In Review

Peaky Blinders: the drama that transformed the image of Birmingham

Critics mourn the end of one of the most distinctive shows in recent British TV history

After nine years, the final series of Peaky Blinders is here, said Ed Cumming in The Independent. A film spin-off is in the pipeline, but as far as the small screen is concerned, this is the finale; the end of one of the most distinctive dramas in recent British TV history.

A hit all over the world, Peaky Blinders has been such a phenomenon that it’s easy to forget what an “unpromising prospect” it seemed at first: a “stylised epic British gangster western, set in under-loved Birmingham in the years after the First World War, with abundant violence, drink, drugs, fags and sex” – all set to a modern rock soundtrack.

Although it is not filmed in Birmingham, Peaky Blinders has transformed the city’s image, and put the entire region on the global tourist map; but to me it has been most valuable as a “sartorial reproof to our disgusting era”, said Stuart Jeffries in The Guardian.

What a joy it’s been to see “Beau Brummies strut their heteronormative, masculinist stuff” season after season. The show’s creator and writer Steven Knight has given Brum swagger. I doff my cap to him.

The “very sad question” hanging over the new series, said Carol Midgley in The Times, was how it would deal with the death of Helen McCrory, who was so brilliant as the fearsome Polly Gray. The answer was “with class, something McCrory had in bucketloads”.

In the opening scenes, Polly’s body was delivered to crime boss Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy), who had been punished for caring so deeply about her. The drama then skipped forwards to 1933. It was elegantly done; but McCrory’s absence still left a terrible hole.

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