Peaky Blinders: Season 1 created by Steven Knight (Caryn Mandabach Productions, Tiger Aspect Productions, BBC, Netflix, The Weinstein Company)
Starring Cillian Murphy, Sam Neill, Annabelle Wallis, Paul Anderson, Helen McCrory, Joe Cole, Sophie Rundle, and Iddo Goldberg.
Not too long ago in a land not too far away, design operated in a different space. It was an important part of business, but really, it was just window dressing. What really mattered was the source—that service or offering and the quality of the product.
Design, however, has become an integral part of the business process. Coined design management, the practice governs the tangible outcomes design plays on brand. Design can unlock the creativity and innovation necessary to take business to new places. Design provides the needed differentiation between similar products.
Think about it this way, when you try on two similar pairs of shoes, what guides your decision making process? The shoes function identically. The shoes fit perfectly. Ultimately, your decision becomes a design question. What looks better? What best integrates with your personality? Which design provides a better emotional connection when you consider the two?
Design, then, contributes to the bottom line. It’s the difference between a purchase and a test drive.
Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder
You might be wondering why I’m pontificating about design in a piece of television criticism, but there is a point, I promise!
The Netflix-adopted, British series, Peaky Blinders is extremely beautiful to watch. The set design. The costumes. The juxtaposition of gritty 1990’s alternative music with industrial revolution backdrops and constant smoke fueled streets make this show an experience. I could stop this review without speaking one word about the premise and give a recommendation to watch the show because, to a certain extent, the plot doesn’t really matter when the visuals are this strong.
But there is a plot.
The Shelby Clan
The show follows a gangster family, led by Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy), a recently returned veteran of the Great War looking to establish the Shelby family as the premier bookie organization in Birmingham, England.
Thomas toils alongside his older brother, Arthur (Paul Anderson) and his younger brother John (Joe Cole). While Thomas functions as the leader to the outside world, in many ways, Aunt Polly (Helen McCrory) acts as the true leader of the clan, especially considering how she kept the operation together while the boys were at war.
While the Shelby’s have ambitions, the family feels the heat of police pursuit, especially considering the curious case of a crate of missing machine guns that is enraging Winston Churchill and the other powers-that-be in London.
On the case, then, resides Inspector Chester Campbell (Sam Neill), a no-nonsense reformer aiming to eradicate organized crime for good. With luck, and perhaps the help of an undercover operative, Chester might win the praise of Mr. Churchill, but will he need to sacrifice his principles in the process?
The Small Details
So yes, that’s the general overview of Peaky Blinders’ plot, but the power of the show comes from its cinematography. In fact, the details help the show sparkle. Consider this illustration. The showrunners make a conscious choice of framing shots with Inspector Campbell where he appears in the high ground of each shot. As the season unfolds, however, Inspector Campbell’s superiority recedes, to the point where he appears lower than the other subjects of the shot. These small details create a powerful tapestry and an emotive voice to the show.
And that’s the power of design. Take out the scene building and the cinematography and Peaky Blinders is an average show.
Add that design in, and the show is one of the best new dramas I have seen. Well recommended.
Verdict: 4.5 out of 5