Peaky Blin­ders: can Sea­son 3 play an­other blin­der?


As Sea­son 3 of the BBC’S at­mo­spheric pe­riod crime se­ries opens, two years have passed since we last met Tommy Shelby (Cil­lian Murphy). He’s now mar­ried to the lovely Grace (Annabelle Wal­lis), liv­ing the high life in a plush War­wick­shire coun­try house, and they have a lit­tle son, Char­lie. All seems serene, with the grime and danger of ’20s in­dus­trial Birm­ing­ham far away. Tommy even prom­ises Grace he’ll go le­git from now on.

But this be­ing the Shelby clan, things can’t stay tran­quil for long. A group of White Rus­sian aris­tos, look­ing for help in their strug­gle against the Soviet gov­ern­ment, are of­fer­ing a for­tune in Ro­manov jew­ellery. Mean­while John (Joe Cole), Tommy’s volatile younger brother, re­sents the Shel­bys’ sec­re­tary Lizzie Stark (Natasha O’ke­effe) step­ping out with one of the ri­val Ital­ian Changretta fam­ily – and takes dras­tic ac­tion to make his feel­ings known. The con­se­quences will be hor­ren­dous.

Third sea­sons fre­quently suf­fer some­thing of a fall­ing-off – but Steven Knight’s drama goes from strength to strength. The dark­ness grows darker, the psy­cho­log­i­cal twists ever more labyrinthine. The choice of mu­sic – Queens Of The Stone Age, Ra­dio­head, and of course Nick Cave’s “Red Right Hand,” played over the end cred­its – is spot on.

There’s also a for­mi­da­ble cast in this se­ries: the peerless Paddy Con­si­dine is a creep­ily men­ac­ing priest and Gaite Jansen plays a se­duc­tively amoral Rus­sian princess, while Tom Hardy, act­ing up a storm, makes a wel­come re­turn as Jewish gang boss Al­fie Solomons. He­len Mc­crory finds new depths in her por­trayal of for­mi­da­ble ma­tri­arch Aunt Polly. As for Murphy, his Tommy Shelby – those hooded eyes dark-blue pools of banked suf­fer­ing and fury – now surely qual­i­fies as one of the finest small-screen per­for­mances of the decade.

The sixth and last episode rises to a nail-bit­ing triple cli­max, the three-way ac­tion skil­fully in­ter­cut to max­imise ten­sion, be­fore qui­eten­ing down to what seems like a vale­dic­tory fi­nale. But Knight has a last de­vi­ous trick up his sleeve – the cru­ellest and most un­ex­pected be­trayal of all. The reper­cus­sions can only be guessed at. Two more sea­sons of Peaky Blin­ders are promised; it’s an ir­re­sistible prospect.

The look of Peaky Blin­ders has the in­ten­sity of child­hood rec­ol­lec­tions... of aw­ful events.

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