When it started out, “Peaky Blinders” was not just a show about Tommy Shelby but also the entire Peaky crime family, each dealing with their personal demons in an unforgiving world. There’s Arthur (Paul Anderson), Tommy’s older brother who’s prone to fits of rage followed by abject self-loathing; Polly Gray (Helen McCrory), Tommy’s aunt who’s lived a hard life and hardened her own heart as a result; Tommy’s sister Ada (Sophie Rundle), who wants to leave a life of crime behind but keeps getting sucked back into it.
Later seasons see more compelling characters added to the plot, like Lizzie (Natasha O’Keeffe), the former prostitute who becomes Tommy’s wife and suffers through his schemes and infidelities. Even the antagonistic characters like Major Campbell (Sam Neill) and Luca Changretta (Adrien Brody) get backstories that add to their motivations and make them much more than simple villains to be mowed down by the Blinders gang.
It would have been easy for the plot to get lost amongst the many interwoven character threads, but “Peaky Blinders” does a good job of making the characters’ personal arcs part of the main narrative instead of letting them overpower the proceedings — at least in the first four seasons, before the focus started shifting exclusively toward Tommy.