Peaky Blinders (2013–2022)

I finished watching arguably the best British drama in decades, Peaky Blinders (2013–2022). For me it should be the gold standard for future British television. The high bar other productions measure themselves against.

The shows strength hangs entirely on Steven Knight’s writing. Its power is in the myths he creates. Mythologising that goes beyond simple dramatisation, and into the wider cultural mind. A shiny example of John Ford’s maxim, from his western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), “when the legend becomes fact, print the legend”.

While the thirty-sixth episode is supposed to the last we see of the Shelby clan, I’m not convinced it’s the end. There’s too much story left to be told, much more mythology to be created.

Knight has said in interview, he has a vision of Sir Thomas Shelby standing on the steps of the House of Lords, as waves of bombers fill the sky above him, all heading off to fight Hitler’s Germany.

That’s too good an image not to be used. And the final episode leaves way too many loose ends for this to be it. There’s Duke and Finn, Tommy’s infant son and Ada as an MP. I for one want to see Sir Tommy take on and foul Mosley’s ambitions.


Tribes of Europa (2021– )

Philip Koch was inspired to create Tribes of Europa (2021-) by the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union in 2016. I see no evidence that the European Union is at risk from the United Kingdom’s decision. Equally it’s not hard to imagine a post-apocalyptic future in which fudal tribes fight over scares resources. In this world an unknown cataclysm has flung the world back into the dark ages. As is usual in these things some vestiges of the old world still exist. There are a few cars and some military trucks, the odd electric light, electronic key cards, recorded television programmes, high velocity weapons, forges able to manufacture razor sharp blades, and electricity enough to play trance music. Actually this apocalypse is less like the dark ages and more like the late seventies. That time before computers, mobile phones, or the internet. I suppose for some, life without social media is an apocalypse. The plot kicks off when the plane of a technologically capable tribe, the Atlantians, crashes near the village of the peaceful Origine tribe. Desperate to get control the Atlantian’s technology, an innocuous looking cube, the larger more aggressive Crows attack the Origine camp, killing or capturing most of the tribe. The Crows look like gothic cyberpunks, if the punks appropriated the look of some indigenous North American clan. Dressed in black, with topknots, and replicant eye makeup, they wouldn’t be out of place in the wastelands of Mad Max. From this encounter three siblings from the Origines tribe are forced to confront the terrors of this new world order. They’re innocents in a world of duplicitous aggression, destined to become idealists corrupted by necessity. Overall I like the idea but the execution feels over designed, and in many ways the plot’s too narrow. They tug at Europe’s troubled history, without really explaining the collapse of Europe, or the formation of the tribes. They’re complex cultures that would’ve taken centuries to define themselves in these specific terms. Not the fifty or so years since the collapse of information technology. Perhaps that’s why the six episodes leaves you wanting more, but it’s probably because the whole thing is two acts, and four episodes short. Hopefully series two will fill out the plot, and provide answers where there are now gaping holes.

It’s a Sin (2021– )

The latest offering from Queer as Folk (1999–2000) creator Russell T. Davies. This short run of five episodes is as joyous as it is bleak, chronicling the emergence of AIDS in early eighties London. Pretty boy Ritchie, exuberantly played by the Years and Years frontman Olly Alexander, heads to the bright lights to study law. His interest in the academic quickly wanes as he discovers a passion for drama. Young and free and ignorant of the future, Ritchie takes his cock on a tour. Throwing himself completely into the never ending fuck-fest. Sacrificing his sweaty arsed innocence to a suck-session of fit young things. Until his innocence is nothing more than a footnote and a joke. As the numbers pile up, Ritchie assembles a household of friends and ex-lovers, including the endlessly compassionate bestie Jill, played by the wonderful Lydia West. Mother hen to the household, she’s there for the parties, and the heartaches, and is at the vanguard when people start getting sick. To reveal anymore would spoil a powerful peek at the physical and emotional cost of HIV and AIDS on those it hit hardest. In the end it’s a story about shame, the turbocharged reason for everything. It drives people’s behaviour, and confronting it, dealing with it, getting past it, drives the drama. Worth seeing, and if you’re brave enough, binge it in one day. It’s definitely worth your time.

S:1 Raised by Wolves (2020– )

This might be one of the more original and challenging science fiction television series I’ve seen recently. Thematically it takes massive swings at the big conflicts of religion and science, faith and atheism, churning them all in the milky sea of what it is to be a parent. Earth has been ravaged by an apocalyptic war between atheists and religious zealots. Two androids, only ever referred to as Mother and Father, are sent to a mysterious planet, where they birth and try to raise humanity’s last hope. When a lander arrives, heralding the coming of the zealot’s ark, the conflicts that caused Earth’s destruction are reignited. There are no easy answers to the questions this story wades neck deep into. Deliberately leaving you with so many more questions than conclusions. It’s not hard to see the guiding hand of Ridley Scott steering a visceral and stylish ship created by Aaron Guzikowski, the writer responsible for Prisoners (2013). I look forward to the questions created by a second series.

Criminal: UK S:2 (2019– )

It’s a shame there are only four episodes in this season, but they are sublime. Each episode is an interview with a suspect, a witness, or criminal, of someone involved in an investigation. Each story twists and turns your expectations and emotions, taking you into the conflict for a truth. For me they’re object lessons in the power of writers, and the skill of actors, to make you think and feel.

S:1 Snowpiercer (2020– )

This does a good job of turning an intriguing film into an interesting television series. The necessities of making this more than just a fight to the front of the train, manages to create something with more depth. It taps into current concerns about the consequences of ecological collapse, and the political situation that collapse is creating. The rich first class passengers live the life of luxury. The poor tailies live a life of disease and poverty. The oppressed minority rise up and battle to take control of the train. It doesn’t quite articulate the zeal of revolutionary overthrow, instead playing out more like the dramas of a really dysfunctional family, ironically making it less nihilistic than the idea is.

Finished watching the final season of The Rain (2018–2020)

There’s a twisted version of a superhero story at the core of this post apocalyptic teen drama. A virus in the rain kills most of the population. A few survivors battle the virus and a malignant corporation to put the world to rights. It does well to keep going for three seasons, funnelling everything down all the love and loss, and sibling rivalry, to create a suitably optimistic conclusion.

Finished watching Gangs of London (2020– )

Warring gangs, high finance, and political intrigue underpin possibly the most brutal television series I’ve ever seen. It’s well crafted, excelling from the writing on down. Its big draw is bringing cinema style action to the small screen. It has the kind of fight sequences that you don’t see on television, and gun battles Sam Peckinpah would be proud of. I have to admit this took me a while to get through. All in it runs to about nine and a half hours. I probably realised too late that it’s one to take your time with. Bingeing though it will leave you dulled, mute to just how ferocious it is.

Watched Reality Z (2020– )

An interesting reworking of Charlie Brooker’s 2008 television series Dead Set. Transposed to Rio de Janeiro the original Big Brother backdrop is turned into something more Brazilian, a gameshow called Olympus. The first five episode run close to the original storyline. Then it runs off in a new and interesting direction. These additional episodes blends perfectly with the original, opening out the story, and bringing all kinds of new drama. As you’d expect from the genre the blood and gore is viscous and sticky. But while Brooker’s original is a swipe at unreality of reality television, and a critique of that kind of celebrity. This deals with a more authoritarian world, plagued by corruption and criminality. There’s a bleakness to the way this all plays out perfectly in keeping with the genre, and more importantly with the series. Definitely worth watching.