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Peaky Blinders

Series 1 - Episode 1

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Review

It’s not long now before series five of the Birmingham gangster tale arrives, shifting the saga to 1929 – and to BBC1. Nobody is suggesting you stay up till 4am to catch (or re-watch) the first episodes from 2013 but set the digibox to record and revel in one of the decade’s standout TV creations.

From the start it broke new ground, with the rhythms of a Western and the colour palette of a dirty stormcloud. Everything in 1919 Birmingham is fifty shades of grey – morally and visually. The city’s kingpin is sad-eyed Tommy Shelby (a mesmerising Cillian Murphy), the thinking man’s racketeer and head of a crime family packed with psychopaths and – crucially – strong women. 


Tommy is the brains behind the Peaky Blinders gang, whose illegal bookies and protection racket dominate the Small Heath district. The Blinders have most of the local constabulary in their pocket – until a new Chief Inspector (Sam Neill, no less) arrives from Belfast to clean things up.

There’s plenty to clean: it’s a grimy, vicious neighbourhood where Communism and criminality mix in a murky cocktail. But it’s also the workshop of the world – the dark heart of the British Empire. All this and more comes out in a classy production that exerts a powerful grip.

Summary

In the wake of the First World War, former sapper Thomas Shelby and his brothers return from the trenches to their hometown of Birmingham, where their family runs a feared crime ring - making money from illegal betting, protection and the black market. Thomas recognises an opportunity to move up in the world when a crate of guns goes missing from an arms factory, but government minister Winston Churchill sends in a ruthless police chief from Belfast to impose order on the increasingly lawless city and recover the weapons. First episode of the drama, starring Cillian Murphy and Sam Neill.

Cast & Crew

Thomas Shelby Cillian Murphy
Insp Chester Campbell Sam Neill
Aunt Polly Helen McCrory
Arthur Shelby Paul Anderson
Grace Burgess Annabelle Wallis
Freddie Thorne Iddo Goldberg
Ada Shelby Sophie Rundle
John Shelby Joe Cole
Charlie Strong Ned Dennehy
Jeremiah Jesus Benjamin Zephaniah
Mr Zhang Lobo Chan
Finn Shelby Alfie Evans-Meese
Harry Fenton Neil Bell
Danny Whizz-Bang Samuel Edward-Cook
Curly Ian Peck
Sgt Moss Tony Pitts
Winston Churchill Andy Nyman
Director Otto Bathurst
Producer Katie Swinden
Writer Steven Knight
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Drama