TV

Should You Watch ‘Peaky Blinders’? A Simple Guide

There are entirely too many television shows. It’s really just unmanageable. It’s impossible to keep up with the shows you already like, let alone new ones and ones other people recommend to you. That doesn’t mean you should give up, though. There’s still gold out there worth digging for. One of my favorite shows is Peaky Blinders, a BBC Original that pops up on Netflix after its original run is finished. It’s so good. I do get it, though. You might not want to take me at “it’s so good.” You might need a little more information before you make the leap, especially since there are already four seasons on Netflix with a fifth premiering this weekend.

And so, I’ve put together this simple guide to help you determine if you should watch the show. The key things to remember here are as follows:

  • I would sooner die than lie to any of you
  • Each season is only five or six episodes anyway so it’s not as much of a lift as you might be fearing

Let’s go.

Do you like shows about organized crime families?

That is the heart of Peaky Blinders so it makes sense to start there. The show is about the Shelby family, leaders of a turn-of-the-century criminal organization called, you guessed it, the Peaky Blinders, whose name may or may not come from its members’ habit of taking out their enemies’ eyes with razor blades they hide in their hats. The main players are Tommy (middle child, smart, the leader, kind of your Michael Corleone figure), Arthur (oldest child, loud and violent and dumb, kind of a cross between Fredo and Sonny), Polly (their aunt, total badass), and an assortment of younger siblings and cousins. When season one begins, they are fighting a local turf war. By the end of season four, Tommy is a multimillionaire bootlegger and a member of Parliament. There’s a lot going on in Peaky Blinders. It rules so hard.

Also, everyone is very British, and all the different kinds of British. You’ve got stuffy upper-crust British-types, grimy street British-types, British gypsies, etc. The accents are as thick as the fog. I love the show very much and still have to watch with subtitles on even though they are allegedly speaking the same language I do.

Yes, I like this: You should watch Peaky Blinders.

No, I do not like this: You should watch another show. Maybe Schitt’s Creek. That’s a fun one. Less razor-blade-hat-murder.

Do you like characters who are brilliant and ice-cold and calm under pressure but also conflicted and broken?

This is Tommy Shelby, basically, who is played by Cillian Murphy and is infinitely more terrifying when he is sitting still and staring at someone without blinking a single time in about 10 minutes than he is when he is spiraling and raging and firing machine guns at the mafia, which is also something that happens on Peaky Blinders. Tommy is a war veteran with crippling PTSD who tries to bury it with a combination of work and whiskey. He sees every angle, all the time, and most of the seasons are an exercise in trying to follow along as he plays all his cards in a slowly-developing game of poker. Most of the time it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes he kind of blackmails the King of England.

I may not be selling this well. Television is littered with complicated protagonists, evil people you end up rooting for despite both yourself and the fact that they would crush you in an instant if it served their purposes in even the tiniest of ways. Cillian Murphy is so good, though. He plays Tommy like a great white, quiet and stealthy until it’s time to hunt and then KAPOW violence fills the entire screen.

Yes, I like this: You should watch Peaky Blinders.

No, I do not like this: Hmm. You could try getting into frisbee golf?

Do you like shows that frequently feature the main characters walking toward the camera in slow motion, sometimes through industrial-style sparks and/or fire?

Netflix

Buddy, there is an absolutely iconic amount of characters walking toward the camera in slow motion on Peaky Blinders. It happens at least once an episode. Sometimes it will happen over the opening credits, which in the first few seasons were set to “Red Right Hand” by Nick Cave and in the later seasons are often set to driving-ass metal guitars. Sometimes it will happen in the middle of an episode out of nowhere. Sometimes, as above, it will feature a single character, usually Tommy. Other times, as below, it will feature a lot of characters.

Netflix

I am not joking about this. There is so much slow-motion walking. You could make a drinking game about it. You’d drink almost as much as the characters on the show. It looks very cool and I legitimately get excited when it happens because it almost always means something very intense is going to go down, usually involving an explosion or firefight. Everyone walks with their elbows way out at their sides like they’re carrying a mid-sized dog under each arm. There does not appear to be an explanation for this, nor should there be.

No show features as much slow-motion walking as Peaky Blinders. It’s not particularly close, either.

Yes, I like this: You should watch Peaky Blinders.

No, I do not like this: You need to re-evaluate your priorities. Who doesn’t like this? What’s the matter with you? You need to relax. That’s what your problem is. You’re too wound-up, too exacting. Live a little.

Do you like shows with compelling bad guys that rotate from season to season?

Peaky Blinders has this, too. The first two seasons featured Sam Neill as a crooked and creepy cop and, let me tell you, no one was born to play a crooked and creepy cop like Sam Neill was born to play a crooked and creepy cop. The third season featured both Paddy Considine as a crooked priest and a slew of deposed Russian oligarchs, all of whom demanded various things from Tommy at various times. Season four featured Adrien Brody as a New York mafia boss and I really do insist all of you watch it at least a little just to hear the “I’m doing an impression of Marlon Brando in The Godfather” performance he maintains throughout the season.

It’s all terrific. It reminds me a little of Justified, actually, with new Big Bads popping up each season to be worked into the ever-present crew of other crooks and goons. Some of the characters dance back and forth over the line between bad guy and friend. Aiden Gillen (Littlefinger from Game of Thrones) plays a murderous gypsy assassin named Aberama Gold who forms a shaky alliance with the gang. He’s great. And I haven’t even gotten to Tom Hardy’s character yet. And season five introduces fascists and Nazis and the Great Depression and intra-family mutiny. I can’t believe you don’t watch Peaky Blinders. I’m actually getting mad now.

Yes, I like this: You should watch Peaky Blinders.

No, I do not like this: Get out of my face. Leave!

Do you like Tom Hardy?

Tom Hardy plays a character named Alfie Solomons. Alfie is a Jewish bootlegger and gangleader who mumbles almost all of his words and is my favorite character on the entire show. He’s hilarious and brutal and will double-cross anyone at any time, even his friends, which the Shelbys are, allegedly. I get excited every time he shows up because I know he’s about to blow someone up with a grenade or start some long monologue or negotiation that barely makes sense and somehow also makes all the sense in the world. There’s a scene in season four between him and Adrien Brody that I could watch once a week for the rest of my life. The full version does not appear to be online but here’s a little taste, with the caveat that you’ll want your headphones in unless you’re in a place that is amenable to liberal use of the c-word.

Say what you will about your Banes and your Venoms, Alfie Solomons is Tom Hardy’s best character. I would watch an Alfie prequel. It might be the only thing I watch. I would miss a lot of good shows but life is about sacrifices.

Yes, I like this: You should watch Peaky Blinders.

No, I do not like this: I’m so disappointed in you.

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