Peaky Blinders season 3 - 7 reasons to tune in, and what to expect
It has been 18 long months since the second season of hit BBC period crime drama Peaky Blinders wrapped, and anticipation for the third is at fever pitch.
Kicking off tomorrow on BBC One at 9pm, it will see the return of Cillian Murphy as Thomas Shelby, the head of a Birmingham gangster family trying to emerge from the grit and make it in 1920s Britain.
The new series, set two years later in 1924, promises "to take the Shelby family onto the next level", according to writer Steven Knight.
"They’re richer and not necessarily happier," he recently told Deadline.
"Tensions in the family are growing. The question of the whole series is, ‘Can people from this background escape, become respectable, get away?’
"We’re trying to dramatize the things that pull them back… Cash you can get, the respectability could possibly take 500 years.”
It looks like they're moving up in the world and Helen McCrory has already revealed that Aunt Polly will move in bohemian circles and will attract an aristocratic admirer.
Her son, who had been taken from her when he was five and adopted by a respectable family, was tracked down by Tommy in season two. Aside from Poll herself, he's the only one with the smarts to rival Tommy. Will Tommy come to rue the day he knocked on Michael's adoptive mother's door?
Tommy's brother Arthur will also see some changes this season. The resident loose-cannon he was last seen shagging and snorting his way through Birmingham but this series sees him settling down with a wife. Linda (Kate Phillips) may not be all that she seems, however, according to Knight.
Aside from those teasers, here are 7 more good reasons to get stuck into the series, if you haven't already...
It's based on a real gang
The Peaky Blinders were a Birmingham gang who sewed razor blades into the peaks of their flat caps and weren't afraid to use them as weapons in fistifuffs. Knight's father's uncle was a gang member and he has based his group of fictional characters on stories his parents told him. Knight has also drawn inspiration from Westerns, "I wanted to do was take something from my background and mythologize it in a similar way."
Cillian Murphy as Tommy Shelby
The In America actor is a new arrival for this third series and will play "the most evil character that Peaky Blinders has ever seen" in Father Hughes , according to Knight. Given throats have been slashed and men unceremoniously shot in their nether regions that's saying something. Tom Hardy will also return "with a bang" as Alfie Solomon towards the second half of the series. In fact, the cast is superb across the board from Murphy to Paul Anderson as elder brother Arthur Shelby, Joe Cole as the youngest, John Shelby, Richard McCabe as Churchill and newcomer Finn Cole as Michael Gray, Polly's biological son. The female cast is equally as impressive (see below).
Paddy Considine as Fr Hughes
You may well find yourself whipping out the old Shazam at several points through each episode as the soundtrack is simply epic. It's chock full of thundering, atmospheric, modern tunes from The White Stripes, Arctic Monkeys, Royal Blood and more as well as that unbelievably cool theme tune, Red Right Hand, courtesy of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (and covered by PJ Harvey for series two). And then there's this: David Bowie was huge Peaky Blinders fan and sent Cillian Murphy cosplay photos - we may well hear some Bowie tunes in the upcoming series.
You can feel the grit under your fingernails
The collective efforts of the cinematographer, costume designer, hairstylist, production designer and more must be applauded for completely immersing the viewer in 1920s Birmingham, whether it's the grimy, industrial bleakness of the city streets, the gloomy, gloopy canals, or the technicolour vibrancy of a roaring 20s London club.
The Irish connection
Thomas Shelby's mother was an Irish gypsy and he's close pals with Johnny Dogs (Irish actor Packy Lee), a Traveller, while his nemesis for the first two series was Northern Irish Detective Inspector Chester Campbell (Sam Neill, whose accent was pretty darn good), and his love interest (and possible wife - we'll find out on Thursday) Grace Burgess (Anabelle Wallis) is a Protestant Irish barmaid whose father was killed by the IRA.
Annabelle Wallis as Grace Burgess
Speaking of Grace...
While Peaky Blinders might outwardly seem like a blokey kind of series, it boasts some of the most interesting and layered female characters on the small, or indeed big, screen. Knight knows how to write women in all their complex, contradictory glory. Helen McCrory deserves special mention for her gripping portrayal of family matriarch Aunt Polly. She steals every scene, which is no mean feat given the calibre of talent. Last time we saw her she was shooting Detective Campbell in the aforementioned man bits. Natasha O'Keefe, who plays former prostitute Lizzie Starke was particularly impressive in a galling rape scene in the final episode of series two.
Series three kicks off two years after the end of the second, with a potential love triangle. It's Tommy's wedding day although it's not clear whether he's marrying Grace, who declared she was pregnant with his child (despite being betrothed to another) or aristocrat May Carleton (Charlotte Riley), who offered herself to him despite knowing his heart (black as it is) belongs to Grace. Our money is on May.
Charlotte Riley as May and Cillian Murphy as Tommy
Who really relishes the thought of binge watching an entire series of Game of Thrones or some other such never-ending 20 episode series? Peaky Blinders boasts just six succinct episodes each series. That's just 12 episodes to get through between now and tomorrow, ahead of the new series premiere. They're all available on Netflix too so there's no excuse...
Peaky Blinders series 3 kicks off on BBC Two at 9pm on Thursday May 5.