In scene 6 of the opening 10 minutes Thomas enters the Shelby house and has a quick interchange with Finn, his youngest brother.
In the screenplay Steven Knight describes this short, 30 second scene in detail:
Thomas breezes through a hallway decorated with brass and fancy floral crockery. The Shelby home is compact, a typical terrace, but we might notice a surfeit of brass and flowery ornamentation around the place. The Shelbys are cash rich but without conventional good taste. The home is decorated like a gypsy caravan, or a boatman’s barge with lots of roses, elephants and castles.
We might glance a photograph of three brothers in military uniform, smiling (this is Arthur, Tommy, and John – all in Warwickshire Yeomanry uniform, with a freshly dug trench behind them).
Thomas tosses his coat aside and passes through a small kitchen, where a young boy (FINN, 10, Thomas’s youngest brother) is smoking a cigarette into the flames of a coal fire. A rabbit roasts on a spit. Finn hides the cigarette and calls out as Thomas passes…
Arthur’s mad as hell.
What does a ten year old know about hell?
I’m eleven Sunday.
Let’s have a quick look at how much of this is realized on screen.
The first paragraph –
Thomas breezes through a hallway decorated with brass and fancy floral crockery.
– is on screen.
However the first thing we notice when Thomas enters is a crucifix on the wall, illuminated by a shaft of sunlight as Thomas opens and closes the front door. This is perhaps a nod to the Shelby’s Irish – Catholic heritage. Aunt Polly is described as “half Romany, half catholic” and the city of Birmingham in the UK in 1919 had “a large Irish Catholic” community. (Sources: Telegraph/Guardian).
From Steven Knight’s description we do notice on screen –
flowery ornamentation around the place.
– and the home is
decorated like a gypsy caravan.
It’s interesting to note Thomas is referred to several times as being a “gypsy.”
However, the rabbit on the spit, the action of tossing the coat, and specifically the photo of the three brothers in uniform are all absent from the screen.
(Note to self – not everything you write will make it on to the screen – even if you’re at the top of your game!)
So, to answer our two questions:
1. What is revealed in this scene regarding plot?
Nothing per se. However the line of dialogue from Finn prepares us for familial conflict between Thomas and Arthur – itself revealing one of the series’ major themes – the rise of a king – and this theme is itself revealed in plot – the various actions Thomas takes in order to achieve his ambitions.
And why is Arthur ‘mad as hell’ ? Because, as we soon find out, Thomas has been treading on Arthur’s toes. There’s a battle for leadership going on. A battle for kingship. Who is the King of the Shelby clan? Who is The King of Small Heath ? Is it older brother Arthur, or his younger, smarter, brother Thomas?
2. What is revealed in the scene regarding character?
Firstly, through Thomas’s action – a playful bash on Finn’s head with his cap (on screen not in the script – actor’s choice?) – and by his tone of voice – we see that Thomas is friendly to Finn.
He could curse and swear at him for smoking, but he doesn’t.
Thomas is revealed in this scene as friendly, gentle and playful – a stark contrast to the fear and reverence he evokes out on the streets.
Secondly, through dialogue, Knight cleverly and with subtlety reveals that Thomas has experienced ‘hell.’
Thomas asks what Finn, a ten year old, can possibly know about hell.
“Hell” here refers to the horrific war Thomas has just returned from – the blood, the bombs, the death, the injured and dying men screaming – portrayed to us later in his vivid nightmares.
Tommy Shelby is a paradoxical character: ruthless, yet with an almost angelic aura; youthful, but with the air of one who has already seen it all.
Stay tuned for the next post analyzing the opening ten minutes of Peaky Blinders!