How to watch Peaky Blinders – what’s it about and who’s in the cast?

Everything you need to know about the historical drama and how to watch it

(BBC, TL)

The BAFTA-winning historical crime drama, created by Steven Knight, explores gangster family life in early 20th century Birmingham. The show has been critically acclaimed for its writing, visuals, and music, and Den of Geek calls it “the most intelligent, stylish and engrossing BBC drama in ages”. Peaky Blinders will be returning for its fifth season in 2019.

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Here’s everything you need to know about the show.

How to watch Peaky Blinders?

You can watch Peaky Blinders for free in the UK on BBC iPlayer, or internationally on Netflix. You can also buy episodes on iTunes or Amazon Prime Video, or buy the digital box set on Sky.

What is Peaky Blinders about?

Peaky Blinders is a dramatisation of the true story of the a criminal youth gang who operated in Birmingham in the early 1900s. The show explores how the Shelby family run their illicit business and the trouble they get into with law enforcement.

Four series have already been released, and Peaky Blinders is set to return for a fifth series. It explores the impact of the political climate of a country between two World Wars on the criminal gang. Borrowing elements from traditional American gangster films, the series provides a fresh take on gangster life by exploring it in a new context.

In the upcoming series, Tommy Shelby, the leader of the Peaky Blinders and now MP of the Birmingham South Constituency, descends into mental instability as the tensions leading up to World War II build, and his criminal family face new challenges.

Who’s in the cast of Peaky Blinders?

(BBC, TL)
(BBC, TL)

Rock musician turned actor Cillian Murphy plays gang leader Thomas Shelby, and Helen McCrory, who played Narcissa Malfoy in Harry Potter, plays Polly Gray.

Gentleman Jack - Ep 3

Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby, and previously played Sebastian Moran in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Meanwhile, Sophie Rundle plays Ada Shelby, and she recently landed a role in BBC One and HBO’s Gentleman Jack.

Finn Cole plays Michael Gray, and also stars as Joshua ‘J’ Cody on Animal Kingdom, and Annabelle Wallis, who previously played Jane Seymour on The Tudors, plays Grace Shelby.

Sam Neill of Merlin and Jurassic Park plays the pipe-smoking antagonist Chief Inspector Chester Campbell, who has a personal vendetta against the Shelby family.

John Shelby, BBC Pictures, SL
John Shelby, BBC Pictures, SL

John Shelby was played by Joe Cole, who also featured in Skins, but he won’t be returning because (spoiler alert!) he was shot by a dozen bullets at the end of series four.

How many seasons of Peaky Blinders are there?

The show’s creator, Steven Knight, told Digital Spy that Peaky Blinders’ last episode will feature ‘the first air raid siren in Birmingham in 1939’. He’s confirmed this will be after series seven, so we’ve got at least three more series of Peaky Blinders to look forward to before then.

When is Peaky Blinders back?

Peaky Blinders

The Birmingham premiere of series five give already took place in July 2019, and there was a preview at the BFI in London shortly afterwards – so although no date has been announced, we expect the show will be available to watch this Summer.

Where was Peaky Blinders filmed?

Birmingham has obviously changed quite a bit over the last century, so as lovely looking as The Cube is, it would slightly damage the believability of a programme that’s set in the 1900s. As a result, many scenes of Peaky Blinders had to be filmed in Yorkshire, Liverpool and Leeds in areas where the architecture remains largely unchanged since 100 years ago.

Filming locations include the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley, and Victoria Baths in Manchester. Screen Yorkshire provided funding for the show’s production via its Yorkshire Content Fund, in return for a promise that most of the show would be filmed in Yorkshire.

The crew kept this promise, and numerous locations in Yorkshire were used to film the show. In fact, there are few places in the county left that won’t send a chill down your spine and a hand to your pocket to check your wallet’s still there, just in case the Peaky Blinders have taken it.

Who were the real Peaky Blinders?

peaky blinders

Although the Shelby family is fictional, the Peaky Blinders were a real urban youth gang that operated throughout Birmingham, although they operated up until World War I, rather than up to World War II, as the Shelbys do. The cause of their demise was competition from a rival gang, the Birmingham Boys, who haven’t features in the BBC drama, but may well be introduced in later series.

The group was borne from high unemployment rates driving young unemployed men to crime, and they were known to be brutal. Those characteristic flat caps worn by the cast, and also sometimes by the dog of Paul Anderson who plays Arthur Shelby, were worn by the real gang. However, it’s unclear whether this was just a fashion choice, or whether the rumours of secret razors being sewn into the lining in case of emergencies are true.

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Why are they called Peaky Blinders?

It’s rumoured that the real reason the Peaky Blinders wore flat caps, and the explanation for their name, is that they sewed razors into the peak of each hat so that when it was slashed across the face of an enemy, blood would drip down and blind them allowing a nifty escape. We’re hoping this is really just a gruesome myth made up by the Blinders to scare people into doing their bidding. But if it is true, the swimming goggle salesmen of World War I Birmingham must be rolling over in their graves – what a business opportunity to have missed!