In January of this year, it became known that the popular series “Sharp Visors” from the BBC with Cillian Murphy in the title role will end with the sixth season. In addition, showrunner Stephen Knight revealed that a full-length film is likely to be made instead of the promised seventh season. The first season of the gangster television series, launched in 2013, gathered an audience of 2.4 million viewers – such a successful start confidently demonstrates the need to continue the project.
The number of fans of the show grew with each season, and it continues to grow. Fans around the world imitate the characters, developers, and game designers develop and come up with themed online casino games that pay, and the “Peaky Blinders” have already become a large-scale franchise with its own merchandise, a collection of board games and, of course, a computer game based on the show.
It’s time to remember why we love “Peaky Blinders” so much and why we will miss them.
The Historical Component
“Peaky Blinders” tells the story of the Shelby Gypsy clan between the two World Wars. The Shelby brothers return to Birmingham after World War I and try to establish a business and gain prestige among the townspeople and beyond by criminal means. The family relationships are dramatic and full of contradictions and conflicts, but with the beginning of World War II, as the creators promise, their time will end.
The project is based on true events. The show’s creator, Stephen Knight, wrote the script, inspired by his father’s stories about Birmingham in the 1920s. At the time, there really was a youth group that was nicknamed the “Peaky Blinders.” According to one version, the gang got its name because of the “hipster” hairstyles and special manner of dress, as the main feature of belonging to the clan was just a cap with a narrowed visor. According to another version, Peaky Blinders were nicknamed bandits because they sewed sharp blades into their hats, which was an undeniable advantage in street fights.
Perhaps the main thing that makes it impossible to get rid of the desire to watch all the seasons of the saga at once is the brilliant cast. The main role went to Cillian Murphy, an actor of Irish descent. His manner of acting combines a charming restraint and charismatic impulsiveness. The role of Thomas Shelby, the ringleader of the Peaky Blinders, has become a calling card in the artist’s career. Thomas Shelby suffers from a post-traumatic stress disorder and is quite violent, but behind his unwavering authority is actually a romantic with a broken heart. Certainly, watching the transformation of such a complex hero is a pleasure.
In addition to Murphy, Sam Neill (“Jurassic Park,” “Through the Horizon,” “In the Mouth of Madness”) joined the ranks of British star actors as the conniving guardian of order Chester Campbell. Among the Shelby family members on the set were the real-life brothers Joe and Finn Cole, who played cousins in the series. Also appearing in the first three seasons is Annabelle Wallace (“The Tudors”) as Grace Burgess, a blonde nymph with a mysterious past who leads a double life and ends up winning Thomas Shelby’s heart and becoming the main woman for him. And, of course, you can’t imagine the project without the brilliant Helen McCrory, who played Aunt Polly, the Shelby family treasurer and Thomas’ right hand, and also without the charismatic Paul Anderson (“Survivor”, “Legend”, “Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows”) – Thomas’ older brother, Arthur Shelby. In addition, Anya Taylor-Joy appears in several episodes in the most recent fifth season to date as Gina Gray, the wife of Michael, the Shelby brothers’ cousin. The actress became widely known for the series “The Queen’s Gambit”, which aired on Netflix in 2020.
As a rule, the antagonists and negative characters in movies are the most vivid and memorable. One of those roles went to Tom Hardy – he appears in the series as the head of the Jewish mafia, Alfie Solomons, incredibly cruel, ingratiating, seductive, and mercantile. His negotiations with Thomas are a distinct art form of psychological manipulation. It is important to note that the duo of Murphy and Hardy is an established tandem that has appeared many times in other films (such as Inception or Dunkirk). Perhaps this is the reason why their interaction looks so flawless.
In the fourth season, the Shelbys are at war with the Italian Mafia, whose head, Luca Changretta, is played by Adrien Brody. He became the most stylish villain in all the seasons of the saga, as well as the most vengeful and conniving. This role revealed a different side to Brody: Changretta became the first negative character in the actor’s career, whom audiences remembered in the touching role of Vladislav Spielman in The Pianist. And it must be said that the mask of a villain to his face.
And, of course, we can’t ignore Thomas Shelby’s opponent in the fifth season – the British fascist Oswald Mosley, played by Sam Claflin (“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”, “The Hunger Games: And the Flame Flashes”). Not only is the actor incredibly similar to his real-life prototype, but his brilliant talent makes us feel truly disgusted with the character.
The authors of the series about gangsters offer the viewer not only spectacular action scenes, where there is room for chases, shootouts, and surprise attacks, but also quite intellectual political games. Thus, the first and second seasons have two storylines – the fight against the Chinese mafia and attempts to outsmart the British government with participation in the conspiracy of the secret service. The third season, according to critics’ reviews, was the most confusing, but no less fascinating: here the Shelby family had to face Russian aristocrats fleeing the revolution and influence the political relationship between England and Soviet Russia while expanding their business in parallel.
Against this background, the fight against the Italian mafia and the rescue from blood vengeance in the fourth season seems something simplistic, but even here the authors of the series have unexpected plot twists and references to the past of the Shelby family. In addition, the season turned out to be the most dramatic, as viewers had to say goodbye to many of the characters forever. In the fifth season, Thomas Shelby becomes a member of a political party and tries to prevent the birth of British fascism by destroying it from within. This season proved to be the strongest and most enigmatic. It left so many clues that there is no telling where the story will turn in the coming last season of the saga. There’s even a mystique in the series that has to do with the Shelby family’s roots, namely hereditary gypsies who can cast spells and make plots, which also helps Shelby in his affairs.
And, of course, “Peaky Blinders” has a very strong dramaturgical component: each character is written with psychological precision and has his own, important to the overall narrative. None of the characters are random, and none will leave the viewer indifferent.
The spectacular camerawork certainly sets the series apart from its competitors. The camera is a separate participant in the story and an impartial observer. Often filming is done as if from hiding, which creates a sense of the Shelby clan’s presence everywhere, even if none of the family members are in the frame. The visuals are interesting, with the characters shot slightly out of focus and a light sepia color correction applied to the shots. This creates the feeling of an old photograph shot on film.
In the visuals, the style of “Peaky Blinders” or rather the costumes that have become legendary in pop culture, is also worth noting. High leather boots, cropped pants, detachable collars that made you look clean and tidy even with a not-so-fresh shirt, three-piece suits, long single-breasted coats with silk lining, and, naturally, sharp visor caps combined with a distinctive haircut. Men’s suits can be afforded by the female half of the show as well, such as Polly Gray (Helen McCrory). Even the women’s outfits reflect both elegance and sass in the show.
The costume designers were inspired by Peter Doyle’s book “Crooks Like Us,” which collected photographs of Australian criminals. Though, of course, the makeup artists and designers allowed themselves deviations, stylizing the appearance of the characters to the 20th century taking into account the fashion trends of the day. Much of the assortment of costumes were found in an atelier that specializes in historical clothing. Thomas Shelby’s costumes were custom-made.
The “Peaky Blinders” franchise has gained so much momentum that Steven Knight has even started his own menswear company called Garrison, which produces costumes and accessories in the style of the series.
Despite such attention to detail and historical meticulousness, the creators of the series allow themselves liberties and use modern alternative rock along with the traditional songs of Birmingham at the time. The White Stripes, Arctic Monkeys, and Radiohead can be heard in the series.
The main soundtrack for the project was the song Red Right Hand by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. The writers originally put Nick Cave’s music in the pilot episode to try it out. But the musician liked the show so much that he allowed his compositions to be used further. According to Stephen Knight, the task was not to show the audience the music of that time, but to create the atmosphere and allow them to feel the perception of the events by the characters themselves. A similar technique was used by Baz Luhrmann in The Great Gatsby, with the sound of such modern performers as Lana Del Rey, Florence the Machine, The XX, and others.
What the new season and a possible feature film based on “Peaky Blinders” has in store for us, only the creators of the project know yet. But fans around the world are looking forward to the finished series and are confident that the final part of the saga will not fail and will not change the already established traditions.