So I very recently marathoned the first two seasons of Peaky Blinders on Netflix, because I’m the type of person who when faced with the prospect of catching up on the odd dozen other excellent yet inexplicably unfinished television shows I’ve already started (like The 100, or Battlestar Galactica, or Bob’s Burgers, or… you get the picture), panics and start watching a brand new show instead. Thankfully, being a British series, Peaky Blinders only has 6 episodes per season to get through, so I actually managed to watch the whole thing rather than have to add it to my mental list of “Shows I Really Need To Finish Watching”.
I liked Peaky Blinders a lot, mainly because of the show’s style (everyone is always impeccably dressed, the city has that cold and gritty atmosphere to it, there is seriously so much slow motion walking and a lot of very pretty shots, and season 2 takes place during the Roaring ’20s which is visually one of my favorite eras), the strangely fitting modern soundtrack (though I think I’ve heard as much of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ “Red Right Hand” as I can take), and the unapologetic ridiculousness of literally everything that happens. All that and the fact that the gang apparently gets its name from the razors embedded in their caps that they use to cut people up with in scuffles. Bless.
Season 1 tracks the beginnings of the Peaky Blinders’ climb to the top: from an intimidating but relatively small-time Birmingham gang helmed by Thomas Shelby and his family, to one with a serious foothold in the city. Tommy’s ever-rising ambitions end up bringing the Peaky Blinders to London (and smoke, and trouble) in season 2.
The show’s large cast of characters are, each of them, compelling. Tommy is, of course, the ruthless gang leader with a secret heart of gold, but Cillian Murphy manages to bring enough charisma to the role that he’s likable, if not fresh. His brother Arthur (Paul Anderson) struggles with PTSD, depression, and a terrible temper, along with feelings of inadequacy; as the oldest Shelby child, he should be the one running the Peaky Blinders, but he hasn’t quite got the capacity for it. Aunt Polly (Helen McCrory) is the level-headed matriarch of the family, though she’s got a temper of her own and a sad family past. The overarching antagonist is Inspector Campbell (Sam Neill), whose brand of smug, holier-than-thou Nice Guy-ness made for a truly despicable character that I really, really enjoyed hating. Other cast members throughout both seasons include Annabelle Wallis, Iddo Goldberg, Joe Cole, Sophie Rundle, Charlotte Riley, and Noah Taylor. Tom Hardy (who is at least half the reason why I first decided to watch this) also makes an appearance in season 2 as the leader of a Jewish gang in London.
Peaky Blinders is nothing you haven’t already seen before — a variation on the same old gritty and violent period dramas with gruff men who like to punch their way out of problems and women who, though excellent and purposeful in their own ways, mostly just stay at home and worry (or worse, get treated as collateral damage due to mens’ actions, and always in the form of sexual assault) — but at least the show does “more of the same” well. The action is intense, the performances are solid, and the relationships, whether they be romantic or familial, are complicated and interestingly portrayed. It’s a good and entertaining watch that’s extremely easy to binge on. And if gritty, violent period dramas are your thing, you should definitely binge-watch this.
Peaky Blinders has been renewed for a third season by BBC Two, though no official air date has been announced. Netflix will reportedly stream the season in the States once the season has aired in the U.K.