This week’s Netflix pick: “Peaky Blinders”

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The Netflix original series Peaky Blinders is basically The Godfather except it is set in 1919, takes place in Birmingham, England, prefers razor blades over guns, never makes a mention of cannolis and has swapped the young Al Pacino for Cillian Murphy as its lead. Okay so it is nothing like The Godfather. But it does have roots in the crime family genre.

Murphy plays gang leader Thomas Shelby, a dangerously ambitious man who will do anything to own and control every aspect of his city. Season one follows Thomas’ rise to crime king and the aggregation of many enemies in the process. These enemies include Chief Inspector Chester Campbell (Sam Niell), gypsy mob family the Lees, the Irish Republican Army and, of course, each other. Shelby matriarch Elizabeth “Polly” Gray played by Helen McCroy (Harry Potter series) is one of the few women represented in the show. She is keeps the boys in line and it is revealed very early in the six episode series that she is the closest Thomas has to an intellectual equal.

Thomas is cunning, has great love for his family and is kind to those who deserve it. Unfortunately for him, and viewers who crave originality, the crux lies in the fact that he is blinded by love in the guise of a sassy bar maid who is actually an undercover agent working for the Crown. Thomas’ weakness for an intelligent and attractive woman did not add any aspect of interest to his character, especially because he was raised by an extremely tenacious woman.

For a season full of blood, wit and family drama, the finale was a letdown (I had predicted the ending three episodes sooner). I appreciate a show that has more twists and surprises that this show lacked.

Historically, youth uprisings in post-war Birmingham led to “battles to ‘own’ areas such as Small Heath and Cheapside. These [areas] saw hundreds of youths fighting — sometimes to the death — in mass brawls that lasted for hours,” according to BBC. “Peaky Blinders” was a name given to a rival of the original gang the “Sloggers.” As in the show, the boys would wear hard brimmed cap with razor blades sewn in. According to historian David Cross in the same BBC article “When the [boys] hit someone or headbutted someone on the nose while wearing one, it would cause their victim temporary blindness.”

Season one and two can both be found on Netflix and a third season is in the works.


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