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Taking a Peak at 'Peaky Blinders'
October 4, 2019  | By Kim Akass  | 12 comments
 

I find myself in the unusual position of having watched a whole season of a series before it even premieres in the US. Season 5 of Peaky Blinders, originally made for the BBC, comes to Netflix on Friday. If you haven’t seen the previous four seasons, you may find this excursion into British life hard to dive into as Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy, top) takes his place in the House of Commons to fight for the common man.

The series is loosely based on historical truth – that, post World War I, a street gang in Birmingham, England really ruled the streets through violence, robbery, and some political influence. Named after the flat caps they wore (although whether they sewed razor blades into the peaks is questionable) they reportedly were a dapper bunch easily identifiable by their tailored jackets, lapel overcoats, button waistcoats, and silk scarves.

And style is of the essence in a series that has become so beloved in the UK that there has even been a Peaky Blinders festival and big stars, including Brad Pitt, have reportedly been lining up to be cast in the sixth, and maybe final, series.

So, what to expect of this latest outing into the Birmingham badlands?

The story picks up from the end of last season, Tommy is finding his feet in the House of Commons and coming 'to the attention' of notorious fascist Oswald Mosley (superbly played by Ben Claflin). The historians among you will immediately spot how writer, Steven Knight, plays fast and loose with historical accuracy but this can be forgiven in a season devoted to the dangers posed by a compelling orator who speaks to the hearts of a populace brought to its knees by the great stock market crash of September 1929. Tommy and his family have invested heavily in US stocks and shares, and this season follows their attempts to recoup their fortune and maintain their position of dominance by fair means or foul.

For seasoned fans of Peaky Blinders, there are some special treats to look forward to as favorite characters make surprise appearances while Tommy navigates the power struggles taking place both within and without the Shelby family.

Peaky Blinders remains heavily stylized, much like the Peaky Blinders themselves, with the steampunk aesthetic embraced in its first season.  But this does not detract from the abiding message that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it with the ever-upward rise of Mosley and the formation of the British Union of Fascists. Again, the timeline may not be totally accurate, but what does that matter when speeches made by Mosley resonate with much political will of today.

The performances are, as always, flawless. Aunt Polly (Helen McCrory) embraces her role as Gypsy Queen, and Arthur Shelby (Paul Anderson) maintains form as the heavy drinking and drug-addled ex-soldier fighting for the Shelby family. And, as the season progresses, the threats to Shelby dominance comes from all sides.

A confession, even as a huge fan of Peaky Blinders, the first episode appeared to be more style than substance. Sit with it. As the series progresses, it is as compelling as ever. The inclusion of trade with the US will obviously appeal to an American audience, even if there have been no concessions made to the accents of characters.

The Sopranos in Birmingham it isn't, but it is a series definitely worth watching. 

 
 
 
 
 
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