A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Peaky Blinders is a drama of uncommon quality, but it's not for kids. Brutal violence is frequent and includes point-blank shootings, stabbings, impalements, torture, and threats of terrible injuries such as cut-out tongues. There also are many graphic sexual scenes, with grunting, thrusting, and bared buttocks. A character gets pregnant out of wedlock; her relatives threaten to kill the man who impregnated her. There are references to rape, incest, casual sex, and oral sex, often couched in coarse language. Cursing is frequent and includes unbleeped "s--t" and "f--k" and salty words for body parts and prostitutes. Character drink very frequently on-screen and may act clumsy or violent when drinking; a rough bar is a major setting for much of the show's action. Many characters smoke pipes or cigarettes on-screen, including a young boy.
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What's the story?
In Birmingham, England, in 1919, the PEAKY BLINDERS are known for their lethal habit of sewing razor blades into the brims of their distinctive caps, all the better to head-butt (and maybe blind) their opponents when violence is called for. Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) is the fearless leader of the gang at a moment when it's at a crossroads. After the Blinders steal a cache of guns during a robbery, the gang comes to the attention of Chief Inspector Chester Campbell (Sam Neill), a detective in the Royal Irish Constabulary. Campbell's orders are to find the guns, break up the Blinders, and clean up crime and corruption in Birmingham. On Campbell's side: mysterious Irish colleen Grace Burgess (Annabelle Wallis), who's working as a barmaid in the Blinders' hangout and spying on Tommy for reasons of her own. Campbell also sees rich possibilities in the secretive romance between Tommy's sister Ada (Sophie Rundle) and Tommy's past wartime comrade and current political rival Freddie Thorne (Iddo Goldberg). But Tommy's not going to make it easy for Campbell to push him or his gang out. A war is coming, and how it'll end is anyone's guess.
Is it any good?
Peaky Blinders' very first scenes let mature viewers know they're in for a treat, as a solemn-faced Shelby parades through the grim, gray streets of early 20th-century Birmingham on a sleek black horse, the anachronistic strains of Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand" swelling on the soundtrack. Is murder on his mind? Is he looking for a rival or a romance? Is he about to wreak hell on what looks like a run-down neighborhood? Nope. He's flamboyantly buying the services of a local medium, paying to have a spell cast on his horse so he'll win at the races tomorrow. Does Shelby really believe this spell will make his horse a winner? Nah. He just wants to attract more betting customers.
Peaky Blinders is full of scenes like this, which zig when you expect them to zag or take the drama in an unexpected new direction. Gang stories are by now a cinematic trope. Audiences who gasped their way through The Godfather in the '70s are pretty immune to ultraviolent shocks on-screen. So though Blinders contains plenty of brutality and violence, it's not the meat of the story as it is in lesser gang dramas. The real drama is between the characters. Will Tommy forgive Freddie for knocking up his sister? What plans does Tommy's canny Aunt Polly have for her family members? What's Grace Burgess after, and does it have anything to do with the nightmarish flashbacks Tommy suffers every time he smokes opium? This rich and compelling drama is of unusually high quality. A lush treat for cerebral, adult viewers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why so many television dramas follow gangs. Why are gangs such an area of enduring fascination for viewers? What other shows about criminal gangs can you name? How are they similar to or different from Peaky Blinders?
Tommy and other Peaky Blinders gang members fought in World War I. How has that affected their characters and their actions? What about their political leanings? Find out more about British soldiers in WWI and what types of battlefield conditions and violence they faced. Does this help you understand the characters of Peaky Blinders?
Can you think of any other criminal groups in history with a distinctive mode of dress? Why would a gang want to have a signature look or an accessory? Why would they want to dress alike?
For kids who love history
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