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The Riveting New Season of 'Peaky Blinders' Arrives on Netflix
October 4, 2019  | By David Hinckley
 

Peaky Blinders still sounds like a silly British slapstick romp.

That's until you watch it and realize it's a dark, compelling Irish mob drama.

Season 5 of Peaky Blinders, which becomes available Friday on Netflix, moves the timeline forward into the late 1920s.

This enables Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy), one of the best cold-blooded bad guys on television since the passing of Walter White, to spend the six-episode season forming an alliance with the equally chilling Oswald Mosley (Sam Claflin, top).

Mosley, the series' latest real-life character, led the newly formed British Union of Fascists in the early 1930s. He was particularly tight with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, and he argued that Britain would be best served by going along with the agenda of Mussolini and his German pal Adolf Hitler.

After all, Mosley argued, those men had the right ideas about the inferiority of certain people – blacks and Jews, for instance – and the national benefits of racial and ethnic cleansing.

Mosley eventually tumbled into his well-deserved disgrace, but at the dawn of the 1930s, he was taken quite seriously as a fresh new voice in British politics.

That's the context in which Tommy Shelby joins him. A new MP himself, Shelby has been recruited to keep an eye on Mosley. The question will be whether Tommy functions more as an espionage agent or as a man whose own organization has something to gain from the alliance.

The Shelbys have some shared DNA with previous TV crime families, including the Black Donnellys and The Sopranos. Ruthless, amoral killers by trade and, by choice, they are humanized through their daily interaction with friends and family, creating a jarring contrast that the viewer is left to reconcile.

Since this is the fifth season, we're already deep into a number of dramas. One brings us to a showdown between some local nuns and Aunt Polly (Helen McCrory), who runs the family with Tommy and is every bit his equal in power and morality.

Seems the nuns have been abusing children, in this case, the wrong children.

We also continue the tense drama of Tommy's oldest brother Arthur Shelby (Paul Anderson) and his wife Linda (Kate Phillips), who finds Arthur's PTSD from World War I too difficult to deal with. Actually, pretty much everyone finds that true since Arthur can become a homicidal psychopath at the slightest provocation.

That's not an entirely bad trait in a mob enforcer, but it hasn't done much for his marriage. In the wider picture, the whole role of Shelby women becomes more of an open issue this season, as Linda talks things over with Lizzie (Natasha O’Keefe), a former undercover agent who married Tommy.

Grace is also a Protestant, and Peaky Blinders unsurprisingly returns with regularity to the divide between Catholic and Protestant in Ireland. Territorial lines, nominally drawn, go unobserved often enough that violence becomes routine.

Peaky Blinders is leavened occasionally by humor, usually fleeting and of the dark variety. The show primarily follows the deadly serious business of an organization, and a family, that seems to have control and power within its grasp – if only inconvenient nuisances like the law and the Ten Commandments didn't keep getting in the way. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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