Having never heard of this show prior to seeing it on Netflix, I must say I was quite intrigued right off the bat. With a rather unusual name, it stuck out like a sore thumb in my recommended section. After finishing the first season, I immediately watched all 6 episodes again. Now that i've finished it twice, I can easily say this is one of the best shows on British TV currently, and can stand toe-to-toe with anything HBO or Showtime has to offer. "Peaky Blinders" touches on a relatively unknown and fascinating portion of British history, and is supported by some of the finest acting I have ever seen on TV.
Let me preface this by saying I am an American living in the midwest, so the subject material in this show is something I never knew existed. "Peaky Blinders" takes place in post WW1 Birmingham, which is a time and place I can't say I was very familiar with prior to watching this show. Following a street gang who runs various racketeering and gambling enterprises called the Peaky Blinders, the show unfolds as a northern Irish detective(Sam Neill) comes to Birmingham to sort out a case of stolen machine guns. Things immediately start off with a bang, and rarely let up throughout the 6 hour show. Cillian Murphy plays the stoic, admirable leader of the Peaky Blinders, Tommy Shelby, and is easily one of the most likable anti-heroes I have seen both in TV and film. His character is smart, savvy, and equally ruthless, and despite all this, you find yourself rooting for him throughout the show. This is a phenomena similar to that of The Soprano's Tony Soprano. That is, no matter how many terrible things these characters do, we always find ourselves championing them and hoping for their success. The writers do a fantastic job humanizing these larger-than-life characters, making them relatable to the everyday person.
Next, i'll touch on the acting. Sam Neill and Cillian Murphy easily steal the show here, making both their characters incredibly fun to watch. Neill does a fine job with his northern Irish accent, and while not entirely perfect, it is indeed very believable. Cillian Murphy, on the other hand, nearly knocks the very difficult to impersonate "Brummie" accent out of the park. He speaks too slow at times, which is an unfortunate perception of how Birmingham folk speak, but for the most part he does a fine job and continues to show why he is one of the best accent impersonating actors in the biz today. The supporting cast does a solid job at this, too, which adds to the overall immersion of the series. Overall, everyone is believable for the time period, as nobody really knows what the dialect was like post WW1.
Apart from the fine writing and acting, "Peaky Blinders" has some pretty incredible set pieces as well. Birmingham is well portrayed as the industrial giant it was after the war, and throughout the show you see some period sets that will blow your mind. From narrow, cobblestone streets to steel mills shooting fire into the streets, you really get a feel for what this time may have been like. The city of Birmingham has been leveled since WW2, either by bombs or city planning, so there was some artistic interpretation as to how the city would look. Despite this, the show does a tremendous job building the city from the ground up and making it seem believable. For me, this brought the time period to life and gave me some insight on what the city would have been like in 1919. In "Peaky Blinders", Birmingham is a character all on it's own, which adds a rather interesting backdrop for the actors to work in.
Without giving too much more away about the plot of the show, if you are a fan of crime dramas and period pieces, definitely check this show out. The acting, writing, and special effects are all top notch, despite the show's relatively low budget. The creators definitely chose their spots as far as how to spend the budget they had, and they did an admirable job doing so. The first season must have done quite well over the pond though, as the second season will feature one of my favorite actors currently, Tom Hardy. Don't let the funny name fool you, as "Peaky Blinders" is one of the best shows out right now, period.
UPDATE: Season 4 was just released in the states on Netflix, and I had the pleasure of binging it in two days. "Peaky Blinders" is still a fantastic show, even with a slight drop-off in season 3 (in my opinion). Season 4 came back much stronger, though, and I give Knight a lot of credit for keeping this show alive and interesting across all these arcing seasons. Without giving anything away, I must say that Adrien Brody did a fantastic job in season 4 as the primary antagonist which is something I thought season 3 lacked. This show is still top notch, and Cillian Murphy continues to impress with his acting ability as the nefarious Tommy Shelby. If you haven't watched this show yet, or perhaps haven't completely followed along, do so "by the order of the Peaky Blinders". ;)