The man behind Peaky Blinders has traded gangsters for soldiers in this WWII action series.
Steven Knight, the man behind Peaky Blinders, has become a bit of national treasure for those in the UK, and especially anyone who lives near Birmingham. The writer has created one of the top TV shows in the last decade, and with that coming to an end (well... aside from the planned movie), the question as to what Knight is turning his attention to next and whether that can be as good as Peaky has become a big question. Now that the first season of SAS Rogue Heroes has aired and debuted, we can provide our opinion on that.
This show tells the story of the creation of the SAS military unit during the Second World War. It's a tale that works because of its bizarre nature and twists, which will definitely surprise most people because - as it states in the disclaimer at the start of each episode - the things that seem most unreal and "mostly true". And while this military action series is more refined and less cutthroat that the mob series of Peaky Blinders, there is a clear similarity between the two, with a familiar level of ingrained humour, and list of characters that are inherently violent individuals.
The plot itself is interesting and will keep you entertained throughout the entire run of the season. It isn't quite as thrilling as Peaky Blinders, and lacks the character development of the gangster series, as a lot of the characters in SAS Rogue Heroes really don't get the attention they need. And I say this because after wrapping up all six episodes, I could not tell you the names of 80% of the characters. This is due to the fact that in war people die, and many of the faces come and go very, very quickly. Likewise, as the SAS unit has a good amount of members, there's a lot of figures that only get brief moments of screen time, and are otherwise only given time in the sun when they are originally introduced. The rest of the focus of the narrative is on around five characters, with those being the three leading men of the SAS (Connor Swindells' David Stirling, Jack O'Connell's Paddy Mayne, Alfie Allen's Jock Lewes), the head of British intelligence in North Africa, Dominic West's Dudley Wrangel Clarke, and a French intelligence operative called Eve Mansour, portrayed by Sofia Boutella.
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But, these leading actors portray a great batch of characters who bounce off one another and make for compelling scenes. The clear cut champion of the bunch is O'Connell's Mayne, a stereotypical mad Irish man who cannot be controlled by commanding officers and yet thrives in warfare. The interactions between the cast is the biggest strength of SAS Rogue Heroes, because this show doesn't have the political intrigue, exciting combat, or depth that Peaky Blinders offered, but that's not to say it's a dull or disappointing watch, because it's far from that.
This is still proof that Knight has a knack for making compelling TV. The series never overstays its welcome, never strays from making impactful choices and decisions that leave you, the viewer, distraught, and always offers some form of heavy-hitting ending that makes you want to jump right into the next episode.
I will say that the ending comes along rather quickly, too quickly if anything, and the fact that it's all set in the North African desert does mean that the set design becomes a little too common after a while, but these are all minor frustrations with an otherwise great offering from Knight and the BBC.