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Very loosely based on an actual well-dressed English street gang in the late 1800’s (though the show takes place in the early 1900’s) Peaky Blinders tells the tale of the Shelby family and their criminal aspirations. We’re talking everything from “protection” and blackmail to deceit and secret selling. It’s your typical criminal stuff but it manages to be fun, even if you’ve seen or read something like it before.

Oh, and the Shelby boys fancy wearing three-piece suits and flat caps with razor blades sewn into the fabric, which they use to cut the faces and eyes of their enemies. The show’s title should make more sense with that bit of information. Maybe I’m shallow but the title seemed silly and off-putting before putting it into context.

The narrative centers around Cillian Murphy’s Thomas Shelby, the mastermind and leader of the Shelby clan. He’s a man of vision and is rarely willing to rest on his laurels like some of his siblings. Murphy does excellent work here. I never thought of him as a bad actor but, at the same time, I never considered him a great actor before Peaky Blinders. Having seen the series’ entire run, I can confidently say Murphy is an underutilized actor of impeccable skill. His character is determined, capable, ruthless and calculated — but he is also damaged and emotionally wounded, something only the viewer sees. It’s a great turn on Murphy’s part and he plays his part extremely well and drives the show in fun directions. Well, except for maybe season 3 but that’s on the table for another day.

The rest of the cast is equally up to the task, and for the most part, the story works well and remains engaging.

Season 1 is perhaps the strongest offering, as it mainly focuses on Thomas leveraging a cache of highly sought-after weapons in the midst of a widespread police shake-up on both sides of the fence. The narrative is tight and focused and the drama works well throughout.

The Good:

  • Cillian Murphy’s performance.
  • The rest of the cast is great too.
  • Family drama should resonate with many.
  • Great female characters.

The Bad:

  • The first episode or two portrays Arthur as the leader rather than John. Was that the original idea, I wonder? At any rate, it comes off as strange.
  • You’ve seen most of the subject matter before.

Peaky Blinders is good stuff. It’s not an amazing show but it’s not a bad one either. Not by any stretch. It’s fun to binge and there are some truly great moments sprinkled in, supported by an awesome performance by the entire cast but especially Cillian Murphy.

And if you’re a Tom Hardy groupie like I am, he’s in the show too (in later seasons).

Enough said.

 

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