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He Said, She Said Review Site

Peaky Blinders: Season 2

What She said:

She

Every once in a while we all need some binge TV watching. For me, Peaky Blinders was ideal for this purpose. The show has two seasons--or series as the Brits call it--and each one is only 6 episodes long.  In other words, just the perfect length for binge watching. If you read my review of the first series of Peaky Blinders, you'll know that I very much enjoy this moody and violent mobster drama. It brings with it stellar performances and outstanding cinematography. Series two did not disappoint in this regard. However, an overly complicated storyline crammed into a relatively short amount of screen time hindered the success of series two.

Peaky Blinders: Season 2

Tommy Shelby and family are back, and two years have lapsed since the events of series one. Tommy and Grace have parted ways, and she has married wealthy and moved to America. Tommy has been working hard to grow the Shelby family's sphere of influence through both legal and illegal means. The Shelby name has turned into an enterprise in Birmingham, England, and there's hopes that they can get into business down south as well. But this is easier said than done. There are already other families who are well established down south, and the turf wars are extremely violent.

To make matters worse, Major Chester Campbell are still after Tommy and his family. In a rather sinister plot twist, Campbell manages to blackmail Tommy into taking care of his dirty business, in what is ill framed as a mutually beneficial relationship. It's not, and Campbell does not hesitate to punish Tommy's family if he dare question his authority.

But Tommy is focused on his growing empire and that means getting involved in the races down in London. Unfortunately, the ruthless Darby Sabini and his thugs are standing in the Shelby's way, already dominating the industry down there. Tommy decides to beat Sabini at his own game and so he buys a horse to train for the races. He also butts heads with a Jewish race track gang, the Solomons. The Shelbys attempt to align with the Solomons, but everyone seems compelled to double cross everyone else. In the end, things culminate in a final showdown between the Shelbys and Sabini's crew, and Tommy and Campbell come to blows as well.

Series two is marked with lots of turmoil. The entire Shelby family is struggling. Arthur Shelby is slipping deeper and deeper into the grips of alcoholism, drug addiction, and madness. John Shelby begins to question if he's truly up for being a Peaky Blinder. Aunt Polly is haunted by her past, and welcomes a new member into her family--whether she can handle it or not. And Tommy himself is torn between choosing between right and wrong, deciding how far to grow his empire, and if he's willing to make himself emotionally available to women again (poor Tommy's heart has been burned).

Peaky Blinders: Season 2

The storyline from series two is a little bit clunky and can be a difficult to follow at times. That's my only real complaint here. The seasons for this show are too short to try to cram as much plot in here as they attempt to do. Moreover, there are simply too many players to keep track of. Personally, I think that the Solomons could have been removed completely and that would have tightened up the story a little. It was simply way too oversaturated.

On the upside, we get more of the same when it comes to the outstanding performances from all of our actors. In particular, Paul Anderson as Arthur Shelby and Helen McCrory as Aunt Polly both shine. Their characters really grow and take center stage in series two. We also privileged to memorable performances from Cillian Murphy as Tommy and Sam Neill once again as Campbell.

I think the modern visual styling and music was even more apparent in this second series, which I loved. The show offers a great balance of old and new, and takes a unique approach at the classic presentation of a mobster story. It's dark, gritty, and authentic, but with a hip edginess. Some viewers may not like some of the slow motion effects, but I don't think it's overused, and so it just adds a visually appealing angle to the fight sequences. And don't worry, the violence is once again aplenty.

Overall, despite feeling a little lost in the story at times--particularly during episodes four and five--the series as a whole was once again entertaining and featured strong acting. The final episode of the second series is extremely powerful and engaging, and really served to make the series for me. Despite its weaknesses in contrast to the first series, this second series is decent enough to still be quite enjoyable. Unfortunately, I think I'll have to wait quite some time before a series three is made available, although I do know that it has been green lit. It won't be soon enough.

Thumbs mostly up.

Peaky Blinders: Season 2

What He said:

He

There were a few big events at the end of the previous season of Peaky Blinders – the quiet hit from the BBC and Netflix. I won’t discuss one of them, because even though I usually discuss the climax of the previous season of a show in my reviews, I feel it’s not worth spoiling if for those who haven’t seen this fantastic series.

Peaky Blinders: Season 2

I will mention though that Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) has successfully overthrown Billy Kimber (Charlie Creed-Miles) and is now the man calling the shots as far as all major criminal activity is concerned in Birmingham, England.

This season takes place two years after season 1. At the end of the previous season, Tommy and the rest of the Shelby clan had just taken over Billy Kimber’s horseracing and gambling operation.  Now, they are known as Shelby Brothers Limited. They are a legitimate business. Don’t let that fool you though, they are still heavily involved in illegal activities.

Ok, so what’s going on? First, Tommy has his sights set on London. He wants to expand his criminal empire to the big city. His first foray into London is anything but graceful too. He, Arthur, and John, go into a fancy hotel/club to party and get to know the lay of the land. Almost immediately they are told they are not welcome. People appear to know who they are and immediately feel threatened. It’s not long before a fight breaks out and Tommy finds himself at war with major player Darby Sabini (Noah Taylor). Sabini calls the shots in London and he has a lot more firepower than the Shelby boys.

Peaky Blinders: Season 2

This leads Tommy to meet with Alfie Solomons. Solomons (Tom Hardy) is a bread/booze maker and another smaller-scale crime boss. Tommy is big shit in Birmingham, but London is a lot larger and so are it’s gangs, which is why he proposes a partnership with Solomons. He proposes that they join forces, share profits, and take out Sabini together. Solomons agrees, but…well how shall I say this? Solmons is a little unpredictable. He’ll pull a gun on you one minute and agree to be your partner the next. He won’t hesitate to crack one of his men upside the head, even if he hasn’t done anything. So, they come to an agreement, but you don’t know if Tommy can trust him. He had business ties to Sabini in the past and is also completely unpredictable.

Tommy isn’t the only one with problems this season either. Arthur (Paul Anderson) continues to spiral out of control. After the encounter with his estranged father last season, and a suicide attempt after said encounter, Arthur is barely holding on. Think that isn’t dangerous enough? This already violent man has taken up boxing. I’m terrified of this guy and fully aware of the fact that he’s a fictional character. I do have to say though, watching him is utterly fascinating and I enjoy Paul Anderson’s performance quite a bit.

Peaky Blinders: Season 2

Aunt Polly also has her own problems. She (Helen McCrory) has been haunted by her past. I forget if it was mentioned during season 1 or not, but Helen’s children were taken from her at a very young age. They were given up for adoption and she never saw them again. She does not know where they are or if they are even alive. It’s really been getting to her lately, so she’s ben on a quest to find them. *Minor spoiler* She does locate her son Michael (Finn Cole), but since he’s still underage, there’s nothing she can do (but that doesn’t stop him from showing up when he turns 18). Polly is a tough gal to figure out. She’s the voice of reason, but she’s also as nasty as the boys are. She says this is a terrible life and they are terrible people, and even contemplates leaving the family business, but is always right there in the thick of things when the shit hits the fan.

Ada Shelby (Sophie Rundle) continues to try and isolate herself from her family. You have to admire her in one respect. They are a bunch of criminals and she despises that. She wants nothing to do with any of them, except for Polly, whom she has a soft spot. However, if Tommy asks her to hold something or if he gives her a gift in order to hide it from the police, she takes it every time. Sometimes you respect her for taking such a bold stance, but she’s also hypocritical at times too.

They all have to deal with Inspector Chester Campbell (Sam Neill), who has returned after a two year hiatus. I forget what brings him back ad this point in time, but once he returns, he dedicates his life to ruining the Shelby’s lives. Campbell is an interesting guy, because he seemed like a generally decent man in the first season. He played dirty, but did so within certain limits (until the end of the season). Since then, he’s fully committed to being a dirty cop. He’s no different than the Shelby’s at this point. The bizarre thing is that he’s not doing it because he wants money, fame, or power. He is driven by busting the Shelby family. He wants to put an end to their criminal activities, because it disgusts him. There’s a little bit of a personal vendetta, but crime genuinely disgusts him. Despite that, he does some heinous things in order to get what he wants, and sinks to new lows this year.

Peaky Blinders: Season 2

One of the things he does is force Tommy into essentially becoming an assassin for him. He wants him to kill a fairly high-ranking military member.  I have to be honest, I couldn’t really follow this aspect of the story. I know both Campbell, acting on behalf of Winston Churchill, wanted this man dead. I know that they blackmailed Tommy into doing this. I know it has something to do with the IRA and other Irish dissidents, but the details of it are quite confusing. I don’t know why they want this man dead. I don’t know what those two people, who I am assuming are IRA members, working with Campbell have to do with anything. I know they are involved in blackmailing Tommy, but I don’t understand how or even why.

Oh yeah, and Tommy has a new love interest this year in May (Charlotte Rielly). He buys a horse and she's the trainer.

Aside from that, this is still a really good show. Paul Anderson’s performance as Arthur was very good. Arthur is not even a little bit likeable, but he’s an intriguing character to watch. Helen McCory and Cillian Murphy continue to be forces to be reckoned with. They are both sympathetic and despicable. The stuff involving Helen’s children is heartbreaking and Tommy being used by the British government makes you feel sorry for him, particularly as he ponders how his life will likely end violently and while he’s still a young man. I wouldn’t say I’m rooting for him, but you do feel for him, especially when he has to deal with Campbell, whose pretty much Satan this season.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This review was written for your reading pleasure on December 20, 2014.