Peaky Blinders is a series full of compelling characters and explosive storylines, an anachronistic period drama that above all aims to entertain its fans. Its loyal fanbase is a testament to its accomplishments in its genre, but while it glamorizes the lives of the Birmingham-based Shelby family and their various criminal enterprises, the series has numerous inconsistencies.
That fans will continue to watch Peaky Blinders even with all of its plotholes is not in question, but these issues – when looked at all together – can’t help but threaten its legacy.
Too Many Resurrections
In Peaky Blinders, ɗᥱαꚍɧ comes cheap. It cheapens the drama of the series by being immaterial since any character at any time can be resurrected. From Inspector Campbell to Arthur, to Alfie, to Tommy himself, main character ɗᥱαꚍɧs are used to up the ante of season finales… right up until the following season when everything is reset.
By resurrecting so many characters, the act makes season finales feel like the world of comic books; main characters always come back because ɗᥱαꚍɧ isn’t a finality, simply a stop-gap in the action. Like Superman, these characters can’t ɗ𝔦ᥱ. The best ɗᥱαꚍɧs in the series are prescribed meaning because they’re not just used for shock value.
Peaky Blinders is a very violent series, in no small part because of the number of firefights and gunplay. Using firearms in any capacity onset is a very serious business, and so is communicating to the audience that cast members have used them before (and well). The amount of Mexican stand-offs in the series becomes dubious when fans consider that Tommy, Arthur, and others are World War I veterans.
Their tactics become the most laughable against Luca Changretta, where they eschew proper cover entirely, and rather than increase dramatic tension, it pulls viewers completely out of the action. It’s unbelievable that Tommy, a Sargeant Major, would continuously give up the tactical advantage to stand just a few feet from an enemy in order to deliver some intimidating dialogue.
The Tommy Shelby Show
Despite being an ensemble series, Tommy Shelby is often the central character involved in every major plot development. Which wouldn’t be a problem per se if he wasn’t incredibly overpowered. By the time that someone as organized as Luca Changretta or Oswald Mosley appears in later seasons, the sense that Tommy can be killed or challenged in some way is already diffused.
Tommy gets his fair share of heinous violence inflicted upon him, but the stakes remain low because there is the sense that without Tommy, the series will collapse. However, when considering the magnetism of the other characters, quite the opposite is true.
A lethargic pace for a series doesn’t have to be detrimental to its storyline. In fact, a slower pace for series like Breaking Bad perfectly aligns with well-designed character development. However, the same isn’t always true for Peaky Blinders, with episodes broken down into some plot development, some expository dialogue, and lots of smoking while walking in slow motion.
The series has always relied on its aesthetic, from the clothing the Blinders wear to the gritty urban landscape that they rule. Over time, however, that emphasis leads to problems with the structure of the episodes, causing viewers to check their pocket watches.
Predictable Season Structure
The first season of the series remains in many fans’ estimation to be its best, with every subsequent season appearing a clone of that first foray. Each season introduces a new vicious antagonist for the peaky blinders to face, with filler episodes bookended by a few episodes that focus on the plot, and a climactic season finale focusing on some major character’s ɗᥱαꚍɧ .
For some fans, this structure provides them with more of what they love. For others, it represents stagnation and repetitiveness. It’s a formula that functions well enough but doesn’t become particularly daring.
Sense Of Scale
As the series progresses, Shelby Company Ltd. becomes a burgeoning empire consisting of racketeering, distilling, and political machinations. Despite the amount of growth and the traveling the characters do, the sense of scale doesn’t match. This begins in the first season, when much of the action happens around a horse race fans don’t ever get to see.
Leaving some things to the imagination is appropriate, and even enticing for fans. But it’s difficult to get a sense of how powerful the Blinders and Tommy Shelby are when much of the environment doesn’t change and consists of numerous dimly lit interiors.
The Shelby clan might not have been a real family, but “Peaky Blinders” existed throughout Birmingham in the early 20th century, and none of them ever achieved the same level of wealth, influence, and social status. The young working-class men who became part of the gangs had a unique style of dress and disregard for the law, but that’s where the similarities end.
So while some aspects of Peaky Blinders are historically accurate, the majority are not. The real peaky blinders, who were plentiful in the late 19th century, were gone by the 1920s, making everything occurring in the series completely fictional, especially ties to Winston Churchill or any of Tommy’s connections to political movements. It’s a required suspension of disbelief to watch the series and view it as a historically accurate representation of the criminal underworld in Birmingham when Tommy Shelby is namedropping Al Capone.
Confusing Subplots & Dropped Storylines
The series began as an ensemble series, and as Tommy Shelby became a more prominent figure, other Peaky Blinders characters weren’t allowed to grow. This was especially problematic when said characters were expected to drop anything for Tommy without a believable familial bond. Their lack of involvement in certain storylines made it unbelievable that they would respond to his requests.
Characters like Arthur and Polly, who had thought-provoking and challenging storylines involving substance abuse, mental health, and suicidal ideation, were given no closure, their development ignored in favor of maintaining cheap caricatures. Meanwhile, families like the Romanovs dominated entire seasons despite being tertiary characters. Valuable core characters didn’t receive proper treatment because the series became obsessed with bigger confrontations involving the British Government, the IRA, and the Italian Mafia.
Underutilized Female Characters
Peaky Blinders had many strong female characters when it started, including Grace, Polly, and Ada, but over the course of five seasons, the women never seemed to live up to the strength of their initial appearance. In a time of deeply ingrained misogyny, the series did an excellent job of highlighting the hard life women faced in 20th century England, only to disregard their struggles.
Grace Shelby was discarded for entire seasons, with her demise in service to Tommy’s character development. Despite Polly’s blazing moment of conviction in the orphanage in Season 5, after her near-ɗᥱαꚍɧ experience she was trotted out for subplots that treated her like a circus performer. Even Ada, who was progressive and determined to steer clear of her family’s toxicity, was made to capitulate so much that she became a shadow of her former self.
Style Over Substance
There’s no denying that the series has some serious style, and true to life, the peaky blinders’ well-dressed attire belies their criminal enterprises. But it’s not just their clothing – the cinematography, the editing, and the anachronistic soundtrack all indicate a focus on aesthetics.
Problems arise when this becomes the sole focus, and too much time is devoted to characters sitting in low-lit rooms, smoking cigarettes, drinking whiskey, and pontificating about life, love, and destiny.