The next couple weeks mark the tail end of the dead time between all of your fall and midseason finales and the returns and premieres of shows in January. It is super rough out there right now, unless you have a great affinity for Bones reruns and two-star action movies that air on basic cable. The nice thing, however, is that it means you have to time catch up on shows you missed during the fall logjam, or binge-watch shows you’ve been meaning to get to for a while. With that in mind, allow me to make the following suggestion: Check out Peaky Blinders on Netflix.
I stumbled into Peaky Blinders a few weeks ago after bailing on Marco Polo, and I pounded through all 12 episodes in about five days. My initial interest in the show was part desperation, part curiosity, and part the thing where I love shows that feature bad people shooting at worse people, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised by it all.
You probably have some questions. Please, fire away.
What is Peaky Blinders, exactly?
Peaky Blinders is a BBC series that is loosely based on a real criminal organization from the early 1900s. It is a silly sounding name for a show and it is a very silly sounding name for a terrifying gang of hoodlums, but it comes from the group’s strategy of sewing razor blades into the “peaks” of their flat caps so they could “blind” people by headbutting them, so I imagine this second thing wasn’t brought to their attention too often at the time.
The show stars Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later, Batman Begins) as Tommy Shelby, a war hero who is back from the trenches and set on making the Peaky Blinders the dominant figures in the British underworld. There are lots of well-dressed people scheming and injuring each other as they all fight over the proceeds from gambling and shipping liquor to Prohibition-era America, if that’s your kind of thing.
So it’s basically like an Irish/British Boardwalk Empire?
A little? I don’t know. I suppose the temptation is to take a cursory glance at it and declare “It’s like Boardwalk Empire crossed with Downton Abbey because of gambling and booze and accents,” but there’s a little more going on there than that. It’s also got a little bit of a Godfather vibe going, in that there are three brothers at the center of the gang and the oldest one got passed over for his ice-cold, brilliant younger brother who is also a decorated veteran. The main differences are that (a) there’s no family patriarch handing down power, and (b) the older brother on Peaky Blinders is kind of an amalgamation of Fredo and Sonny who starts out as a bumbling doofus and ends up as a hyper-violent lunatic. Best of both worlds.
So, if I had to sum it up, I guess I’d go with “British Boardwalk Empire but Nucky is Michael Corleone and he has razor blades in his hat.” That’s almost definitely setting the bar too high, but it’s a start.
Gotcha. Hey, at any point in the series’ first two seasons, is there a mob boss who eats a sandwich while sitting alone in a boxing ring that has a giant scorpion emblazoned on it?
Nice. And is there a mysterious singing barmaid who looks a tiny bit like a blond Irish Alison Brie?
Well, I thought there was, but then I asked my colleagues here at UPROXX if they thought the mysterious singing barmaid looked like a blonde Irish Alison Brie, and I was immediately and enthusiastically shouted down as though I had just suggested adopting “The Chicken Dance” as our country’s national anthem. So let’s file this under “maybe.” Also, I work with a bunch of jerks.
Okay, but is it good?
Yup. I wouldn’t put it in that upper echelon of dramas with Breaking Bad or True Detective or anything, but it’s definitely in the next tier of shows, maybe a half-step down. Sam Neill is great as the unhinged special investigator out to bring the gang down, and Tom Hardy pops up in Season 2 as a mumble-mouthed Jewish bootlegger — bringing our Villains From Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy count to two — and steals every scene he’s in. And with only 12 episodes to watch to get caught up and all of them available on Netflix, you could do a hell of a lot worse while you’re waiting for everything else to come back in January.