So yes I am many years behind the phenomena that is the show Peaky Blinders. I usually watch anything BBC without any question so it was always on my list. I had already finished Ripper Street, Sherlock, The Crown and Luther. But if you have been reading my posts up to now then you know that I never read or watch anything that comes out right away. I like to give things time to die down so that I can form opinions on my own. Usually though when I am ready to talk things over with someone else they have normally forgotten things because they watched it so long ago. But the BBC didn’t disappoint. The casting was on point because I really couldn’t imagine anyone else playing these characters. The costume designer was also on point. Each actor looked the part and we won’t talk about these interesting haircuts. Now of course many people recommended this show to me because I am a sucker for period pieces or period dramas. So let’s get into it.
In the beginning, I had no clue why the show was titled the way it was. So I did a bit of research and discovered that this was an actual gang in England. The Peaky Blinders were an urban street gang based in Birmingham, England, that operated from the end of the 19th century to after the First World War. The group, which grew out of the harsh economic deprivations of working class Britain, was composed largely of young men of lower to middle-classes. They derived social power from robbery, violence, racketeering, illegal bookmaking and the control of gambling. The name is said to be derived from the gang members’ practice of stitching disposable razor blades into the peaks of their flat caps which could then be used as weapons and often used to blind. The Blinders’ dominance came about from beating rivals, whom they fought for territory in Birmingham and its surrounding districts. They held control for nearly 20 years until 1910, when a larger gang, the Birmingham Boys, led by Billy Kimber, overtook them. However, even though they had disappeared by the 1920s, the name of the “Peaky Blinders” became synonymous slang for any street gang in Birmingham.
So knowing this I was prepared for a good show. Period drama with gangs and set in London. I am down for that. So I am going to mark this post for spoilers even though I believe I am going to give a broad overview of things.
First, I want to break down the family and people that we see….
Thomas Shelby – Thomas is a very calm and observant man, showcasing his wit and ruthlessness to anyone who threatens him or his family. Tommy is the second oldest sibling and the leader of the Peaky Blinders. In my eyes, he is the exact opposite of his brothers and sister who are mostly hot headed and emotional. This makes it easier to attend to business. He is widely respected among his local community and is seen as a dangerous foe by his enemies. Under his leadership, the Peaky Blinders have risen from a local Birmingham street gang to a national enterprise that has gone toe-to-toe with the New York Mafia. I am going to throw in that I heard that originally he was going to be played by Jason Statham… and while I like Jason… I am not sure anyone else besides Cillian Murphy could play Tommy. Outwardly, he appears unbothered by a lot… but he is my little onion because he definitely has layers to peel back.
Arthur Shelby Jr. – Arthur is the oldest of the Shelby siblings and a tough member of the Peaky Blinders. He is more brawn than brains which is why he acts as his brother Tommy Shelby’s right-hand man taking his orders and carrying out . Thomas and Arthur have a odd relationship. They love each other but despite being the oldest of the Shelby brothers, Arthur is not the leader of the Peaky Blinders, which is something that often comes between the two brothers, with Arthur frequently trying to prove himself to Tommy. Arthur is the mad dog of the family… who will kill you just as soon as look at you. Whatever you may feel about Arthur… there is nothing wrong with defending/protecting your family. (BY ORDER OF THE PEAKY FUCKIN BLINDERS.)
John Shelby – Along with his two older brothers, John was a soldier of the Warwickshire Yeomanry, which served as cavalry and machine gunners in the First World War. John idolizes the Peaky Blinders whole image and what they stand for. While he is more good humored than his older brothers, he has the famous Shelby temper. His actions can sometimes be reckless, but he has shown to be more similar to Thomas when dealing with the family business. While he is not as cutthroat as Thomas or rash as Arthur, he is just as dangerous and capable. John annoyed me in the beginning mostly because it seemed like he acted first and thought later and on some level I thought he felt like he was better suited to run the business than Tommy…. but not everyone has what it takes.
Aunt Polly Shelby – Aunt Pol is a BAD WOMAN. She is the matriarch of the Shelby Family, aunt of the Shelby siblings, the treasurer of the Birmingham criminal gang, the Peaky Blinders, a certified accountant and company treasurer of Shelby Company Limited. She managed the Peaky Blinders when the Shelby boys were absent during the Great War. She is the unofficial head of the Shelby Family and often advises Tommy on the gang’s business. She even killed someone… sometimes it takes a woman’s touch… (Aunt Pol is badass… it bears repeating.)
Ada Shelby -(née Shelby) is the fourth and only female of the Shelby siblings and the only sibling initially not involved with the Peaky Blinders. By the end of 1924, however, Ada assumes a leading position at the United States branch of Shelby Company Limited, dealing only with legal acquisitions; unlike her brothers back home in Birmingham, England. She is the widow of known communist, Freddie Thorne, with who she has son, Karl Thorne — named after Karl Marx. Now Ada started out as a character that annoyed the shit out of me. She was so against her family and the things they did but not enough to not move into the house that her brother buys for her. But the older she gets the more she grows on me… instead of being the leader of opposition for the sake of being opposite she helps Tommy with her connections.
Finn Shelby – the youngest of the Shelby siblings and a member of the Peaky Blinders. As he is the youngest of the Shelby’s, Finn’s involvement within the Peaky Blinders is kept to a minimum, with his brothers Tommy, Arthur, and his Aunt Polly shielding him from the worst of their actions.
Because the series is so in depth… and it would be hard to summarize all 5 series (seasons), I have decided to post 10 moments that blew my damn mind… and 10 moments that pissed me off. Settle in folks. Let’s get into the countdown.
Aunt Pol kills Major Campbell – Listen this was a toss up for me… and while Grace shot him first, she didn’t get the job done. Grace just added a cane and made him more of a dick. Major Campbell did a lot I didn’t like. Mostly because he honestly believed that he was more upstanding than Tommy and the Peaky Blinders when nothing can be further from the truth. He got annoyed with Grace for falling in love with Tommy and not agreeing to marry him. Which sent him on a personal vendetta against Tommy and the family…. Events lead to her son Michael’s arrest and Major Campbell offers to sign Michael’s release form, in exchange for Polly having sex with him. He specifically humiliates and both verbally and physically abuses her, demanding that she be ‘small and weak’ and cry for him. Polly is disgusted by the demand but reluctantly accepts in the end, thinking only of her son’s freedom. However, Campbell rapes Polly forcefully despite her acquiescence. It is his way of getting back at Tommy but it really only sealed his fate. Let me tell you how much I did not care that he died. I was elated that he was finally dealt with. But let’s not take away from the greatness that is Sam Niell.
Tommy and Alfie have the grenade conversation – Tommy walks into Alfie’s office (who is trying to get 100% of Tommy’s business) and after being threatened tells Alfie that he and James (who was left outside) have a grenade trip-wired to a barrel of rum and if anyone other than Thomas walks out of the door, James is going to blow it all up. Alfie, hearing that, can’t tell if Thomas is bluffing or not and after a surreal back and forth, Thomas agrees to give 35% of his business to Alfie. Alfie and Tommy have a very strange relationship given that Solomons has crossed Thomas three times and yet the latter continues to trust him. When the two meet, there is a witty exchange of intelligent and threatening words, each trying to intimidate the opponent. They both seem to build up some form of mutual respect, seeing the other as equal. But in the beginning, Alfie wanted 100% of Tommy’s business. This scene is one of my favorites with Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy. I lived to watch them in scenes together.
Tommy vs the Italians – Luca Changretta makes a deal with Aunt Pol to spare Michael’s life who is in the hospital recovering from the shooting that killed John Shelby. Luca also makes threats to Michael, and he decides to give up Tommy in return for Changretta ensuring that his mother is not harmed. What is not known is that Tommy knows all about the deals made with Polly and Michael. (Polly’s deal was actually made by Tommy as he is actually leading the enemy into a trap.) Michael’s deal, however, was a betrayal. Changretta’s gang follow Tommy (who is by himself) to an apartment building where the shootout begins. It was entertaining to me to see Tommy shooting from all over while telling the residents to shut the door and stay away from the windows. This scene was epic because Tommy’s adversaries really thought they were smarter and that Tommy was a sitting duck…. Poor guys… when they realized who was actually the sitting ducks.
Grace’s Death – Poor Grace… She shoots Campbell for becoming obsessive. She ends up having to run off to New York and getting married since Tommy decided against running away with her. She can’t have a baby and the doctor tells her its her fault. (Of course it is her fault because why would it be the guy’s fault?) When she finally returns to Birmingham, she sleeps with Thomas and gets pregnant. When we see Tommy and Grace in Season 3, they are married. Tommy keeps promising that he had one more thing to take care of and then the business would be all legit. (This is a pipe dream.) Grace busies herself putting together a charity event. I think the thing that hurt me the most was the fact that it was they finally are happy. There was a lot of foreshadowing when this occurred. Tommy has a conversation with Grace talking about how he is scared of her and Charlie’s safety. And then again just before she is shot… Tommy tells her that he doesn’t care for all of the people surrounding them just about her. She is shot then by a bullet meant for Tommy (which haunts him to the end of the series.) by the Changretta family. I was hurt more for Tommy than anything else.
John’s death – John was actually my favorite brother. But by the 4th season, John is 30 years old and somewhat estranged from his family. The whole family had gotten the warning from the Italians about the ensuing vendetta. Tommy for his part tried to collect them all so that they could present a united front and protect each other. John’s wife though is still mad at Tommy and claimed that they did not need the family to protect themselves. (I like the women of this show but there are times…. like this one where I am annoyed as fuck by them. You have six children and you really marched your husband towards deaths door instead of doing what was best for your family.) John… listened to Esme and was gunned down by the Italians in front of his doorstep. It was a gut-wrenching scene to watch. I really wanted better for John.
Tommy tries to kill Father Hughes – Father Hughes comes to Tommy’s attention in the third season when he realizes the Priest is a double agent. He is seemingly working for the British Crown and with the politically White Russians but reporting to the Communist Russians. It was insinuated that he was a child molester and it is more than a little upsetting that he blatantly tells Tommy that he is going to put himself on the board of the orphanages that Tommy has opened. It is discovered that Michael Gray was a victim of Hughes from when he was first taken in, which was why Michael himself insisted that he be the one to end Hughes’s life. (Which he does in the end..) But Tommy attempts to assassinate him… to not great results. It seems it is Aunt Pol who goes to confession and blurts out the plan to kill a priest that has Tommy walking into a trap. Tommy is beat badly and it is hard to watch… It would have been easier to watch them shoot him. He is very badly injured, with a suspected fractured skull and a hemorrhage. Tommy manages to make a few appointments later in the day before begging his sister to call an ambulance because he was losing his sight.
Tommy confronts Alfie about Charlie – Anyone that crosses Tommy Shelby learns that he will do any for the safety and wellbeing of his family. The aforementioned Father Hughes manages to kidnap Tommy’s son Charlie when he learns of Tommy plans to dig a tunnel to steal the jewels from the Russians. In order to get his son back, Tommy has to blow up a train and frame certain people, and at least 6 people have to die. The only person who knew about the tunnel was Alfie Solomon’s and it is Tommy’s determination that it was Alfie who snitched. Tommy and Alfie meet in an abandoned warehouse upon Tommy’s request. Tommy wanted a list of people who wanted to buy Faberge eggs but it turns into a showdown with Tommy declaring that Alfie crossed a line by helping to have his son kidnapped. There is a lot of feeling here… you feel bad for Tommy and you almost want him to have vengeance until Alfie starts talking. Alfie points out that there is no lie in their what they do and how many sons, fathers and husbands had been killed by them. Tommy did this to himself. Although Alfie later confesses he did not know Tommy’s son Charlie was endangered. Tommy lets him leave alive. The whole scene has me on the edge of my seat. Mostly because I love Tom Hardy and I enjoyed his character.
Killing Billy Kimber – Billy Kimber was a total douche. he didn’t even talk business… (just lets his secretary make deal… insert eyeroll.) and trust me douche is being nice. Tommy has plan to overtake and turn the Peaky Blinders legit. He starts by fixing the horserace without Kimber’s permission. Tommy calls it Black Star Day, the day in which he will take out Billy Kimber and his men at the races. The plan is to happen at the racetrack where the Peaky Blinders will meet up with more men, however, Kimber and his men show up on Tommy’s doorstep. Tommy and his crew are outnumbered and out gunned but do not back down. Billy Kimber manages to shoot Tommy in the chest, but Tommy is able to shoot him in the head. With Kimber dead, he tells Kimber’s men to go home as they have no more reason to fight.
The Eden Club Takeover – Arthur is the master of mayhem when it comes to the Peaky Blinders… He is the enforcer of the brothers I will say I would rather have him on my side than have him be the rabid dog that I have to try and get away from. Arthur was tasked with taking over the Eden Club, owned by the Shelbys’ enemy Darby Sabini. I find that I couldn’t care less about Sabini. Arthur and the crew walk in and start their beatdown and Arthur utters the infamous line: “This place is under new management…by order of the Peaky Blinders!”
Tommy tells Lizzie that she belongs to him – A lot people will tell you that the love of Tommy’s life is Grace…. and I have no issues with that. I didn’t have any issues with Grace… especially after she shot Major Campbell. While I like Tommy with Grace, I love him more with Lizzie… maybe I am just a glutton for punishment…The thing is though… Tommy does care for Lizzie and always did whether he shows that outwardly or not. There are places where you can see it in the show… Lizzie Stark starts out as a prostitute known all over Birmingham and in Series 1, John talks about marrying her… which the Tommy discourages. And you first think that it is because she is a prostitute but it is more because Tommy is sleeping with her…and had been regularly (and doesn’t want her marrying John.) Tommy marries off John to someone else and continues sleeping with Lizzie… In Series 2, he offers her a position as his secretary with the condition that she would no longer do her other work as a prostitute, this time with “no exceptions”. (Mostly meaning that he wants to be the only person sleeping with her.) Tommy does use her though and that was heartbreaking to watch; the whole soldier rape thing comes to mind… where he explains to her he needs her to distract a soldier, by taking him to a ‘quiet place’. Tommy promises to get there before ‘it’ starts, and Lizzie eventually accepts but he doesn’t arrive until after the soldier is raping Lizzie. In series 3, Tommy marries Grace and when she is killed… it is Lizzie that reaches him when he closes himself off to everyone else. In the fourth season, Lizzie announces she is pregnant and it looks like Tommy is happy to hear that. In the 5th series, Lizzie and Tommy are in tumultuous marriage but when told that she wants a divorce, Tommy gets real (more or less) about how he feels. During a raunchy sex scene he tells Lizzie that she is his property and no one can touch his property. (Others will say that Tommy is exerting his control over her… I say that it is interesting to keep her around for so long just for control… with all the other women in and out of his life.) I look forward to more with this couple.
In the end, the BBC know how to do period pieces. Kudos to the cast, they are all bad ass… especially in this show. I always appreciate a show where there are bad ass women and an explosive storyline. Series 5 ended on a cliffhanger… and I am devastated… I mean I waited 7 years since the start… and now I am feenin’…. LOL but in the end… Tommy Shelby is a bad ass… let’s take a minute to appreciate Mr. Shelby.
In the end, I loved this show… I have not had so many outbursts and weird reactions to one show. It is on Netflix… Check it out and tell me your favorite moments.