True confession time.
As I’m writing this review, I’m already four episodes into the third season of Peaky Blinders. It’s not my fault: These seasons are too damned short.
Yes, I said it. Too short. I realize the irony of this. I often complain that American television series have too many episodes in a season. This practice has begun to change with the advent of all these various streaming platforms, but still mostly holds sway on network television. I think ten to twelve episodes is the perfect length for a season.
At six episodes per season, Peaky Blinders is too short.
Or . . . maybe it’s the perfect length. There’s a lot of story packed into every episode of this series. While I may be left wanting more when the season is over, it isn’t because I’m unsatisfied. Maybe I just want more of a good thing. It’s been said that we Americans have problems with portion control.
We skip two years between seasons. It’s 1921 when the story resumes, although we’re treated to a flashback of Grace Burgess (Annabelle Wallis) shooting Inspector Chester Campbell (Sam Neill). While the family is attending the funeral of Freddie Thorne, the Shelby’s home pub, the Garrison, is bombed. Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) heads straight for the Black Lion to have it out with those he believes are responsible for bombing his pub, but is immediately taken to meet with members of the IRA, who wish to hire him to kill someone.
This is how the new season kicks off, with a literal bang. We quickly learn what this season’s story goal is, and just as quickly learn what the obstacles might be. Campbell did not die when Grace shot him. He was promoted to major, and now walks with a limp and uses a wolf’s-head cane. He’s also returning to Birmingham (potential obstacle). Tommy has plans to expand his book-making business into London. One real obstacle to this goal is Darby Sabini (Noah Taylor), who is the Italian gang leader in London. I recognized Taylor from his wonderful turn as Adolf Hitler in AMC’s Preacher. Tommy, along with his brothers Arthur (Paul Anderson) and John (Joe Cole), cause a ruckus at Sabini’s London nightclub. In retaliation, Sabini’s men nearly kill Tommy, whose life is saved by none other than his arch-nemesis Inspector Campbell.
It seems that Winston Churchill wants Tommy alive for his own purposes. Campbell may want Tommy dead, but he’s Churchill’s loyal attack dog.
Tommy, still recovering from his severe injuries, takes a barge down to London and meets up with Alfie Solomons (Tom Hardy), the leader of the Jewish gang in Camden Town, and Sabini’s chief rival. You’re probably familiar with Tom Hardy’s work. If the Peaky Blinders are going to make it in London, they need allies.
The remainder of the season deals mostly with the results of this alliance and the inevitable betrayals. Meanwhile, Tommy buys houses for his sister Ada Thorne (Sophie Rundle) and his Aunt Polly Gray (Helen McCrory). Plus, he tracks down Polly’s son Michael (Finn Cole), who was taken from his mom at a young age. The actors playing Michael and John Shelby are brothers in real life, by the way. Tommy also has time to buy a new horse and begin a new romance with May Carleton (Charlotte Riley), a rich widow and successful horse-trainer. In addition to getting romantically involved with Tommy, she also trains his horse for Derby Day, when Tommy plans to make his big move to consolidate his power in London.
There are complications, of course. Both Arthur and Michael end up in jail, with Arthur sentenced to be hanged. Inspector Campbell terrorizes Aunt Polly. Grace returns to prevent Tommy from finding happiness with another woman, even though she’s married to a well-to-do American.
Everything comes to a head in Episode 6. This is Derby Day. Tommy is using the event to complete his mission for Inspector Campbell and provide the deathblow to Sabini’s gang on the same day. All the major story threads, including that of the late-to-the-party Grace, are tied off. Victory seems to be within Tommy Shelby’s grasp when he finds himself kidnapped by the true Red Right Hand of Ulster, who are working for Campbell, and taken to a field, where—-
That would be telling. I can’t give all of the details. That would ruin the fun for you.
Let’s just say that it was a satisfying conclusion to this all-too-short season. There’s no cliffhanger as with Season 1. So, yes, you’ll find out what happens to everyone, including Tommy, at least in the short-term. The conclusion not only wraps up the season nicely, it also sets up continuing story threads for the next season.
Firewater’s Those-of-You-Who-Are-Last-Will-Soon-Be-First Report Card: A
This is a good one, folks. Come and see.