Airing on Netflix, “Peaky Blinders”, is an original BBC television series about the non-fictional Birmingham, England gangsters known as, the Peaky Blinders. Set after the First World War, the series focuses around, Thomas “Tommy” Shelby (Cillian Murphy), the leader of the Peaky Blinders and his nemesis, Chief Inspector, Major Chester Campbell (Sam Neil).
Upon orders given to him by, Winston Churchill, Campbell is charged with dismantling the Peaky Blinders and it becomes doubly charged because of a personal vendetta he develops against, Tommy. For me, the cold opening of a lone figure on top of a magnificent black horse, casually riding along the filthy, black and grey streets of Birmingham, as residents and merchants flee into their respective homes, said everything I needed to know about, Tommy Shelby, without saying a single word. To pay an even higher compliment, the aura of fear and mystery surrounding Tommy, reminded me a lot of, Avon Barksdale, from the, “The Wire”. A key difference being, that where Barksdale was loud and openly aggressive, Tommy, is quietly menacing and even toned as he patiently plots the total annihilation of his enemies. #Chilling
What Tommy wants most for his family, more than money or power, is respectability. Highly decorated for bravery and with the rank of, Sergeant Major, Tommy has no love for the depravities of war and even less use for the glory. He specializes in the long game and, but for an opportune mistake landing a heavy bit of leverage in his lap, would have been happy to play it in the shadows forever. But that wouldn’t have made for quite as interesting a series.
Key members of the Shelby clan are made up of Arthur (Paul Anderson), John (Joe Cole), Ada (Sophie Rundle), Polly Gray (Helen McCory) and later, Michael Gray (Finn Cole). Whether or not they want to, over the course of three seasons, they each play a role strengthening and extending the reach of, the Peaky Blinders. None make up the core more than brothers, Tommy, Arthur and John in these bloody endeavors and at great personal cost to each. Though Tommy is the undisputed leader, Arthur is the eldest. He also happens to be the least stable, bordering on psychopathic, Shelby, of the bunch. But he’s a solider and in conjunction with John, always follows orders and gets the job done.
Seasons 1-3 follow the exploits of, the Peaky Blinders, on a very crooked road to power and I never once found it hard to root for this bloody, immoral and ruthless lot. The lion’s share of credit for that lays squarely on the very capable shoulders of, Cillian Murphy. I’ve always enjoyed his on screen work, usually as characters ranging from creepy to psychopathic. It’s been a rare treat to watch him play a character so flawed, yet so empathetic, that even though I’m fairly certain it can’t end well for him, I really, really, really want it to.
Enough can’t be said about Helen McCory as the Shelby’s dominating matriarch, Aunt Polly. McCory, delivers a woman who is stronger than steel, cunning, protective, unwaveringly loyal and not about to be patted on the head while the big boys play. Yet for all her outward bravado, she nurses deep personal vulnerabilities, steeped in social mores of the time that she's had no choice but to abandon in order to survive. Truly, she’s stunning to watch and as season 3 came to a close, I can’t help but think she’s on the verge of really shaking things up for the gang.
I must include a quick word about the shows incredible soundtrack. Mostly 80's British punk, the soundtrack was like a whole other character. Unusual in a period drama, it wasn't so jarring that it took me out of the show, but instead, folded rather nicely in with the slick action and violence of the show.
Above all, Peaky Blinders is a show about family. A violent and ruthless family, but loyal to the very bloodiest of cores. There’s something about that kind of loyalty in the face of intense brutality that I find endearing. Though I was a little late in finding it (AND writing this), I'm more than happy the show has been renewed for a fourth and fifth season.