Season 3 of “Peaky Blinders” brings to mind Episode 2 of “The Godfather.”
In the original “Godfather,” the Corleone family is looking for power. In the sequel, what they’re after is respect — which was the more deadly pursuit.
Much the same can be said of the ambitious Shelby clan. In seasons 1 and 2, Tommy Shelby and his family gang beat, bomb and burn their way to the top of the Birmingham mob scene. Now they’re rich and formidable, their tentacles reaching even into London. The Shelbys have gone the way of Downton Abbey (except for here and there murdering people) and they expect aristocratic treatment.
No matter how the story arc has evolved or morphed, there’s still plenty of sex, treachery, violence and principle. Neither marriage nor fatherhood have made Tommy (Cillian Murphy) any less audacious and fierce. He goes to war against the Italian gang across the street and the Russian Empire across the sea.
Most of the crew is back for Season 3: the never-quite-happy Aunt Poll, the never-quite-rational Arthur (Tommy’s shell-shocked older brother), mad dog Jewish gangster Alfie Solomons and the undercover barmaid Grace. The new faces are as stylish as the incumbents, among them the calmly terrifying Father John Hughes, Russian Duchess Tatiana Petrovna and portrait artist Ruben Oliver.
One of the coolest aspects of the series is the use of music. You might think a show set in the 1920s would be all about Scott Joplin or Al Jolson, but no. Try Leonard Cohen, Radiohead, Arctic Monkeys and David Bowie (who was big fan of the series). It’s unexpected and it totally works.
The acting continues to be exceptional, economical and tense. Tommy’s blue eyes are as piercing and unsympathetic as ever but his face is registering mileage. Arthur, wrassling with his demons, might be the most interesting character in the show, much as “Peaky Blinders” itself is the most compelling of the many Netflix series seeking to seduce you this season.