Peaky Blinders, series 2, episode 1 - TV review: Second series boasts a host of big new names

Peaky Blinders can now boast several more big-name actors to supplement the sterling work Cillian Murphy, Helen McCrory and Sam Neill do

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The Independent Culture

The show-off soundtrack, the roving accents, the clunky exposition – there were plenty of reasons to give up on Peaky Blinders (BBC2) during its first series, but this stylish, flawed drama still built up enough of a following to justify a second series, which began last night.

Proof, if proof were needed, that Cillian Murphy’s sharp cheekbones can slice through any amount of dross.

After a preamble that resolved the series one cliffhanger in an improbable fashion (Grace and Campbell both survived their train platform shoot-out. So much for those IRA guns) we skipped forward two years. Not that the dawning of the Jazz Age had any brightening effect on the dour denizens of Small Heath. The Shelbys were scowling en masse at the funeral of Ada’s husband, Freddie Thorne, who’d died off-screen and of “pestilence”. Ironic, given all the violence of the last series.

Some people consider it bad manners to talk business as a funeral, but not Tommy Shelby (Murphy) who was delivering expository dialogue before the body was even cold in the ground. He’s planning to expand the business into London, he reminded Ada (but actually us, at home) in order to secure a stronghold at the south end of the Union Canal, as he explained to Aunt Pol (us, again). Everyone else in the family thinks it’s a bad idea, not least John’s wife, Esme, whose promotion to the main cast was signalled by her leave to speak up at a family meeting. Theirs “is a modern enterprise and believes in equal rights for women” apparently. There were promising signs in this episode of Esme and Aunt Pol developing more depth to their characters than has previously been the case.

They stayed behind, however, when the Shelby boys set off down south on business. Arthur was unimpressed by the band playing in London nightclubs. “It’s what they call music these days, brother,” Tommy reassured him, but clearly both of them prefer Nick Cave and The White Stripes. No, the show-off soundtrack, the roving accents, the clunky exposition haven’t changed, but Peaky Blinders can now boast several more big-name actors to supplement the sterling work of Cillian Murphy, Helen McCrory and Sam Neill. Tom Hardy as Alfie Solomons is yet to make an appearance, but last night we were introduced to Game of Thrones’ Noah Taylor as Italian Mob boss Darby Sabini. It’s just as well the cast is expanding. After Sabini’s boys are finished with him, Tommy won’t have that series-saving face for much longer.

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