RECAP & REVIEW: Peaky Blinders – Series 3, Episode 1

So what happened?

After a brief reminder of Tommy’s close call in front of a freshly dug grave at the end of last series, we jump in feet first into the Birmingham gangster’s upcoming nuptials two years later in 1924. Predictably, there’s initially some mystery about who he finally decided to get himself hitched to. His relationship with May Carleton, the moneyed widow who’d he’d met through his dealings with horses, had seemingly been going swimmingly until Grace resurfaced to tell her former lover that she was carrying his child. However, as the veil is lifted in front of a fractious crowd of the Shelby nearest and dearest and uniformed Constabulary officers, it’s revealed that Tommy has apparently forgiven her previous betrayal and decided to tie the knot with the woman who once wronged him. Furthermore, they’re now living in a huge mansion with their young son, Charles and the rest of the family.

Peaky Blinders III Ep1
Tommy (Cillian Murphy) waiting for his bride with his ‘best man’, Arthur (Paul Anderson), by his side.

Not everything is as happy and harmonious as it could be on their wedding day, nevertheless. Not only does Arthur’s completely fluff his best man speech, his brother is still dealing with the consequences of one of Winston Churchill’s men saving his life a couple of years earlier, having been implored to engage in various nefarious activities in recompense. Now, the stakes have risen though, and the politician is expecting him to embroil himself in helping to undermine the fledgling Soviet Russia by facilitating the sale of weapons to those fighting against them in Georgia, something which is not only causing tensions to rise between Tommy and his new wife, who rightly feels that he’s keeping things from her, but it’s also unsettling, the usually unflappable Aunt Polly who’s taken to keeping a pistol in her room. As part of their dealings, they’re supposed to be on the lookout for someone who’ll send them word about where to meet with one of the ‘White Russians’, specifically Grand Duchess Tatiana Petrovna, who’s been exiled from her homeland and is bringing them money to grease the cogs of their deal.

A man does turn up on their wedding night during the festivities, calling himself Anton Kaledin and claiming to be the individual they’ve been waiting for. He even seems to know where the Duchess is, but after they’ve met her and taken the cash, when Tommy reveals that he gave the wrong code word and is probably a Soviet agent, all involved know that he has to be dealt with. The task in hand falls to a still very mentally unstable Arthur, for whom his brother’s bidding doesn’t sit well with now that he’s married to the religious Linda and he’s apparently found God. Still though, he lures the imposter into the cellar and a brutal fight ensues that could so easily have gone either way, but luckily the eldest Shelby brother manages to get to his gun first and pull the trigger. The effect on his already damaged psyche is plain to see when he goes to find his wife in the chapel afterwards, all the while trying to hold things together for her benefit. It doesn’t sit well with Tommy either as he comforts his crying son, and observes the drunken constabulary officers being kicked off his property after engaging in bare knuckle fights with members of the gang in the grounds, all the while the agent’s body is being burnt and then buried in the woods by his cohorts, Johnny Dogs and the Lees.

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Soviet agent, Anton Kaledin (Richard Brake), shortly before Arthur was tasked with murdering him. 

The following morning the Peaky Blinders pile into their cars and drive back to Small Heath to the modest house from where it all started, and are warmly greeted by those who are still running the betting operation for them. Entering the well fortified safe to add yet more banknotes to the other piles of cash, Polly asks Tommy why he’s prepared to risk it all for a bank robbery and nephew replies that he’s a “gambling man.”

 

The Verdict?

Danielle’s Fezzy Score: rsz_fuzzy_fezrsz_fuzzy_fezrsz_fuzzy_fez

I’ll be honest. I wanted to like it more. Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot to like, chiefly Tim Mielants’ direction, which was often spell-binding. As usual the cast performances, (with the odd exception), were strong, particularly Helen McCrory who almost always seems to steal the show as the quick-witted and sharp-tongued, Polly. On a tangential note, I’m glad that she seems to be getting a new love interest in the form of painter, Reuben Oliver, (played by Alexander Siddig,, who was ridiculously underused in his stint on Game of Thrones), especially after all the nastiness she was made to endure by Campbell last series. Maybe next time he and the champagne bottle will both make it through her bedroom door. Paul Anderson also continues to be superb at portraying a man on the brink with the violent but surprisingly sympathetic, Arthur Shelby, and Murphy still excels in his role as the emotional iceberg/protagonist, Tommy. I loved the moments of humour that peppered the hour too. John’s ill-advised, badly timed jokes at the expense of the officers sat across the dining table from him were hilarious, as was the groom’s plea for, “No cocaine, no sport, no telling fortunes, no racing, no fucking sucking petrol out of their fucking cars, and the main thing is – no fighting.” Within seconds he, himself, was already pushing a servant across the kitchen and then, as the night went on, encouraging the people around him to engage in most of those things. I’m also on board with the Russian storyline, which looks likely to dominate this year. Perhaps Ada will finally have something substantial to sink her teeth into as her brothers’ involvement in bringing down the Soviets will pit family against socialist beliefs for her. Who or what she’ll she choose is anybody’s guess, but she certainly wasn’t happy her boyfriend was banned from the wedding because his face didn’t fit amongst their present associates.

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Grace (Annabelle Wallis) and Tommy’s marriage didn’t entirely ring true.

Where the episode principally let itself down was in the pacing. On paper, you’d think that an hour of television that included a highly contentious wedding, an espionage plot and the murder of a Soviet agent would be packed with action, yet it dragged in places. I’m hoping that things will speed up in the upcoming instalments, but too much exposition really held it back and made me a little anxious for what’s in store for the rest of the third series. Fingers crossed my anxiety is unfounded. I wasn’t entirely happy about the revelation Tommy was going to marry Grace either (her husband apparently killed himself making her free to pursue a relationship with him.) Of course there’s plenty of justification for Steven Knight to take the show in that direction, especially as Tommy has always been portrayed as being all about his family, so it would have been unthinkable that he would have turned his back altogether on the woman carrying his child, regardless of what she did to him in the past. The real disappointment is how flat their relationship feels against the sparks that flew previously between the head of the Shelby gang and his posh lover, May. In no small part, I think that’s down to Annabelle Wallis’ weak portrayal of the now haughty, newest addition to the family. It’s odd because I don’t remember her performance being this mannered in the past. Good on Polly for exchanging not so pleasantries with her new niece-in-law, and reminding her that it’s only Tommy who’s forgotten what she did. Similarly irritating is her son, Michael, who after his cocaine-fuelled tryst with a gate-crasher at the party, I’d still trust about as far as I could throw him. Overall, it wasn’t bad, but I’m hoping for much more drama in the next five episodes.

So what did you think to the episode? Let us know in the comments…

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