Let’s continue with this week’s theme of “family business“, but with a show vastly different from Dynasty. If you follow me on Twitter, you will have seen me gush about it all of last week and that show is Peaky Blinders!
I joined in quite late, considering that the show premiered in 2013 and already has 4 seasons available, but then again, I am really glad I could binge it all in a short amount of time, instead of waiting a year or more between season (seriously, Season 5 won’t be out until 2019 and I am dying a little bit inside, but am also super grateful the show continues). Peaky Blinders is made by the BBC, but is also available on Netflix in most territories as far as I know.
**Please ignore that the official BBC speaker pronounces Cillian as Sillian, because it is Killian and I am ashamed for them**
Set in the early 1920s, Peaky Blinders chronicles the life of the infamous gang by the same name run by the ambitious and ruthless Shelby family.
While the Peaky Blinders as a gang really did exist, the show has no claim on being factually correct whatsoever. Whereas the series starts in 1919, the real Peaky Blinders operated from around 1890-1920 and would have most likely been extinct by the time the show begins. There is no proof of any of the characters having existed (except maybe some of the opponent crime bosses) and the razors the gang has sown into their caps were a luxury product at the time that probably not even the Peaky Blinders could have afforded. So, I personally do not care about any of these things at all, but some people might want to know that this is not based on real history. I always saw it as a pure work of fiction to begin with.
Right from the get go, I quite enjoyed the family dynamic of the Shelbys. Whereas the family business, in this case a buzzing gambling den, is usually run by the eldest sibling, it is Thomas Shelby (the middle child) everyone looks to. None of the brothers have come home from the war the way they left for France, but he has taken up the responsibility to care for his family and to get them the life he thinks they deserve for their service to their country – by whatever means necessary.
Thomas Shelby is a complex character and I love him all the more for it. Is he a good man? Debatable for sure. I wouldn’t even go so far as to say that he always has good intentions in mind, because it wouldn’t be the truth. People fear him, but they also adore him. He provides protection, but at the same time he is often the reason people need protection to begin with. Whatever he does, it always feels like a two-edged sword. He wants to go legit, but in the end there is always one more thing to do, one last heist, one last mission. I am not sure he would actually be able to be content with a life in peace if it was right in front of him.
Cillian Murphy’s portrayal of Thomas is perfection in my eyes. He has no problem showing his callous and ruthless side, he can turn on the charm and self-confidence that is required to navigate certain situations, but there is also an underlying vulnerability and endless sadness to him. All this affects his every relationship at one point or another and shows how broken war has left him.
Women were at a clear disadvantage in the 1920s, however, I appreciate that there is an element of progressiveness among the Peaky Blinders. Women’s issues are discussed, equality is at least attempted and it is in no way implied that they are just damsels in distress that need to be saved and protected all the time. Women have their own head in this show and oftentimes sneakily manipulate the men in their small ways. I am not saying that the female representation is perfect, but considering the time period it is set in, I certainly enjoyed the direction they decided to go in.
There is no denying that the show can go quite dark and violent. I suppose that is part of the whole ogranised crime topic we are dealing with. However, it also handles topics such as mental health and PTSD in particular. Considering how little regard there was given to mental health issues at the time, I always find it interesting to see how people dealt with it. There is a lot of emotional trauma to deal with throughout the series and they constantly managed to break my heart.
All in all, I hold Peaky Blinders in high regard. It has most stellar acting in all roles, be it the main casting or supporting characters. The setting is not one you see on TV every day and even throughout several seasons, it never seizes to amaze me in terms of intricacies of the plot and characters. Also, one final shout out to all the epic walking scenes on that show. You should never underestimate how difficult it is to walk normal or cool while being filmed.
So, by the order of the Peaky Blinders, I command you to watch this show. Just kidding! But if you do think this one is for you, check it out and tell me what you think!