I started watching Peaky Blinders a year ago on two separate recommendations from two friends, whose opinions on such things I value implicitly.
From the first shot of Thomas Shelby slowly riding through the grim streets of Birmingham on a dark horse, I knew that I had stumbled upon a cinematic masterpiece. I raved on and on about it to anyone who would listen — and to many who would not. As I watched more of the series, I began to feel that even my own glowing commentary on the show was an understatement.
At its simplest, Peaky Blinders follows the lives and antics of 1920s English gangsters. But even at its simplest, Peaky Blinders is anything but simple.
Though the show’s focus on organized crime may seem trite after the success of shows like The Sopranos and The Wire, Peaky Blinders provides insight into a period and a place where the topic has not yet been explored, doubling down on themes of skewed family dynamics and post traumatic stress disorder after the First World War.
Musically, the show uses Nick Cave and the Bad Seed’s “Red Right Hand” to introduce and define the lead character. This is emblematic of ’90s theme songs, and stands out uniquely in a world where most shows only bother to toss out a quick title card.
The rest of the show’s soundtrack — heavily dominated by Arctic Monkeys records — feels like an extension of the opening theme, conveying the same grittiness with every beat, and almost acting as an additional cast member.
Speaking of the cast, Peaky Blinders features top-tier actors and actresses in every facet of the Shelby narrative. Christopher Nolan’s own personal muse of unquestionable talent, Cillian Murphy, plays the show’s lead. Helen McCrory of Penny Dreadful and the Harry Potter franchise plays his aunt. Even Tom Hardy and his wife, Charlotte Riley, play crucial roles in this BBC drama.
So why doesn’t Peaky Blinders pull in the viewership and attention of other shows like, say, Riverdale? Audiences may have a difficult time investing in a show that isn’t always selling itself to us through social media and memes.
This isn’t because millennials are superficial, but because these social interactions are so normalized that they’ve become expected. Without them surrounding a show, we might not see what’s really out there.
Even so, I encourage everyone to lose themselves in the Birmingham of the ’20s, with only the Shelbies and company as your designated tour guides.
Overlooked is a recurring feature in the Arts & Culture section that puts the spotlight on underappreciated pieces of pop culture. To participate, email firstname.lastname@example.org.