Following on from an earlier discussion of cemeteries in Peaky Blinders, this post addresses the cemetery as a landscape of illicit activity in the historical gangster drama. In the latter part of the season, we learn of the use of a cemetery as a place of clandestine concealment as well as one attempt to portray what a 1919 cemetery might have looked like.
Danny Wizz-bang’s grave is the focus of five successive cemetery scenes in Season 1. Danny isn’t actually dead, but goes to London to oversee Thomas Shelby’s gangster business in the capital. Instead, his grave is utilised for other purposes.
First we see Thomas Shelby visiting the grave. Danny’s poor burial is marked by a small wooden wheel-cross set over a modest grave beyond the more illustrious Victorian and Edwardian gravestones. It bears his name and dates of birth and death only.
Next, suspecting the grave harbours secrets, Grace visits the cemetery too and we see her locating Danny’s grave amidst more illustrious tombs. The cemetery is shown relatively unmanaged, with grass growing to its full height and shrubs everywhere.
Third, Campbell visits the cemetery at night to explore the grave with his police officers. The dusk and nightime scenes are evocative, nearly gothic.
The next morning, Grave joins Campbell at the cemetery. Unfortunately, here there are stark funerary bloopers. The graves in front of the actors are more readily interpreted as 1920s-1950s graves, while two graves in the foreground unquestionably bear 1960s dates and are black marble of a form uncommon until the 1970s and ’80s.
Finally, Thomas Shelby returns to the grave, again seemingly at dawn. The headstone is still in place, but the ground is disturbed: evidence of the police intervention.
Unlike the first portrayal of a grave as a place of social responsibility and ritual practice, as well as dialogues with the dead, here the cemetery is but a setting, albeit a dramatic and evocative one at sunset, sunrise and at night. Still, maybe there is a sense offered of the cemetery as a place outside of society, a place of illicit activities outside of conventional hours…