast with a lot of secrets and few answers. Annabelle, after recently receive employment at the older Shelby’s brother’s bar, “The Garrison”, quickly becomes Thomas’s weak spot, after she challenges, and wins against his no signing in the bar rule. Few challenge Thomas and live remember. Burgess, (currently in Annabelle out now in theaters), is convincing in her portrayal of Annabelle, and banter between her and Murphy is enjoyable. Her character, as a viewer, puts you on fence ,especially as the her secrets begin to be answered…
There are two other major characters in Peaky Blinders: the industrial slum of Birmingham where the Peaky Blinders play out their gangster drama and the other is World War I. The war experience are what have shaped these men. It shapes the city of Birmingham, and the country of England. The war is string connecting all dots.
Can’t believe I got this far without mention Steven Knight. Knight is the creator and writer of Peaky Blinders. You might know Knight’s work; Eastern Promises, Locke, and Redemption. Knight’s dialogue is the dialogue of pulp novels. It’s a tough, romantic prose that swiftly draws blood with it’s sharp wit and Irish spunk.
Besides Knight’s tight scripts, the other secret indigent to this tombstone shaped pie, is it’s soundtrack. We’re talking Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The White Stripes, Tom Wait, it’s noisy, dirty, and comes from the darkness. It’s inspired.
Peaky Blinders, doesn’t come across like a BBC Two production; it has more Scorsese than the Scorsese produced Boardwalk Empire. It isn’t prime and proper like Downton Abbey. Peaky Blinder is a bold mugging of your senses.
Season two is currently being broadcast in the UK, I’m sure Netflix will have it up as soon as it finishes. Knight as able to bring his Locke star, Tom Hardy along to do battle against the Blinders this current season. Reviews from across the pond have been impressive.
I can’t wait to watch it…all…in one sitting…binge,binge,binge…
If you have a series you recommend to binge, let me know in the comments below!
The Binge will return next month, stay tuned!