There is a shift in tone and scale in Peaky Blinders season 3. Tommy Shelby and company were local in season 1 and regional in season 2. Season 3, which opens with the wedding of Tommy and Grace and then jumps forward a couple of years to 1924, takes them into national and international dealings. The stakes are much higher – a point that cannot be understated – and we wonder if the Peaky Blinders are up to the challenge. The series themes have also broadened to include women’s rights and the far reaching powers of the wealthy and elite.
In this new territory, Tommy is less in control. Events happen that he did not anticipate; the “enemy” has more power and a wider, deeper reach than initially realized. The intensity of the episodes ramps up quickly, and with only six episodes per season, reaches a peak quickly.
All of this is reflected in, and emphasized by, the soundtrack and cinematography. The contemporary music is more diverse and used more frequently than in previous seasons and includes tracks from David Bowie and Leonard Cohen. Visually, the series remains dark, rich and stylized, with lots of shadows, steam and soot. We seem to have even more closeups than usual of Tommy Shelby, whether he is brooding, frantic or furious.
Speaking of Shelby, Cillian Murphy (right) is deserving of special mention here. He has become more at home in the role of Thomas and, as there is frequently not a lot of dialogue, conveys much with his eyes and face. As the scope of the Peaky Blinders empire has expanded, Murphy seems to have dug deeper; Tommy has become much more than a local thug, and he carries that weight on his shoulders. While the earlier seasons brought to mind comparisons to Boardwalk Empire and Ray Donovan, we were reminded more than once in season 3 of The Godfather.
Though it took some adjusting in the first episode to catch up and get comfortable with the new Peaky Blinders – in particular, the black priest with dreadlocks and the much more demure Grace didn’t feel right – by the end of episode 2, we were full on board. Like the best historical fiction, Peaky Blinders finds a way to seem current and relevant. It’s no surprise that the BBC, and presumably Netflix, have already renewed the series for seasons 4 and 5.