By John Ruberry

Most of the main characters in Hell on Wheels, my last Netflix binge-watching adventure, were shaped, and scarred, by the American Civil War.

In this BBC 2 television show, Peaky Blinders, set in Birmingham, England beginning in 1919, World War I casts its shadow over the lead characters.

Three seasons have been released so far. The action–and the violence–is centered upon the Anglo-Gypsy Shelby family, led by Thomas “Tommy” Shelby (Cillian Murphy), a decorated Great War tunneller who returns home a new man–and a better suited one to run the family business, Shelby Brothers, Ltd, a bookmaking operation set in the grimy and noisy Small Heath section of Birmingham. But the gang is generally called the Peaky Blinders by members and their enemies. His oldest brother, Arthur (Paul Anderson) is clearly more psychologically damaged from the war than Tommy, but he’s better suited to serve as the enforcer for the family. “I think, Arthur. That’s what I do,” Tommy explains to him. “I think. So that you don’t have to.” Third son John (Joe Cole), another World War I veteran, is also employed in the muscle side of the operation, while Finn, the youngest Shelby, is only 11-years-old when the series begins.

Tommy has a sister, Ada Thorne (Sophie Rundle), who is married to communist agitator. But she’s still loyal to the family.

While the Shelby men were fighting in France–the family business was run by Elizabeth “Aunt Polly” Gray (Helen McCrory), a kind of a Rosie the Riveter of the underworld. Tommy quickly takes over from Polly, who serves as his senior advisor. Like Edward G. Robinson’s legendary Rico character in Little Caesar, Tommy becomes a small-time-hood-makes-good-by-being-bad by playing one gang faction against the other, first in Birmingham then in London, while largely ignoring Aunt Polly’s warnings.

When the Peaky Blinders stumble upon a large machine gun shipment in an otherwise routine heist, that gets the attention of Secretary of State for War Winston Churchill (Andy Nyman in the first season, Richard McCabe in the second), who dispatches Inspector Chester Campbell (Sam Neill) from Belfast to find the machine guns. Those guns give Tommy power and respect–and enemies. Not only do Churchill and Campbell want those weapons, but so does the Irish Republican Army.

Campbell sends in an Irish domestic spy, Grace Burgess (Annabelle Wallis), to work at the neighborhood pub owned by Arthur, appropriately named The Garrison. She quickly becomes its de facto manager.

In season three, which is set in 1924, Tommy, at Churchill’s request, gets involved in another armaments caper, this time with members of the Whites faction who haven’t ascertained that the Communists have won the Russian Civil War. Arthur warns Tommy to stay out of “this Russian business.” It’s too bad the script writers didn’t take their own creation’s advice. As was the case with season four of Sherlock, what follows is a collection of tangled and confusing plot lines. Possibly realizing their mistake, the writers include quite a bit of gratuitous nudity to accompany the Russian adventure, including a bizarre orgy scene which does nothing to advance the storyline.

On the other hand, the Russian diversion is loosely based on a 1924 scandal that brought down Great Britain’s first socialist-led government.

At least two more seasons are coming.

The cinematography of Peaky Blinders is masterful. Imagine Tim Burton creating a remake of The Untouchables television show and setting it in 1920s Birmingham. And this is an ugly Birmingham. J.R.R Tolkien lived in the city before the Great War and his reaction against it was his creation of Mordor for The Lord of the Rings. Just as the Eye of Sauron looked upon that evil realm–the sparks and the ashes of the foundries oversee the Midlands metropolis here. And the industrial roar is always there too.

Blogger in his flat cap

Without getting into spoilers it’s a challenge to bring a description of Jewish gangster Alfie Solomons into this review, but his portrayal by Tom Hardy is too good to overlook.

Oh, the name. Peaky Blinders? There was a Birmingham gang by the same name who gained that moniker because its members supposedly sewed razor blades into the peaks of their flat caps. And in fights the hoodlums went for the eyes.

And finally, the music deserves special mention too. Anachronistic goth rock dominates, the unofficial theme song is Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ “Red Right Hand.” You’ll find selections from PJ Harvey, Tom Waits, and the White Stripes too.

And Johnny Cash sings “Danny Boy.”

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

What a mess this world is in
I wonder who began it
Don’t ask me
I’m only visiting this planet

— Larry Norman

youtube http://youtube.com/watch?v=o0MIFHLIzZY?rel=0&w=450&h=253

The news cut through social media yesterday and today, the liberal Obama staffer husband of conservative new media darling Mary Katherine Ham killed while riding his bicycle. Sympathies to Ms. Ham, and to the couple’s young daughter, now left fatherless, plus the couple’s unborn child who will never know his or her father.

Life on Earth is an endless parade of magic and loss, the joys of life and love running parallel with the sorrow of goodbyes. It focuses, or at least ought to focus, our attention on what matters: faith, family, friends. Far too often, priorities are skewed in favor of the temporary and temporal. We rant about that which, or who, offends us; we rave on behalf of that which, or who, floats our boat. We argue the meaningless, then are immersed in utter astonishment when the unfortunate fellowship pays a visit.

A side note. I am mindful of Ms. Ham’s lengthy and deep connection with Salem Media; she is a former writer for Townhall and current writer for HotAir along with being a frequent guest on Hugh Hewitt’s show. I am equally mindful that Salem practices complete separation between its political and religious divisions. Here’s the deal.

Salem has a bunch of Christian-only websites and radio stations/programs. Okay, fine.

Salem has a bunch of politics-only websites and radio stations/programs. Um, okay.

Now, the assorted political pundits who talk and/or write for Salem will claim the mantle of Christian at the drop of a hat. Well, except for Allahpundit at HotAir with his whiny-ass atheism and Dennis Prager & Michael Medved’s Judaism. But they’re conservatives, so nothing else matters. Right, Salem?

Now, ask any of the Salem politicos to so much as breathe a word about Christ, or especially to support those serving Christ, on their show and/or website. “What? WHAT?!! We can’t do that. It might turn people off who follow us for our politics! We’ll talk about Jesus over here … maybe. Now go sit in your corner and quit bothering us.” I have personal experience with this, having received nothing but silence or cheap shot insults back when I tried to reach Hugh Hewitt and his radio show producer Duane Patterson about perhaps coming on the show to discuss my book. Of course Hewitt can promote his religious tomes all he wishes. Also worth noting is the time a couple of years back when Daniel Amos leader and Christian music giant Terry Scott Taylor was in a very bad place financially. Patterson was informed of this. He was begged to have Hewitt say something about it on air on behalf of the fundraising campaign mounted by Taylor’s friends and fans. Did he? No. Hypocritical? You betcha.

But don’t say so out loud. At least not on social media. Point this out and you’re a malcontent. A troublemaker. You don’t understand. You can’t mix religion and politics! Well, we can … but we don’t.

Of course not.

Well, how important are your politics now, Hugh Hewitt and Duane Patterson? How much comfort will Donald Trump not knowing the names of Islamic terror groups leaders bring to a young widow? What assurance of faith and life eternal will come from hosting a Presidential debate, Salem Media? To the point, how do you justify building a platform, then failing to use same to promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

You will see and hear much weeping on Salem websites and radio shows over Ms. Ham’s loss. Which is proper. But once the moment has passed, it will be business as usual.

Which is everyone’s loss.

youtube http://youtube.com/watch?v=-MonUvXjDrY?rel=0&w=450&h=253