main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Series: Peaky Blinders
May you be in heaven a full half-hour before the Devil knows you're dead.
"We're Peaky Blinders. We're not scared of coppers. If they come for us, we'll cut them a smile each."
— John Shelby, 1x01

Peaky Blinders is a six-part BBC series set in 1920s Birmingham, centering around the post-WWI tension between the street gangs and the police force. It's meant to evoke some of the more well-known westerns, as well as American gangster sagas like The Godfather and Boardwalk Empire with its focus on the Shelby family, who run the Peaky Blinders gang. It stars Cillian Murphy as new kingpin Tommy Shelby, Sam Neill as CI Campbell, sent to Birmingham to clean house, and Helen McCrory as Shelby matriarch Aunt Polly.

Ratings were good enough to not only renew it for a second season, but for the Weinstein Company to buy the American distribution rights for at least three seasons.

Peaky Blinders provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: According to the creator, this and Domestic Abuse was Truth in Television in 1919 Birmingham, and they can't show half of the violence that would have gone on.
    • Arthur Senior. At best, he's a con-artist who abandoned his family ten years ago. At worst, it's very likely he beat his sons (considering the way Arthur Junior reacts toward him during the boxing scene, Senior goading him to "take it like a man" and Junior wanting his father's approval). Either way, his behavior hurt the family so much that neither Tommy nor Polly will tolerate him in their house.
    • By modern standards, Polly and Ada would count, the former being physically violent toward the boys and the latter starving herself and her baby out of spite toward her family.
  • Action Dad: Who knew John Shelby had four kids?!
  • Action Mom: What Ada Shelby turns into in 1.06.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Tommy to John, Ada, and Finn. To Arthur as well, despite being younger than Arthur.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Arthur makes a show of being escorted by prostitutes and ribbing Tommy about not having had sex since the war (or so he thinks), but when asked outright why he's not married, why he doesn't have a girl of his own, Arthur does some of the worst coughing misdirection possible, turning the conversation back onto Tommy.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Since Grace is no longer his subordinate, Campbell proposes to her. The anguished part doesn't come until after she turns him down, prompting him to ask if it's Tommy that's come between them. Grace doesn't answer, but it's clearly the case.
    • Grace gives one of her own to Tommy in the season finale. He rejects her—at first.
  • Apron Matron: Aunt Polly. Not even Arthur mouths off to her.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: Pretty much every character has disparaged Campbell for not serving in World War One, making him very defensive about it. One reason the Shelby brothers are so highly regarded is because all three eldest brothers are decorated war veterans.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Tommy to Grace, in 1.05.
    Why did you shoot, Grace?
  • Arranged Marriage: Tommy gets John hitched to Esme to end the war with the Lees. John's less than happy about it at first, but he's convinced to calm down by his brothers and the fact that the girl's very pretty.
  • Asian Hooker Stereotype: Campbell inquires about Mr. Zhang's special services, and a young girl with a stereotypical accent comes to service him.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Both the Peaky Blinders and the police force run on this.
  • As You Know: Does Tommy really need reminding that a lot of the pubs in the area pay them protection money?
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: A familial example is Tommy and Ada in 1.06 - Ada may resent her brother and hate his vendetta against her husband, but when it comes down to it, Ada forgives Tommy.
  • Badass:
  • Badass Boast:
    • The page quote, from young up-and-comer John Shelby.
    • Campbell gets a lengthy one, in the form of a "The Reason You Suck" Speech to the police.
    • Campbell again in 1.02: "We will take them before last night's beer turns to piss and wakes the devils up. We will leave no stone unturned. Every gun, every bullet, brought to me for inspection. Now, take your positions!"
  • Bad Dreams: Tommy's opium-fuelled flashbacks to the war, usually triggering a Catapult Nightmare.
  • Bad-Guy Bar: The Garrison Tavern, unofficial headquarters for the Peaky Blinders.
  • Bait and Switch:
    • The expectation in the opening scene of the pilot is that Tommy Shelby wants the Chinese girl as a prostitute. He actually wants her to use her eye-catching red dust to tell his prize horse's fortune and drum up bets for the horse's next race.
    • Tommy makes the Italian mob-types believe he shot Danny for killing the Italian shop owner. He actually faked Danny's death and is sending him as a mole into London.
  • The Barnum: Arthur Senior, who shills his dreams of opening a casino in America to Arthur Junior. Junior falls for it, hook, line, and sinker, to the disappointment of his family.
  • Bash Brothers: Arthur and John tend to be the best example of this. When Tommy's along, it's a Bash Trio.
  • Berserk Button:
    • For Tommy: Don't call the Shelby boys' mother a whore. Don't threaten any member of the Shelby family.
    • For Polly: Don't act foolish or ignore her advice. Do not lie to her or break your word to the family.
    • For John: Don't call Lizzie a whore.
    • For Campbell: Questioning how he's dealing with the Peaky Blinders.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Grace and Ada.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Tommy, for all of his siblings. Even Arthur, who's older than him.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: Oh, guess.
  • Black and White Morality: Campbell has this. Unfortunately, the world of Birmingham gangs runs more on . . .
  • Bluff the Impostor: How Tommy figures out Grace isn't who they appear to be - any "good Catholic girl" would cross herself when she entered a church.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: John, most of the time. Arthur can get like this, but usually John's the one yelling his head off.
  • Boom, Headshot: Billy Kimber
  • Break-In Threat: The Lee family gets inside the Shelby house and betting shop, trashing the place and leaving behind a booby trap for Tommy to find.
  • British Accents: Whether or not you think the Brummie accents are accurate likely depends on if you're from the area. Cillian Murphy's is pretty strong (although notably he can't quite get out 'strategy'), Helen McCrory's less so. Sam Neill's Northern Irish is dead on, based upon his father's accent. Annabelle Wallis does a Northern Irish as well. No one's really sure what accent Iddo Goldberg is using for Freddie, considering it's Brummie by way of Dublin and Liverpool.
  • Broken Pedestal: Both Tommy and Campbell have it for Grace.
  • Bungled Suicide: Arthur attempts to hang himself after being humiliated by his father and duped into giving him 500 pounds, which he stole from the family. The rope breaks. Tommy tells him to use a gun next time.
  • Call Back:
    • In 1.03, Tommy stands in the Chinese laundry, examining the suits with Billy Kimber's name on the tags. In 1.06, Mr. Zhang examines a row of suits with the Shelby brothers' names on the tags.
    • In 1.04, Tommy tells Danny that every night, he can hear the German diggers tunneling through his wall, and unless he smokes opium, they tend to make it through (and trigger a full flashback to the battle) before the sun rises. In 1.05, after sleeping with Grace, Tommy says that the digging's stopped.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Tommy has one in episode 3.
  • The Chanteuse: Grace is the "Irish pub singer" subset. It's this talent which gets her the job at the Garrison Tavern and brings her to Tommy's attention.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • A literal gun is the derringer that Campbell gives Grace in 1.02. She places it in her purse, and nearly uses it in 1.03 when Billy Kimber attempts to rape her. The gun comes back again in 1.06, when Grace pulls it on Polly in the Garrison.
    • The need to fake Danny's death to appease the Italian mob served more purposes than getting Tommy eyes and ears in London and avoiding the death of an innocent man. It turns out that the Peaky Blinders have used Danny's grave to stash the stolen BSA guns.
  • The Chessmaster: Tommy, who's playing the police, the Bolsheviks, the Lees, Billy Kimber, and his own family, all in pursuit of becoming a legitimate businessman.
    • Campbell thinks he's one. The one big gamble he manipulates - pulling the police back from Small Heath to let the Peaky Blinders and Kimber's men annihilate each other - he comes out on the wrong side of due to Ada and Tommy, each in their own way, keeping the bloodshed to a minimum, and mostly everyone surviving.
  • Children Are Innocent: Averted, ten year old Finn Shelby is just as involved in the family business as his older brothers. He helps in the betting shop, runs errands for his brothers, helps round up portraits for the bonfire, drinks, and smokes cigarettes.
    • In 1x03, he even goes on the raid against the Lees at Cheltenham, with John taking away the hammer he was going to use and giving him a giant cleaver. In 1.06, he takes part in the big showdown with Kimber's men, getting a split lip, but nothing more serious.
  • The Clan: The Shelbys and the Lees.
  • Click Hello: Do not leave guns lying around Aunt Polly's home. She returns it to John like this, pistol-whipping him to emphasize how stupid an action it was.
  • Coitus Uninterruptus: Tommy apparently doesn't believe in knocking and bursts in on John and Esme mid-sex. His excuse is that they should've locked the door, it could have been anyone. After he leaves, John and Esme start back up again.
  • Colliding Criminal Conspiracies / Mle Trois: Tommy and the Peaky Blinders vs. Billy Kimber and the Lees vs. Campbell and the police. Enemy Mine and Villain Team-Up occur, but each side is ultimately out for their own interests.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture:
    • Campbell puts Arthur through this in the pilot.
    • Arthur slices off a bit of a gangster's ear to send a message to the Lee family.
    • What happens to Stanley Chapman under Campbell's watch.
  • Color Motif: The show is mostly a grey-brown urban landscape with one dominant color in each scene. It remains to be seen what they might mean.
    • Red: the dust the fortuneteller uses, the interior of Churchill's train, Grace's Cheltenham dress, Billy Kimber's pocket square and home, most of the Chinatown scenes.
    • Green: Grace's traveling suit, the interior of the Shelby home, Grace's bedroom.
    • Lilac/Purple: the art gallery where Campbell and Grace meet, the tea room where Campbell and Tommy meet.
    • White: the smoke of Campbell's train, the dossiers Campbell looks through, the snow Grace walks through, Ada's dresses and furs, Freddie's union hall, the white horse, the door to the betting shop Tommy walks through at the end of episode five.
    • Yellow: the interior of the Garrison, the boxing ring where Arthur attempts suicide, the candles in the church, the train station where Campbell possibly shoots Grace.
    • Blue: Polly's wardrobe, Freddie's basement flat, much of the gypsy camp.
  • Combat Medic: Jeremiah, who hasn't picked up a rifle since the war, but will make wisecracks about God while he's digging a bullet out of you.
  • Cool Horse: Tommy tends to acquire them. First Monaghan Boy, the black horse that he performs the powder trick on in the pilot. Then a gorgeous white horse he wins in a bet from the Lee family, but it ends badly.
  • The Consigliere:
    • Aunt Polly for most of the family, but Tommy in particular.
    • Roberts is the cooler, wiser head that prevails upon Billy Kimber.
    • Tommy is plotting to turn Grace into another one, more along the lines of the traditional Mafia consigliere. He needs a "Roberts", like Billy Kimber has, someone with class, who will be accepted by society as the public face of his new company in non-criminal matters.
  • The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: Campbell would like to remind you that Stanley Chapman died of falling down stairs, not an extended torture session in the basement of the local jail. And to go find some stairs to actually throw him down, just in case the Coroner does ask questions.
  • Corruption of a Minor: The Peaky Blinders find nothing wrong with taking an eleven year old along on shakedown, letting him run around their betting shop, and sending him to steal things from the local pub.
  • Cover Identity Anomaly: Grace doesn't know that a Catholic would cross themselves when they enter a church, and anyone who really had experience working in pubs would know how to pull a pint properly.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Tommy picks a fight with the Lee boys, but what sets all three Shelby brothers off is their mother being called a whore. They beat the holy hell out of the Lees, utilizing the razors sewn into their caps, but hey, at least they get great backing music while they do it (The Raconteurs' "Blue Veins")!
  • Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangster: And looks pretty cool, too.
  • Dark Action Girl: Grace and her pistol. Polly turns out to be one, too, though we don't quite get to see her wipe the floor with Grace.
  • Dating Catwoman: Ada Shelby is seeing Freddie Thorne, resident Bolshevik unionizer.
  • Death Faked for You: Danny, who actually believes Tommy's going to shoot him. He's sent off to London to be Tommy's eyes and ears instead.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Runs in the Shelby family - Polly, Ada, and Tommy are the ones who employ it the most, for varying reasons.
  • Dirty Cop: Campbell's first move in office is to clear out the extremely corrupt Birmingham PD and bring his own men in. He eventually falls into this himself, though, much to the horror of Sgt. Moss, who seems to mostly be a fairly principled guy.
  • Don't Make Me Take My Belt Off: Polly's clearly not afraid to use corporal punishment on the boys. She tells John that her boot's harder than any excuse he has for his childish behavior, and Tommy says the only reason she doesn't hit him with the fireplace poker is because she knows he's right about Freddie and Ada.
  • Do Wrong, Right: Little Finn picks up a hammer to use during the Cheltenham raid. John takes it away from him... and gives him a cleaver.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Tommy is an opium addict, which may or may not have an effect on his decisions. Also, as we discover in episode four, John does it for the same reasons.
  • Easy Evangelism: Arthur Senior, the Shelby patriarch, has apparently found Christianity while he's been away from Birmingham.
  • Eleventh Hour Ranger:
    • Jeremiah, the street preacher shown in short bits throughout the series, turns out to have been The Medic for the boys when they were in France. Tommy calls upon him to join them to battle Kimber - good thing, too, since Tommy ends up shot in the shoulder by Kimber.
    • Also in 1.06, Freddie, after the Peaky Blinders spring him from jail. He comes to help them fight Kimber bearing the single machine gun they managed to hide from Campbell.
  • Emotional Bruiser: The Shelby brothers, as opposed to the stoic Inspector Campbell.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Tommy Shelby, dressed in all black, riding a black horse down the middle of the deserted Chinatown street. He's theatrical, in charge, and decidedly not a white-hat type.
    • Campbell reading the dossiers of the suspected leaders of the Peaky Blinders, establishing his doggedness, preparation, and thorough understanding of the gangsters he's been sent to root out.
    • Grace walking alone in the snow down the main street, ethereal music in the background. She's mysterious, and her green dress clues us into her Irish heritage.
    • Polly pulling a gun on John, shouting at him for leaving it around the shop for Finn to play with, and pistol-whipping him to remind him to be more careful. She's the authority in the family and will discipline the boys no matter how old they are.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: The Lees call the Shelby brothers' mother a "didicoy whore". This is a bad idea.
  • Everybody Smokes
  • Evil Matriarch: Aunt Polly seems to be the most level-headed of the Shelby clan, but she's still running a street gang.
  • Expy: Tommy is essentially an Oop North version of Graham Greene's Pinkie Brown: they're both handsome, precocious young bosses of insignificant razor gangs with a dangerous ambition to usurp the race-fixing rackets of much more powerful gangsters. Tommy is less of an unfeeling sociopath, however, and Grace is a deconstruction of Pinkie's fawning ingenue admirer Rose, as she's really just acting the part to get information out of him.
  • Failed a Spot Check: The IRA hitmen sent to Birmingham in revenge for the killing of Ryan. They corner Tommy in the Garrison and are about to execute him - shame they didn't check the back room or pay more attention to pub employees.
    Tommy: To barmaids that don't count.
  • Family Business: Bookmaking, fixing races, and doling out beatdowns seem to be a Shelby tradition. Tommy wants to go legitimate, and does when Billy Kimber awards the Shelbys a legal betting pitch at one of his racetracks.
  • Fake Brit: Irishman Cillian Murphy playing Brummie Thomas Shelby.
  • Fake Irish: Annabelle Wallis plays the trope straight; she's from England. Sam Neill is a subversion; he was born in Northern Ireland and his character is from Northern Ireland, but he's more frequently billed from where he grew up in New Zealand.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Inspector Campbell. He'll smile at you, play up the harmless demeanor ... right until he sticks the knife in and tells you how disgusting he finds criminal scum.
  • Fidelity Test: Tommy gives one to Lizzie to see if she's really changed. He gives her 8 pounds for "one last time" - propositioning her to continue as a whore - and she takes him up on it. It means she's lying to John about not being a hooker anymore.
  • Financial Abuse: In the words of Polly, Arthur Senior is a "thieving whore-groping con artist", and it seems that his duping money out of the family is an old habit.
  • Fingore: Campbell breaks most of Arthur's fingers in the pilot.
  • Five-Bad Band:
    • Big Bad: Tommy, who runs the Peaky Blinders.
    • The Dragon: Arthur, who Tommy phases out of the leadership.
    • The Evil Genius: Aunt Polly, who dispenses advise and comes up with a good number of strategies.
    • The Brute: John, who is hotheaded and likes to issue threats.
    • The Dark Chick: Ada, who hates being a Shelby, but is pretty good at it. Esme's becoming another one.
    • Tagalong Kid: Finn, who takes part in the gang despite being all of eleven.
  • Foil:
    • Tommy and Campbell, slick British gangster prince versus cunning Irish copper - but since Tommy is of Irish descent and Campbell is an Ulster Protestant, each of them is from the other's country. Both men commit horrible acts of violence they justify with their own moral code, both are feared leaders you wouldn't want to cross, and both put Grace on a pedestal and are betrayed.
      Campbell: One thing I have learned is that you and I are opposites, but also just the same. Like an image in a mirror. We hate people, and they in turn hate us. More than, they fear us.
    • Polly and Grace, who have a bit of Light Feminine Dark Feminine going on. Both of them operate in unique roles in male-dominated worlds - Polly as the sole woman in the Peaky Blinders, Grace as a mole working with the police.
    • Grace and Ada, though that's mostly due to the way Tommy sees them. He believes them both to be young girls who made mistakes with men, and that having children ruined their lives. Except having a baby doesn't make Ada any less badass, and that harmless persona is only a cover for Grace.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Freddie tells Tommy in the pilot "maybe you should put a bullet in Danny Whizzbang's head, like they do with mad horses. Maybe you'll have to put a bullet in mine someday." As of the third episode, Tommy's two for two with bullets, faking Danny's death, but shooting him in the head nonetheless, and having to put down the white horse he bought from the Lees.
    • Before singing for Tommy in the Garrison, Grace tells him flirtatiously "I'll break your heart.". Tommy proclaims it's already broken, but by 1.06, Grace really does break his heart with her betrayal.
  • Foot Focus: Multiple close-ups of Tommy's boots.
  • Friend on the Force: Both Arthur and Tommy think they can turn Campbell into one for the Shelby family. They are very, very wrong.
  • Genre Savvy: Tommy, as part of his chessmaster nature. Campbell's no slouch at it either, though he has a giant blind spot when it comes to Grace.
  • Glasgow Grin: Invoked in one of John's lines (the one at the top of the page), and also very apparent on Arthur Sr.'s face. He's played by Tommy Flanagan, who is a Real Life example of this trope.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Played with. Ada wants to keep her child because she loves Freddie, not because she thinks abortion is wrong. Polly tells her to get the abortion, because it's more shameful to live as a "whore", with a "bastard child", and that when Ada's older, she'll thank her. Ada decides to go through with it, but at the train station, they meet a returning Freddie, who proposes to Ada and declares they're staying in Birmingham.
    • In addition, it's revealed that when Polly was sixteen, she made the mistake of keeping her child too long, too frightened to tell anyone. Eventually she performed an abortion on herself, nearly dying in the process.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Arthur Senior's Glasgow Grin. Three guesses which side he falls on.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Subverts the usual expectations - the mostly-good guys smoke cigarettes, hash, and opium; Campbell smokes a pipe.
  • Go Seduce My Archnemesis: What Campbell sends Grace to do to Tommy. He's not happy about it.
  • Gun Struggle: Happens multiple times in episode 3; first with Grace and the IRA sympathizer in the alley behind the Black Swan, second with Grace and Billy Kimber. In fact, the entire first season is basically a struggle over a crate of machine guns.
  • The Handler: Campbell has numerous operatives in Birmingham, most notably Grace.
  • Harbinger of Asskicking: You really don't want one of the boys to take their caps off. Trust us on this.
  • The Heart: For all her gloriously bitchy, Iron Lady exterior, Polly is this for the Shelby family. It's Polly who mediates the disputes in the family, Polly who reminds Tommy of what he was like before France, and Polly who realizes Grace and Tommy love each other, despite Grace's betrayal.
    Tommy: Polly tells me you fell in love for real, and Polly is never wrong about matters of the heart.
  • Heroic BSOD: If you can call any of the characters 'heroic':
    • Grace, who gets drunk and then sick with guilt after she kills the IRA member outside the Black Swan. An interesting case because she appears not to care when speaking to Campbell later, even implying it was standard operating procedure when they were in Belfast.
    • Tommy, upon finding out that it was Grace who told the police (and by extension, Kimber) exactly when the Peaky Blinders were planning on attacking Kimber. All he can do is stare unseeing while Polly tells him she'll take care of Grace, because if he does, he might kill her.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Winston Churchill, in his Secretary of State days, is the one behind Campbell's investigation into the BSA robbery and the Peaky Blinders.
    • Billy Kimber was also a real person who effectively controlled a large number of British racecourses until the early 1930s. At the height of his power the historical Kimber was able to exert influence as far north as Scarborough, on the Yorkshire coast.
  • Holier Than Thou: Campbell. He's really not, as we come to find out.
  • Honey Trap: What Grace is assigned to be for Tommy.
  • Hot Gypsy Woman: John's new wife Esme, who is in need of a good marriage because she's "been a bit wild". From what little we see of her, she's very sweet-tempered and smart, but certainly unopposed to enthusiastically consummating her marriage.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Billy Kimber would be useless without Roberts.
  • Hypocrite: Campbell lecturing Grace on not trusting a man who "cuts out tongues and kills without discrimination", when he could just as easily be talking about himself.
    • Hypocrisy Nod: Arthur hangs a lampshade on the irony of Tommy calling their father a selfish bastard.
      Arthur: You're calling someone a selfish bastard? It's a bit rich, Tommy, coming from you. I mean, thanks to you, we're already down a bloody sister.
  • Icy Blue Eyes: Campbell has them. All of the Shelby boys also have them, but Tommy's get the most attention (belonging to, you know, Cillian Murphy).
  • I Gave My Word:
    • Sergeant Moss is appalled that Campbell would go back on his word to Tommy about leaving Freddie alone. Campbell corrects him, his word only applies to people who are not scumbag criminals and Peaky Blinders.
    • Polly loses her shit on Tommy when she thinks he's broken his word that Freddie and Ada will be safe the night of John's wedding. He hasn't, but he didn't count on Grace telling Campbell that Freddie and Ada were at the Shelby house.
  • Improvised Weapon / Weaponized Headgear: The Peaky Blinders get their name from the razor blades they sew into the brims of their caps.
    • Aunt Polly uses a very long, very sharp hairpin, very nearly against Grace.
  • In Love with the Mark: Grace falls for Tommy, which doesn't go down well with Campbell.
  • Insistent Terminology: Campbell has to keep reminding Moss that he employs "operatives", not "spies".
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Ada and Freddie are having sex when Campbell's men start rousting the Bolsheviks from Garrison Court.
  • In the Blood: Extra-legal activities, gambling, and violence seem to be common in the Shelby family.
    Tommy: I think we're the first Shelbys in history to have a legal license for anything. What would our granddad say? Be turning in his grave - "honest bloody money? In this house?"
  • Iron Lady: Polly, for the Peaky Blinders. The gypsy queen is also this.
  • It's Personal:
    • Campbell admits to Moss that his mission in Birmingham has become this. Specifically, when Campbell discovers that Grace has fallen in love with Tommy he's pissed. When he realizes that Tommy is spending the night at Grace's house and presumably sleeping with her he goes from pursuing Tommy as a criminal to pursuing him as a romantic rival.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Campbell certainly isn't above getting his hands dirty, as he brutally beats Arthur Shelby mostly as a message to the rest of the Peaky Blinders not to underestimate him.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch:
    • Campbell "interrogating" a member of the Shelby family should horrify the audience. Fortunately, it's Arthur, a fairly unpleasant guy, so Campbell still comes across as a fairly grey character, rather than pure evil.
    • Subverted with the second beatdown we see Arthur take - one from his father, Arthur Senior. By this time, we've learned about Arthur's depression and desperation to be the favored child, and Senior shows up and treats him like dirt.
  • Knight Templar: CI Campbell.
  • Knight Templar Big Brother: All of the Shelby boys are like this for each other, as well as for Ada and Finn.
  • Lady in Red: Grace, at Cheltenham. Tommy specifies that the dress she buys should be red.
  • Like A Daughter To Me: Grace, for Campbell. Her actual father was killed fighting the IRA in Belfast. Ultimately subverted when it becomes increasingly clear that he's in love with her.
  • Like Father, Like Son: Arthur Senior has this to an extent with all four of his sons, but mostly with Arthur Junior. They're both dreamers who resent Tommy for having so much success in business.
  • London Gangster: Billy Kimber.
  • Lonely at the Top: Tommy displays some shades of this.
  • Mad Bomber: The Lees trash the Shelbys' betting shop, leaving behind a pair of wire cutters. What for? To try and defuse the grenade they've wired into the Shelbys' car.
  • Mad Eyes: Tommy's are pretty impressive. So are Ryan's and Byrne's, IRA representatives looking to buy the guns off Tommy.
  • Mafia Princess: Ada. Lampshaded by Freddie.
  • Mama Bear: Polly has this mostly for Ada. She even goes after Tommy first for burning Ada's letter to Freddie and then actually attacks him when she thinks he broke his word and gave Freddie up to the police.
    Polly: (to Freddie) You lay a hand on our Ada, and I'll put you in a wooden box myself.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Arthur and Polly serve as certain public faces of the family; Campbell twigs early on that if he wants to talk to the boss, he should be speaking with Tommy.
  • Mandatory Motherhood: Ada really, really shouldn't be sleeping with Freddie Thorne, nor should she become pregnant from this liaison. Naturally, she does.
  • The Mole: Grace, who's really an undercover operative for Campbell.
  • More Deadly Than The Male: Ada Shelby is just as cunning and dangerous as the rest of her family, and much more so than her husband, Freddie. Polly Grey laughs in the face of police inspectors and orders around killers twice her size. Grace Burgess shoots IRA operatives and is about to throw down with Polly before being talked out of it.
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut: Employed in different ways in regards to Ada and Grace. When it comes to Ada sleeping around, her brothers don't quite mind, so long as she doesn't get pregnant and word doesn't get around. But if she were to get pregnant and the man didn't marry her, they'd go ballistic. Grace, in contrast, is seen as innocent and virginal by just about everyone in her life, but she's the one who experiences less squeamishness when Campbell asks her to employ feminine wiles to seduce information out of Tommy. She's also the one to initiate sex with him, without hesitation.
  • My Local: The Garrison Tavern.
  • Nave Newcomer: Grace pretends to be this. She's definitely not.
  • Near-Rape Experience: Happens to poor Grace when Tommy auctions her off to Billy Kimber as part of their Villain Team-Up, originally thinking Kimber's harmless and she'll be able to knee him in the nuts and get away. Kimber's much more dangerous than Tommy thinks, and after a last minute attack of conscience, Tommy gets her away from Kimber before either a rape or another shooting happens.
  • Never a Self-Made Woman: Averted; Polly unquestionably ran the business for five years during World War One, and continues to rule the family in private matters.
  • New Era Speech: Campbell gets a rather spectacular one in the pilot, given to the Birmingham police when he brings in a load of new cops from Ireland to swell the ranks and bring about order.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • Uh, Arthur, maybe you might not have wanted to promise "help" to the new policeman from Special Branch when he introduces himself to you by kidnapping and torture? It gets the entire Courts threatened and some people rounded up by Campbell, and they think you're responsible.
    • Polly, maybe you might have considered that giving up the Bolshevik leader to Campbell in exchange for Freddie and Ada's safety wouldn't do any good if said Bolshevik leader can't actually give the police any information? You've just condemned a mostly-innocent man to death.
    • Great, Tommy, tell the mole in your organization precisely where you hid the BSA guns, what you do with all the contraband you import, where the Bolshevik renegade is hiding, and when you're going to attack Kimber's organization. Granted, Arthur doesn't precisely help either, but it's really Tommy's fault for being so smitten by Grace he tells her everything.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown:
    • Tommy gives one to Byrne when Byrne attempts to strangle him in the Garrison. After fighting his way back to his feet, Tommy headbutts Byrne and begins smashing a spittoon into his head, over and over.
    • Arthur Senior gives two to Arthur Junior over the course of episode five. The second is significantly more humiliating than the first.
  • No Indoor Voice: Billy Kimber, a lot of the time.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: Campbell's emotionally-charged, long-awaited first meeting with Tommy? Takes place in a tea house. Possibly a homage to the coffee scene in Heat.
  • Nonviolent Initial Confrontation: For Campbell and Tommy. Not so with Campbell and Arthur.
  • No Periods, Period: Ada's five weeks late. Seven, if you count weekends.
  • Not So Different: Campbell tells Tommy that they're the same, both hated and feared for the power they wield, both betrayed by the same woman.
  • Odd Friendship: Arthur and Grace strike one up when they begin running the Garrison. Arthur speaks to her like more of an equal than a simple barmaid or secretary would be, and Grace teases him about his terrible head for numbers.
  • Outlaw Couple: Tommy and Grace play with the trope, especially in 1.03, but ultimately it's averted due to Grace working for Campbell.
  • Papa Wolf: Tommy, especially about Finn. Threatening Arthur and John doesn't worry him, but the moment that Finn is put in threatened or actual danger, Tommy loses it.
  • Parental Abandonment: Mama Shelby seems to have died sometime after having Finn, but before the boys went off to war. Arthur Senior disappeared around ten years ago, just after Finn's birth, but shows back up in Birmingham a self-professed "changed man". He sticks around just long enough to dupe Arthur out of 500 pounds, then disappear again.
    • Promotion to Parent: Polly seems to have raised most, if not all of the Shelby children. In addition, Tommy acts as the father of the house, the stern disciplinarian to Polly's more compassionate mother figure.
  • Pet the Dog: Tommy hushing the spooked horse. Grace sees how gently he treats the horse, and it improves her opinion of him.
  • Phony Veteran: Arthur Senior apparently served "all over" during World War One. No one's buying it.
  • Power Walk: The Peaky Blinders, led by the three Shelby brothers, get an excellent one in 1.06, set to Dan Auerbach's "The Prowl".
  • Preacher Man: Jeremiah, the Jamaican street preacher who ends up being one of Tommy's lookouts.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • The entire cast is prone to this - except Campbell, who normally doesn't swear at all - but one of the best comes from Ada, yelling at the projector operator at the cinema Tommy's just emptied out to scream at her in, "Oi! I'm a Shelby too, you know! Turn my fucking film back on!" And then he does.
    • The only time Campbell swears in the show: "Mr. Chapman, you're fucked."
  • Rage Breaking Point: Ada has two of these with Tommy. At John's wedding, a drunken Ada lays into Tommy for his manipulations of the family (arranging John's marriage, refusing to accept her own marriage, causing her and Freddie to go into hiding. The last straw for Ada with Tommy is Freddie's arrest on the night of John's wedding. She believes Tommy is responsible, and is refusing to see or speak with anyone else from the family as well.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Campbell to the new Birmingham police recruits.
    • Aunt Polly to Tommy, when she finds out about the guns. She gives him another one in the next episode when they're fighting over Ada and Freddie. She gives a third speech to Grace, fairly spectacularly, in 1.06.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: A lot of material is lifted from The Proposition.
  • Relative Button: Campbell presses Tommy's in episode 4. He starts by listing off the way he'll kill Tommy and the elder Shelby brothers, then Ada and her unborn child. Finally, he says the only one he'd spare would be Finn - but only so that he could send eleven year old Finn to prison to be with child molesters and killers. Tommy snaps, raises his gun to shoot Campbell, but can't quite pull the trigger.
  • The Resenter: Ada, to Tommy - and by extension, the rest of the family. She's furious that Tommy can treat anyone like dirt and get away with it.
    • Also Arthur, who resents Tommy's gradual takeover of the family, and whose inferiority complex causes him to attempt suicide.
  • The Roaring Twenties: Subverted. It's Birmingham and 1919, so everything is gritty and post-war.
  • Romani: The Lee family.
    • Also, the Shelby family. Their maternal grandfather was supposedly a king amongst them, and Tommy reminds the current queen that they're family. Billy Kimber calls Tommy a "pikey", and the Lees taunt the Shelby brothers that their mother was Didicoy, a half-blooded gypsy.
  • Rousing Speech:
    • Arthur, of all people, turns out to be really good at these, with John as his Number Two. They whip the Peaky Blinders up to go and attack the Lees at Cheltenham as part of Tommy's plan to impress Billy Kimber.
    • Tommy gets an excellent one that he gives to the Peaky Blinders outside the Garrison, as Kimber's men are arriving to kill them.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Danny, twice. Possibly Grace or Campbell, depending on your interpretation of the ending.
  • Shaming the Mob: Ada's attempts to prevent a shootout in the finale. Applies to both definitions of the word 'mob'.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Played straight by Tommy, Freddie, Arthur, and most of the boys who served in World War One. Taken to its Tear Jerker, PTSD conclusion by Danny, who keeps flashing back to France and accidentally kills a man during a blackout.
  • Shirtless Scene:
    • Freddie Thorne, frequently.
    • Episode five gives Cillian Murphy one. Fandom is appreciative.
  • Shoot the Dog: Shoot the horse, really, which is what Tommy has to do to the white horse he won off the Lees. It's implied they sold it to him knowing it had a rotted hoof and would be lame soon anyway.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The basic premise of the show is very similar to The Godfather, depicting a large crime family, combining Vito and Tom Hagen's roles into Polly, and paralleling the four eldest Shelby kids to the four Corleone kids (Tommy and Michael as the rising new bosses, Arthur and Fredo the hapless brothers who feel threatened by the success of the younger boss, John and Sonny the hot-headed brothers, Ada and Connie the naive younger sisters).
      • Given that the soundtrack largely samples The Proposition, there's also a connection to the Burns brothers in that film and the Bondurant brothers in Lawless; much like Charlie Burns and Forrest Bondurant, Tommy is the second son who has to make all the important decisions, while the eldest brother is a big, violent thug, and the third one is foolish and impulsive. Also note that in two of the three families here described - Shelby and Burns - the eldest brother is named Arthur.
    • In the scene where Tommy fakes Danny's death, he quotes the Christina Rossetti poem "In the Bleak Midwinter".
    • The opera that Campbell meets Grace at is Tosca.
    • The tea shop confrontation between Campbell and Tommy resembles the scene in Heat where the cop and the gangster meet over coffee.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Grace gives one to Polly in 1.06, quite succinctly.
    Grace: Maybe what really upsets you is that someday, you might lose him.
  • Siblings in Crime
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Grace. Polly and Ada's tempers are a bit too fearsome to be this.
  • Single Mom Stripper: Lizzie Stark, John's proposed wife.
    Polly: John, Lizzie Stark's never done a day's work vertical in her life.
  • Slut Shaming:
    • Tommy, Arthur, and Polly ridicule Lizzie for being a hooker. Mostly, though, the real source of outrage is that she lied to John.
    • Moss's only comment for Grace, when it's revealed she's Campbell's mole and also has been sleeping with Tommy? "Whore." Furthermore, in his letter, Campbell calls what she's done "disgusting beyond all measure" and says her father would be ashamed of her. Of course, we're meant to take her side here.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Averted. Aunt Polly Grey and Ada Shelby both contribute to family business and meetings.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: While occasional bits of period music are used, the majority of the soundtrack is modern blues-rock. From the credits track of Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand" to The White Stripes' cover of "St. James Infirmary", this is not your granddaddy's soundtrack.
  • The Stoic: Campbell. Goes Not So Stoic when it comes to Grace telling him she can't marry him.
  • Straight Edge Evil: Campbell starts out as this, so self-righteous he doesn't even swear. By episode four, he's drinking on the job, dropping F-bombs and sliding down the slippery slope faster than a kid on a slip-n-slide.
  • The Strategist: Polly, ironically enough, the only one in the family who didn't go to war, is this. She's got a good head for business, and her plans are sound, except unlike Tommy, she can't turn a situation around that isn't going her way.
  • Surprise Pregnancy: Ada
  • Sweet Home Midlands
  • The Teetotaler: Byrne, the IRA representative in 1.05.
  • Thicker Than Water: Family is everything, and you don't break your word to your family. In episode five, the Shelbys believe Tommy lied about giving Freddie safe passage to see his son born when it was really Grace who told Campbell, and they turn against him. Then, in episode six, Tommy and Polly realize that Grace snitched on them to the police, who tipped off Kimber, and Polly only spares Grace because she honestly fell in love with Tommy.
  • Trip Wire Goes Click: The Lees leave a grenade wired to the car door of Tommy's car. Finn sets it off while playing, but luckily, Tommy's there to grab the grenade, throw it into an alley, and scoop Finn up.
  • The Troubles: Where CI Campbell made a name for himself. Originally from Northern Ireland, Campbell became an agent working against the IRA. Also the reason Grace became an agent - the IRA killed her copper father. Tommy is threatening to kick it all back off again by having the gun shipment sent to Belfast if he's killed.
  • Took a Level in Badass;
    • After spending two episodes mostly as the Butt Monkey of the family, Arthur takes a rather large level in 1x03 when he leads the raid on the Lees, and cuts part of one of the Lees' ears off as a threat.
    • Harry, the barman at the Garrison, in 1.05, when he stands up to Campbell and the police raid. Harry comes across as mild-mannered, likeable, most of the time, but when Campbell orders him to give up Tommy, Harry lies boldfacedly to Campbell and says he doesn't know where Tommy is. He does give Tommy up when Campbell puts a gun to his head, but the initial gesture of defiance was pretty cool. In the final episode of the first series, he also shows a lot of courage in standing up to Tommy.
    • Ada fucking Shelby and her baby carriage in 1.06, who march right into the middle of an all-out gun battle between the Peaky Blinders and Kimber's men and give them a very stern talking-to, daring them to hurt her.
  • Uncertain Doom: It's left purposefully unclear at the end of the season finale if Grace was shot by Campbell, Grace shoots Campbell, someone else shoots one or both of them, or what Tommy decided, to stay with his family or run away with Grace to New York. All we know is that there was a gunshot.
  • Unintentionally Notorious Crime: The BSA robbery. Tommy didn't actually mean to steal the weapons the British government was shipping to Libya; he was trying to steal motorcycles from the same warehouse, and kept the guns when he found out what he'd actually stolen.
  • Villain Protagonist: Kind of. Tommy isn't a monster, and he's not even the worst person on the show, but he's still a pretty bad guy.
  • Villain Team-Up: Tommy pulls this on three separate occasions. First he cuts a deal with Campbell - he and the Peaky Blinders will find the guns from the BSA robbery, quell the unionizing and run Freddie Thorne out of Birmingham, if Campbell turns a blind eye to Tommy's gambling operations. Second, he proposes, much more politely than he did to Campbell, to Billy Kimber that he and the Peaky Blinders be allowed to fix races and run security on Kimber's behalf, taking over from the Lee family. And then he arranges a marriage between his brother and a Lee girl, forging an alliance with the Lees to take down Kimber.
  • War Is Hell
  • We Used to Be Friends: Tommy Shelby and Freddie Thorne.
  • Wham Line:
    • From the pilot: "I'm in position, sir."
    • From 1.05: "My name is Arthur Shelby! Any man here think he can take me?" "... Dad?"
    • Polly, in 1.06: "Who else did you tell [about Black Star Day]?"
  • Woman in White: Ada
  • Women Are Wiser: Both Polly and Ada urge Freddie to see sense and leave England before Tommy comes after him. Polly is arguably the wisest character on the show.
  • The Worf Effect: All the terrible things that happen to Arthur (which we've talked about plenty on this page) are offset by the fact that he's a very large, intimidating-looking man.
  • World War One: The three eldest Shelby brothers, Freddie Thorne, and Danny Owen all served together in France. None of them came back the same. Danny has full-on flashbacks to combat, Arthur frequently gets the "Flanders Blues" (severe depressive periods), John and Tommy smoke opium "for headaches", and Tommy has Bad Dreams of the time they faced a German detatchment tunneling into their territory, saying he hears the shovels when he tries to sleep.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • The Lees booby-trap nearly kills Finn, but not actually intentionally, since their trap was meant for Tommy.
    • Inspector Campbell might not bash Finn's head in himself, but he would throw Finn in adult prison with child molesters with very little remorse.
    • After Ada's much-discussed Shaming the Mob bit with the baby carriage, most of the gangsters on both sides lower their guns, because nobody wants to engage in gunplay when there are ladies with babies present. Billy Kimber goes ahead and shoots Danny and Tommy.
  • Wretched Hive: Especially in the scene where Campbell first gets into Birmingham.
  • You Need to Get Laid: Arthur and John think it's been too long since Tommy's had a woman.
  • Your Mom: Anyone stupid enough to do this to any of the Shelby brothers usually ends up on the wrong end of the boys' caps.
Boardwalk EmpireCriminal ProceduralThe Lives Of Harry Lime
The Paul O'Grady ShowBritish SeriesPeep Show
The PacificHistorical SeriesQueen of Swords

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy