In studying the opening 10 minutes of the very first episode of Peaky Blinders I was enthralled to discover that in one scene, around 6 minutes into the episode, Steven Knight reveals to us not one but THREE opponents!
And, what’s even more startling and impressive is that the opponents, like Shakespeare’s great plays, work on 3 levels:
Personal. Social. Political.
And Steven Knight points to these opponents – not only in one 1 minute scene – but also in order of power.
Arthur Shelby – personal because he’s Thomas’s older brother and current ‘king’ of the Shelby family.
Billy Kimber – social because he is in Thomas’s social class – the criminal class. He is Thomas’s gangland foe.
Chief Inspector Campbell – who represents the police, the government and The Crown.
Let’s sneak a peak at them one by one:
Arthur will be easy to depose. He’s a drunk. He can barely keep himself together let alone run the family business. Plus, he doesn’t share Thomas’s intellect. He will be the first to fall in Thomas’s rise to power.
2. BILLY KIMBER
Billy is a season opponent. Billy will be more difficult to defeat. We learn from Arthur’s dialogue that in order to “fix” races Thomas would need to get permission from Billy. He is powerful in the world of horse racing and gambling – Thomas’s world. Thomas aims to take him on. But Arthur’s afraid of him, as we learn when he warns his little brother “Billy’s got a bloody army!”
3. CHIEF INSPECTOR CAMPBELL
C.I Campbell is the series opponent. The most powerful of the three, Campbell goes to the very top of the food chain – representing the police, the government and The King.
So, to sum up, in one scene Steven Knight reveals 3 opponents – representing the personal, the social and the political and he reveals them in order of power!
Now that’s economic screenwriting for you.