By Order of the Peaky Blinders
Polly Shelby steals the show once more in a season of highs and lows from our friends in Birmingham.
Is it just me or does it seem like a lot of people have watched these six episodes fresh off of binging the first two seasons? My season three Blinders viewing has been somewhat different to a lot of people’s. It’s been a year or so since I was last in 1920s Birmingham but I enjoyed this season nevertheless.
It wasn’t as gripping as the first two but perhaps that is due to the gap. I watched season two hot on the heels of a season one binge and the gap this time around may have caused me to lose hold of the characters’ subtleties and nuances, of which there are many. The ‘supporting’ characters are phenomenal in this show. Cillian Murphy strode on to our screens and stole our hearts with his cheekbones but the rest of the cast made Blinders the smash hit it is. Certainly some of the finer points of Arthur and John’s developments have faded from my mind, but the all-important fact is that they are fantastically developed characters. Tommy, in this season, was less prominent than usual. He was incapacitated and dulled by his widower status, seeming to spend a lot of time in a sort of grieving haze. The onus was on the other characters to pick up this slack and generally they managed pretty well. Arthur remains consistently the most touching and interesting Peaky Blinder, but Michael put in a great stint as well. John is a prime example of perfectly executed character growth, acting as a convincing leader; he is a gift in every scene — humorous, a bit scary, determined.
As ever, Polly remains the queen of the Peaky Blinders. Helen McCrory is more than a scene-stealer, she is a show-stealer. Her performance particularly in the last two episodes was surely award-worthy. Kudos to the show for tackling her post-traumatic stress following the sexual assault; they didn’t have her crippled by her experience, but didn’t shy away from showing the consequences of it either. Polly Shelby is one of my favourite female characters — strong, flawed, vulnerable and interesting. She embodies many quintessentially feminine characteristics in an interesting, developed way. Crucially, she is equally as developed as any of her male counterpoints. Watching her slash that portrait was an utterly heart-breaking joy.
The Peaky Blinders team have often written very convincing women, which is why I was disappointed to see the suffragette movement given such a brief mention this season. I am a sucker for a female empowerment story, always. I adored that feminist-bait shot of the Blinder ladies striding down the street. For me, the Russians were boring. I would have preferred to spend a little more time with Esme, Lizzie, Ada and the emancipation story.
Tatiana was a stark contrast to the usual standard of Blinder ladies. We were expected to accept her as some sort of match for Tommy, as if she was finally a partner who could outwit him and parry with him. On what basis? We really didn’t see much to confirm this. The whole naked Russian roulette scenes seemed gratuitous, which isn’t something I would normally accuse Peaky Blinders of. She was a boring, clichéd character (oooh, sexy, cool, tough! With no real back-up displayed to prove these qualities). The Russian focus let down the season for me, stealing limelight from established characters which could have shone instead.
The finale itself was a mixed bag (the ending was So Good. What a great last scene!). I’m still looking forward to the next batch of Blinders but generally the season three ending was a little clunky. Would the priest really have been alone with Charlie? Would Alfie really have made it out alive? The classic, tragically unnecessary explosion was almost laughable in its predictability. I understand the deus ex machina of it all, but I hope season four sees Tommy learn his lesson from playing in the big leagues. And boy, were those last five minutes promising. Let’s see everyone vs. Tommy, girls vs. boys. Let’s get that girl power storyline. Let’s see a return to the family dynamics, to Birmingham.