Season 3 of the Peaky Blinders just got released on Netflix.
For those of you unfamiliar with this series, allow me to quote my previous ramblings from 2 years ago about Seasons 1 and 2:
Peaky Blinders (5 out of 5)
I mentioned this series before last go around, but now since Season 2 has been released, I feel I need to re-iterate its greatness. This is an awesome Gangster series; superb writing, and even better acting. Talent wise, it is right up there with HBO’s Broadway Empire. Cillian Murphy, who plays Tommy Shelby, the main character, is superb. If you did not catch his performance in The Wind that Shakes the Barley,(also on Netflix) you need to make a point to do so…the guy is talented. In a nutshell, This is a true “1920’s Period Piece” that captures the British version of the “roaring twenties” like no other movie or series has; with historical elements like early IRA violence, political and police corruption and plenty of bloodshed, explosions, knife fights and gunfights in between. Definitely DO NOT miss both Seasons of this one!
As a historian, I find the writing for this series absolutely top-notch. There are several elements that enhance and make this series MORE than just your average Gangster/Crime drama, here are 4 of them:
- WWI History and Post World War I England
One of the great traits of this show is that the main character, the Patriarch as it were of the Peaky Blinders Gang, Thomas Shelby and his two brothers, Arthur and John are all WWI Veterans. Thomas as we learn was a “Tunneler” attached to the 179th Tunneling Company Royal Engineers. We learn in Episode 6 of Season 2 that Thomas was responsible for blowing up the German Strong point Schwaben Hohe, this fact made Thomas Shelby notorious for two reasons: The first being the explosion was the largest man-made mine crater of the First World War and was the starting point for the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The second is Mr. Shelby was only one of three men to survive that blast. The rest of his tunneling company were buried alive.
After the war there was a fellowship and brotherhood among all WWI Veterans, regardless of which side of the law you were on. Consequently, any man who did not serve in the Military in WWI was socially ostracized and seen as a coward, as is the case with the Lead Law Enforcement Officer, Inspector Campbell, played by Sam Neill. The “Small Heath Rifles” were famous in Birmingham (and all of England for that matter) for the Ordnance and Iron Works factories that produced Enfield Rifles and Ordnance for the Military. The men from Birmingham (called “Brummy’s) were considered tough, blue-collar working class men, not the frilly, soft social types you would find in and around London (People from East London were often called “Cockney’s).
- The IRA and the Irish Civil War
Part of the genius of this series is it not only focuses on Crime, but delves into the Political arena as well. With the early 1920’s being a red-letter date in the History of the Irish Republican Army, the writers weave an intricate sub-plot involving how the British Government sought to exploit the schism inside the IRA concerning the peace treaty with Britain by using Thomas Shelby to assassinate a key British Military Officials and then laying the blame on the Anti-Treaty Irish. The appearance of a young Winston Churchill when he was Secretary of State for the Colonies during the time of the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 shows how in-depth and attentive the writers and director were to ensure the series maintained historically accuracy.
- Ethnic and Racial Divides
Great Britain in the 1920’s was a very diverse country, racially and ethnically. As such, most of the cities were segregated along these lines. Jews, Italians, Indians and Gypsies all had their own neighborhoods or “Quarters”, and consequently, they also all had their own Gangs to protect these areas. It is interesting to note that the majority of the Peaky Blinders and its founding family, the Shelby’s, are of Romany Gypsy blood and as such are thought of and treated as inferior by the majority of the British. In Season 2, we see one of my favorite characters in the Show, the Jewish Gang Leader Alfie Solomons (played by Tom Hardy) join forces with the Peaky Blinders against a rival Italian Gang in an attempt to gain control of the lucrative speakeasy’s and racetracks in and around London.
- Historical Accuracy With Weapons
I have always made it a habit to keep a keen eye out when I watch Historical period piece movies/series to see if they stayed on their toes in the prop and set department. Peaky Blinders delivers in this area big time! First of all, being this is set in Great Britain in the 20’s, firearms were not very plentiful to civilians and gangsters (Unlike in America, where during the good ole’ Pre-NFA Days (National Firearms Act) you could order a Thompson Sub Machine Gun from a catalog!) Still some firearms are seen in the show:
- Variations of The Webley Revolver
- Harrington and Richardson Premier 2nd Model
- Smith and Wesson Victory Model
- M1911 Semi-Automatic
- Mauser C96 Broomhandle and Bolo SA
- FN Model 1900 SA
- Webley and Scott MK I SA
- FN Model 1910 SA
- Luger P-08 SA
- Lee-Enfield No.1 Mk. III Rile
- Lewis Machine Gun
- Various Shotguns
Be sure and Check out all 3 Seasons of The Peaky Blinders on Netflix, you won’t regret it.
Stay Alert, Stay Armed and Stay Dangerous!