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‘Peaky Blinders’ and Alfie Solomons: A Masterclass in Acting and Writing

When Alfie Solomons’ large frame appears on screen, no one else exists.

William Hartnett

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If you haven’t watched any of BBC Two’s award winning crime drama series “Peaky Blinders,” do yourself a favor and binge all four seasons on Netflix. It’s that next show in your rotation, the one maybe a friend or two has seen, possibly edged you into watching, but it was never so. Now, with creator and writer Steve Knight confirming an additional three more seasons bringing the total seven. I have recommended this show to all my friends and family, none have taken me up. For those interested in good storytelling, compelling characters, or seeking some a middle class version of the “Downtown Abbey”-like drama, this is the show.

Main man Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy) is terrifying to foes, friends, and even family on occasion. The thousand mile dead eye stare, his ruthless approach to business, and calculated plans leave the viewers enthralled. His family story is that of the classic gangster epic, small time player trying to make it in a legitimate setting; ditch the extortion and crime, bring in the legal money. Occupying the space between sociopath and psychopath, Tommy’s self-reliant and confident essence drags his family up against a number of formidable opponents on his quest for power and status.

Tommy is not a man to be messed with, akin to Vito Corleone, but even more hands on and direct in his march. He’s the anti-hero to root for, the man looking out for his family, and a brilliant schemer, always a move ahead. But when Alfie Solomons’ large frame appears on screen, Thomas doesn’t exist.

Alfie Solomons, a fellow gangster like Thomas, leads the Jewish ruffians in London. He’s a distiller of rum, a vicious gangster, and perhaps the greatest negotiator and intimidating figure in recent television history. Portrayed by Tom Hardy, he might be the first ever character one requires subtitles for. Between the cockney ramblings, oddly timed references to his faith (which he strangely follows to a T) and confusing vernacular, a re-watch of each scene with him might be necessary to pick up what exactly he means. Even his sense of dress is one bit humors, one bit bad-ass, with the prayer shawl around his broad shoulders, and wide brim hat, and thin cane to accompany his penguin like waddle.

Solomons has a sharp wit, like a chainsaw, its powerful, loud, and will shred those who aren’t mentally prepared for it. He sizes someone up in moments and can viciously push them into a corner with his words alone. While his appearances may be sparse in seasons two through four, Hardy steals every scene away from the other actors, and its almost unfair. In all the ways Tommy finds an advantage with his adversaries, Solomons has that over the top aspect to him, a machine gun to a knife fight style if you will. Yet between the low grunts and take down, a streak of volatility and insanity flows into his words. Is he a villain or a comic foil? Every scene of his can produce a truly laugh out loud moment, and believe me there are several, though like all criminals loyalty is not a natural virtue. Your guess would be like predicting his next move or action, just don’t bother, you can’t.

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William Hartnett (Will) is a CMN writer who covers sports, entertainment, and politics. A rising junior at American university, he's studying international relations with a focus on national security.

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