Peaky Blinders: A Fatal Twist?

Peaky Blinders

Peaky Blinders, the BBC’s recent Birmingham-set gangster drama from the pen of Steven Knight, finished its first series with an episode that kept viewers on the edge of their seats for the full thrilling hour. It went out with quite the bang – literally. But the ending, just the right amount of climax and closure, pointed to two potential futures for the story: either Grace lives or Grace dies. It was a perfect cliffhanger. That is, unless the latter proves true.

Grace by name and by nature, played by the spectacular Annabelle Wallis, she is introduced as the enigmatic chanteuse. Her soft blonde curls, delicate features and lithe figure perfectly construct the traditional ingénue. Quickly, though, her opening scene proves to challenge that and, though she’s singing a rather mellifluous rendition of Carrickfergus as she does it, Grace is seen mucking in at the pub in an effort to convince the landlord, Harry, to hire her. As it turns out, she’s a little tougher than she looks. Before the first episode is over, it becomes clear that there’s nothing innocent about the Irish operative – a first insight into the use of her femininity to trick others into believing she is not a threat.

As the series develops, Grace’s darkness emerges. Her motivation is primarily vengeance and, despite his romantic little gun lesson, she’s more comfortable with a gun in her hand than Tommy. Constantly reaching for her weapon, it’s Grace who is responsible for the first fatality of the series. Far from the soft-spoken, sweet-natured girl that she portrays, Grace appears to control her femininity and allows people to underestimate her in order to assert her power. By the end of the series, Tommy has given up so much information to her that she holds the power to destroy the Shelbys. What is so compelling is that the series sees Grace cultivate that power, while falling in love with Tommy prevents her from wielding it. This is the high wire act upon which the series has been walking very tentatively throughout its six episodes.

Peaky BlindersHaving created such a captivating character, Knight has made it hard to imagine the series without her. Among the reasons to keep Grace alive, the chemistry between Annabelle Wallis and Cillian Murphy is hard to ignore. Their dynamic is electric. Not having it as a key aspect of the next series would be an upsetting adjustment. In the words of my favourite captain, they’re just too pretty for Knight to let them die. More problematically, to kill Grace off would be to fall into the trope of “fridging” a character – that is, to kill her off to advance the hero’s (or, in this case, anti-hero’s) ongoing storyline by exploring the emotional repercussions of his girlfriend’s death. In the case of Peaky Blinders, that would extend to Inspector Campbell as well as Tommy. Furthermore, it would most likely lead to all future love interests for both characters being measured against her.

The first series made a solid effort towards fleshing out all three female characters in interesting, unique and nuanced ways, with Grace an integral cog in a beautifully crafted machine. To reduce her to nothing more than a love interest, or former love interest, for the sophomore year of the show would be a disappointing twist. It would effectively undermine the strength of the writing for Grace that has built her up as a complex and believable character. It sends the message that she is punished for her sexuality. To kill her off, to silence her and eliminate her experience within the plot, would leave the conflict between Tommy Shelby and Inspector Campbell to nothing more than a disturbing clash of testosterone. The scene between Grace and Polly was everything I’d longed for, expertly played and frighteningly tense, and I now long for more of that dynamic to pepper the second series.

Finally, it would simply be a dull creative decision. If the sound of the gunshot marked Grace’s demise, that would be that. If she isn’t dead, it opens up a lot more options for the story. If she isn’t dead, who is? Or, is anyone at all? The potential for surprise is infinite.

If Grace is alive, Knight created a perfect cliffhanger, one to keep viewers eager for the next chapter of the story, but without sacrificing the quality of the show for a sensationalist storyline. If she’s dead, my love for the series, and its special mix of high quality writing, cinematography, casting and music, will be thrown into question. Grace has been the fixed mark on which the story has turned. To keep her alive is to keep the integrity of the story alive.

Much to my relief, the BBC recently commissioned a second series so viewers will find out Grace’s fate in 2014.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. It’ll be interesting to see the Grace/Polly dynamic in the next series. That’ll provide a good story line to see who comes out queen bitch.

  2. Brandon

    This is a great new series, in the likes of Boardwalk Empire. The best part was Campbell not realizing that Grace went for Thomas not only because he was younger and more handsome, but because Thomas had more integrity than Campbell did.

    I’d love to see Grace break bad completely in season 2. Triple tapping that IRA thug seems to have free’d her of the demons, and now she is sort of lost as to the real purpose of her life, which up to then had been about revenge.

    Good article too.

    • Jessica Eve Kennedy

      Thank you! Yeah, I think the scene where Campbell openly says that his word means nothing is when you know that he really is depraved. And he goes on to break his word to Grace as well. Whereas for Tommy, his word is everything.

      I agree, it’d be really interesting to see where Grace would go in the second series.

  3. Terrell Carter

    Totally loved the scene of Campbell’s face as the Sargent read off the list of things that happened that day. I think Grace was already dead when Campbell was talking to Churchill about how she should be remembered.

  4. Hi! I totally agree with your article. Grace is part of Peaky Blinders and I think she’s a great character and a great chance for Tommy to see some other “corners” of him.

    I’d love to see what could happen to Grace if she lives. Would she become part of the family? She really needs to be in second season!

    • Jessica Eve Kennedy

      Yeah, it’d be fun to see her join them at the family meetings. And I’d also like to know more about her backstory – with her parents and the IRA stuff. I’d love to see Grace, Ada, Polly and Esme all play a big part in the next series.

  5. This is a unique drama and history in the making. Off hand, the only thing that comes close to this style of gangster depiction is the first half of Once Upon A Time in America, were we see the heroes struggling to escape the deprivation of ghetto life. This is where Peaky Blinders stands out from the typical run-of-the-mill gangster show. There is nothing glamorous about being a gangster in this world. As far from LA Confidential glitz as you can get, the viewer is forced to get down and dirty in the streets of post WW1, working-class Birmingham.

    The attention to detail, the costumes, the sets, particularly the Lee family dwellings, have all been created to the highest standard. As is the quality of acting, which is undeniably as good as you’ll find in any prime-time British drama.

    Well done BBC. I wish more big sites like this would write about it and give it more deserving awareness.

  6. Woow begin watching this yesterday and already hooked! I started to relate to the characters quite early on and they are all distinctive. Why is this not being shown on the major channel at prime time?

  7. Grace is Aunt Pol’s daughter. And the man who tosses coins with Tommy for the white horse or the car, he is Grace’s brother.

    And… Aunt Pol’s not there blood aunt.

  8. The clues are all there Jessica!

    Tommy also knows throughout that she’s an informer and uses her to leak information when it suits him… i.e., getting Kimber to come down to Garrison Lane where he has him outgunned and unpoliced. Giveaway line being, “Couldn’t have gone better if it had been planned.”

    Tommy doesn’t leave anything to chance!

    What do you think?

  9. Lorraine

    Do not kill Grace

  10. Lorraine Stitt

    Keep Grace alive and with Tommy.

  11. I completely agree…I don’t think I could keep watching if they killed Grace off!

  12. Have watched both seasons so many times I’ve lost count. Don’t know about that other stuff with Aunt Pol and Johnny Dogs but I agree with Alex that Tommy was onto Grace. I don’t think he counted on falling for Grace just as she didn’t count on falling for him. I just can’t reconcile him letting her go after season 1. Alex, if he knew why did he let her go?

  13. May is a real Shelby at heart.
    Grace is not.
    She is bitter, vindictive, and very dim-witted. She doesn’t know how to behave. Tommy should have shot her like a lame horse for selling his family out like that. I can’t help but to feel like they’re bending the rules of Tom’s character to make way for a tender romance and the show simply does not need it.

    I just find it very hard to believe that he’d value his relationship with some silly-arse barmaid over the safety of his family…which is exactly what he’s doing by going along with her even after knowing what she did to him. Perhaps I’ve been watching the show in the wrong light, but that is not a very Tom Shelby-esque move.

  14. Heather N

    This review is like chick lit (I said it). It’s cloying.

  15. Why kill Grace?

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