Wednesday, June 10, 2015

BBC on Netflix: The Fall and Peaky Blinders

There's a lot to like about The Fall, labeled as a Netflix Original even though it's actually a BBC show (a trick I'm not sure how Netflix gets away with). It stars Gillian Anderson as an English detective investigating a series of murders in Belfast, Ireland. I could see people initially comparing this to The Killing, but aside from the very basic things all shows of this nature have in common, this is different. For starters, the two seasons currently on Netflix are clearly working at saying something about misogyny. And you know what, it's about damn time a crime procedural drama did that. Too often these shows are about titillation at the expense of mostly female victims. And if there is a female cop, they are more motherly than anything else. Shows like Law and Oder: SVU pay lip service to how the culture feeds sex crimes, but the show itself, like most crime shows is really just voyeuristic.

Here, Anderson comes across as cold at first, but you eventually start to see her complexity and awareness of the fact that she's dealing with a male dominated world and how that world predictably results in the crimes she works. But yet, she doesn't judge, really. In the end, she doesn't even judge the criminals themselves as much as she may hate them, because she realizes they are all too human. Of course, in order to get to this point, you have to get past her accent, or more precisely her choice of vocal tone. She has a throaty whisper throughout the series that really drove me nuts most of the time. I get that the character is meant to be somewhat laid back and distant. She's supposed to make you listen to her closely. Her whisper is a sign of confidence. I get all that, I really do. But maybe it's too much. I don't know. She's no Scully, that's for sure. Either way, give this show a shot. It's worth the effort.

Stella Gibson Quote
She says things like this often and she's right every time.

There are only two seasons on Netflix and it appears to have wrapped up the case, so I'm not sure what season 3 will bring. Will she finally yell at someone? Who knows. It's a standard rule that by being limited, BBC series are usually more contained. But then Luther's last season sort of spun out of control, so you never know.

Another BBC original that Netflix claims is Peaky Blinders, which is one of the most beautifully shot shows I've ever seen. This one stars Cillian Murphy as an Irish gypsy gangster in Birmingham, England just after World War I. The show is great, but I can't say enough how beautiful it is to look at. The sets are so rich and detailed and the photography captures every bit of industrial grime and dirt. There are moments where they walk past local, industrial revolution era workshops of some kind and the fire will just roar in very real detail in the background, inches away from our protagonists, just dominating the scene while lighting it. It's like the opposite of the overblown explosions we see in big budget action movies that frame the heroes in all their glory. This is just part of the scenery and matter of fact in a very scary way. But then the whole city is really like a workshop, with open furnaces and fumes and soot and ash just in the air at all times. This toxic atmosphere is looming and real and dangerous and just a very visible part of the scenery and part of the lives of the working class. And if there's any image in the show that stands out for me it's that fire, sparking violently at times, which appears in various locations throughout the show.

The show is also big on musical, slow motion scenes, set to modern rock. The main theme is Nick Cave and The Bad Seed's "Red Right Hand" and they've featured everything form PJ Harvey to Arctic Monkeys and The Black Keys. Basically, like they've been listening to my favorites on Spotify. Typically, these just come off as stylized transitions and sure, they stick out somewhat at first. But you quickly get over the anachronism for two reasons: the excellent choice of songs and the absolute coolness of the shots themselves. It really is an accomplishment to be able to pull that off, but they do. There are episodes that are a bit slow, but at the risk of getting repetitive, it really is a beautiful show to look at, so it's always interesting.  Plus, there's family drama and Irish drinking and fighting and gang violence and communists. There's gypsy shit and Winston Churchill himself is a recurring character. Seriously, check it out. Here's the opening to the very first episode, which hooked me immediately.

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