Nothing really happened for the first 40 minutes of episode three. There was Ada getting married and some directionless IRA stuff and that’s about it. This show often seems like a collection of slightly to very flawed scenes, without any gripping main storyline. It’s all B and C plots with no real main thrust.
So the conflict continued over Ada’s communist boyfriend and his refusal to leave the city, and some self-professed members of the IRA tried to buy the stolen guns of Tommy. Grace the waitress later spied on one of those IRA men for no understandable reason. Good looking, pretty, clean and with great hair, Grace wandered around in a muddy, run-down part of town like the inconspicuous ninja spy she is. What the fuck was she doing? She’s supposed to be a seasoned operative not some naive idiot.
In a scene with some equally poor writing, Tommy had a meeting with Danny, the ex-soldier he sent to London in episode one. Danny returned to tell Tommy that he’d heard that the IRA blamed the peaky blinders for the IRA man’s death. What exactly though was Danny’s mission down south? To wander blindly around London speaking to people in pubs? ‘Get a message’ to the IRA, Tommy told him. How? Danny suddenly has connections in the IRA? This is the guy episode one who was running around thinking he was an artillery shell. Now he’s Tommy’s most trusted operative, a man apparently perceptive enough to notice Tommy is smoking heroin. The writer is switching the character’s competence and mental state about in order to fit the plot.
The second half of the episode was better, as Tommy executed a plan to win a contract from Billy Kimber by proving his gang’s competence during the Cheltenham horse race. It was an enjoyable and well executed conclusion to the episode, excusing the fact that Tommy’s entire plan hinged on a waitress he has only known for a few days being able to talk her way past security.
Part of the deal Tommy struck with Billy included pimping out Grace to the cockney gangster. The writer didn’t have the balls to go through with it though – to make the protagonist that much of a bad guy – so he had Tommy save the day, with an admittedly neat little trick, Tommy convincing Billy that his ‘prostitute’ had syphilis.
It was an okay episode, with a strong concluding part, but the show is stilled flawed and seems quite amateurish in places. Peaky Blinders is trying too hard to be like American drama; ‘cool’ set pieces and directing, and ‘intelligent’ writing with characters with internal motivations and scenes infused with meaning. It’s all too obvious though, with blunt slow motion scenes and rock music played over characters slowing turning towards the camera. The writing is as equally unsubtle, having characters constantly going on about the war rather than letting the trauma of that conflict hang quietly in the background. The episode ended with Grace saying: ‘Start of the day I was Lady Sarah of Connemara, by the end I was a whore with the clap.’ We don’t need to hear that in dialogue; we just saw it happen. This simile is probably too harsh, but Peaky Blinders often feels like Tesco Coke or Smart Price Cornflakes; an inferior imitator of the original.
None of the characters in the show are particularly appealing so far, in large part because, Tommy aside, none of them are very competent. Freddie is portrayed as a naive idealist, Campbell is a war-dodger who is reviled and mocked by his own men, the other peaky blinders – bar Aunt Polly – are all fools, and Billy Kimber is a slimy rapist. There is no compelling antagonist, nor any friendly, and comparably capable, rival for Tommy. It displays a lack of confidence on the writer’s part, as if he is afraid any strong and competent character will overshadow the protagonist. And then there’s Tommy himself who, as I wrote last week, is too serious, lacking in any appealing traits beyond his intelligence.
These flaws would be easier to forgive if the show was exciting to watch, but it isn’t. It’s very slow, and doesn’t have the interesting characters or the depth in writing to excuse that lack of pace. We are now halfway through the series, and it really needs to start picking up from here on out. Hopefully next week will offer a compelling and griping main storyline, bringing the gun shipment to the forefront and stepping up Tommy’s criminal empire ambitions.
- You’d think a major crime boss like Billy would have someone to pick up his suits for him. Just as well he doesn’t, or that big showdown between him and Tommy wouldn’t have happened.
- How many times in this series are we going to have characters walk through a door accompanied by rock music?
- Only one slow motion scene this week though.
- Music from this episode: more White Stripes and Nick Cave, Abattoir Blues by the latter and, from Jack White’s band, When I Hear My Name and St James Infirmary.