Initially, a show about the lives of a relatively low-level criminal gang in 1919 Birmingham might not sound appealing. The Romani Peaky Blinders are a gang made up of the Shelby family, led by Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy), whose ambition initially exceeds his means. However, when he unwittingly steals a shipment of arms headed for Libya, Tommy Shelby’s life suddenly becomes a lot more interesting. In the first episode, we are introduced to Chief Inspector Chester Campbell (Sam Neill), a Royal Irish Constabulary detective whom, successful in clearing up the streets of Belfast, is tasked the same job in Birmingham, where the Shelby family inevitably attract his attention.

'Fish out of water'

Perhaps what makes this show so popular is its ‘fish out of water’ storyline, of how the Shelby family, on the orders of Tommy, expand quickly, perhaps too quickly, encountering numerous risks with seemingly little pay-off. However, it is the characters themselves that make the show so enthralling. Most notable perhaps is the relationship between Tommy Shelby and Chief Inspector Campbell; although enemies, they appear at times to have a mutual respect for one another, and in series two, Shelby is enlisted by Campbell, albeit unwittingly, to carry out an assassination in the name of pro-treaty Irish unionists. However, suspicion inevitably trumps respect, with devastating consequences for Campbell at the end of series two.

'Solidarity among soldiers'

It is also the close proximity to war that also makes this show so interesting. Set in 1919, the majority of the characters, and indeed all leaders of the Peaky Blinders, are former soldiers, and have thus experienced the hell of battle throughout France, including in the Somme. Many would think that this would a form of ‘solidarity among soldiers’ between the warring gangs, and sometimes it does.

But what it mainly leads to is battle-hardened, militarily-trained gangs willing to fight for the death to win power. In 1919 Britain, Birmingham, and later London, are now the battlegrounds, and the gangs are now the warring armies.