In a context where the supply of series has never been so abundant, the Screen Saver[s] intends to be your guide through the seasons. Whether it’s an old series that is now cult, a recent hit or a more anonymous show, this new review will help you waste your time only in good company.
When I am asked for a series recommendation without giving me specific criteria beforehand, Peaky Blinders is very often one of the first titles to cross my lips. The BBC series remains, six years after its launch, one of the strongest and most qualitative series available. That’s why I decided to tell you about it today… and also because nothing is denied to the Peaky f*cking Blinders.
Accompany the reading of this article with music from the series:
I really wanted to start this column with a thank-you… and since I do what I want: Thanks to Steven Knight (can I call you Steven? Stev’?), for creating Peaky Blinders, a series as enjoyable as it is exemplary on all levels, and at the same time for having encouraged other creators of series to try to touch the excellence of your work. Am I overdoing it? Certainly. However, let us move on to the arguments.
For the few of you who have never heard of this English series, Peaky Blinders is interested during 5 seasons (the last one has just arrived… coincidence? I don’t think so) of 6 episodes, in the eponymous gang that has been around Birmingham, especially in 1919, the year when the action of the first season begins. Trafficking and smuggling of all kinds, racketeering, trickery, violence… everything seemed to be good for getting rich and establishing his domination in the region.
The plot follows above all the gypsy family of origin at the head of this organization, the Shelbys, and its charismatic and ambitious leader, Thomas Shelby (brought to the screen by the incredible Cillian Murphy, whose level of involvement exceeds 9,000%).
This drama is at the same time historical, family and a little police (no surprise, during their rise to power, the Peaky Blinders will have to escape from the authorities that they cannot always corrupt) benefits from a remarkable richness of scenario.
The latter feeds first on the fertile soil of the post-World War I years, logically dark, anxious and depressed, but also ostentatious if you are in the right quarters (the costumes, vehicles or even the decoration of the time breathe money and taste), but also thanks to its memorable characters.
The whole Shelby family, its allies and its adversaries (roles that can be reversed from one episode to the next) are impeccably embodied and are served by excellent dialogues, pronounced with exceptional accents – watch this series in OV for pity -, punctuated by a glass of whiskey and cigarettes that reinforce the “serious business” and “class” side of the show.
The characters in the series and their sometimes conflicting and sometimes fusional relationships really make it salt and their evolution over the seasons, their changing loyalties and motivations are exciting to follow. It is also impossible not to mention without saying too much, as some guests of quality make their appearance in certain seasons alongside an already exemplary regular cast, both marked and striking.
Visually and aesthetically speaking then, only a certain The Handmaid’s Tale can boast today of offering lighting and smoke effects, photography and staging as impressive as that of Peaky Blinders in the slightest of its episodes. That being said, we could also quote Taboo, created by… Steven Knight (note that his next series, See, seems to be on the same path to visual excellence as the trailer).
The play of light and shadow in Peaky Blinders cleverly refers to the two-headed elements described above, namely the dark times when one tries to have shoes that shine despite the mud and blood, and heroes/antiheroes whose morals are not always clear-cut and whose sympathy capital on the spectator’s side varies enormously. The execution is simply brilliant and the form serves the purpose of the content very well.
One could perhaps reproach Peaky Blinders for being a little too aware over time of its status and its inimitable style and thus from time to time abusing stylistic effects (slowing down a little abusively to tell it to oneself, characters who smoke permanently to give themselves some self-control…). But at less than binger the whole series in one go and risk a slight overdose, this is not a defect important enough to sulk in front of the screen.
Especially since we must also talk about music. This one is deliberately anachronistic, often rock (but not only) and punchy, and always perfectly adapted to what’s happening on the screen and another strong point of the show. It’s quite simple, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve drawn Shazam to recognise a song and put it on my playlist. If names like Radiohead, Royal Blood, The White Stripes, Black Strobe, Black Sabath or The Black Keys (a lot of things in Black tell me) speak to you, you know what you have to do.
This comparison may not make sense or may even annoy some people, but Peaky Blinders is the closest thing to a cinematic experience on the small screen. Everything exudes the quality of craftsmanship and the desire to leave a lasting impression on the spectator, while the short format of the seasons is ideal for not getting bored, but sufficiently deploying the scenario and its characters. The willingness of all involved to do the best possible work is evident in every plan, every sequence, every line of dialogue. Fucking English.
– You like charismatic characters and/or anti-heroes
– The period between two wars in England attracts you
– You are allergic to violence (both physical and psychological)
– You are trying to quit smoking and/or drinking
If the series originally came from BBC Two across the Atlantic, here it was Netflix (and Arte, but with a little less flexibility) who had the good idea to get back the rights in order to quickly propose each season a few days after the end of the original broadcast.
The 5 current seasons are therefore available and it is hoped that this will still be the case for the next ones. Since yes, there should be other seasons.
that the fans of the series being numerous and productive, the BBC offered them a virtual exhibition space (a web page so) where you can find this kind of things (used in the logo of the day’s chronicle) :