For all the new Netflix content that I consume on a regular basis, I’ve got a confession to make: I’m hard-pressed to come up with another show on the streamer that’s made as much of a lasting impression on me as Peaky Blinders has. So much so that — even now, ten years after it first debuted — the characters and most epic scenes still carry a powerful emotional resonance in my memory.
How do you even start to sum up a Netflix series like this one? From Cillian Murphy’s performance-for-the-ages as the brooding gangster Tommy Shelby to his snarling yet loyal brother Arthur, the show was packed with iconic, mesmerizing characters. The same goes for the Peaky Blinders women like Polly, Ada, and Lizzie — all of them as tough as steel — and Tom Hardy’s gonzo performance as Tommy’s wild and unruly frenemy Alfie Solomons.
And even though the sixth and final season hit Netflix earlier this year, I can still rattle off so many of my favorite moments, big and small, from over the course of the show as if they happened yesterday.
Who can forget the Peaky gang’s badass slow-motion walks? Or Arthur’s faked death; Tommy’s narrowly avoided assassination; the way Grace could tell Tommy how much she loved him just with her eyes; that cover of Bob Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall as the Shelbys were casting their votes in the finale of Season 4; Tommy’s heartbreaking eulogy for his daughter in Season 6 … I haven’t even scratched the surface, but you get the idea. The show was always bigger and more exciting than most of its fellow BBC dramas, more quiet and profound than typical gangster series, full of exciting twists and perfect needle-drops, and became a global phenomenon by the time it was all over.
The writing that gave Tommy, Polly, Alfie, and so many others one zinger of a line after another only solidified that status. In honor of Peaky Blinders’ 10th anniversary — it first debuted back in September 2013 — here are seven of my favorite quotes from the show that, by the way, also had one of the only TV theme songs that I never, ever skipped (“On a gathering storm / comes a tall, handsome man / in a dusty, black coat / with a red right hand“).
Life and death
“We live somewhere between life and death, waiting to move on, and in the end we accept it. We shake hands with the devils and we walk past them.” — Polly, to Tommy, in episode six of Season 4.
RIP to Helen McCrory, the actress who gave Polly Gray such a steely resolve that you never stopped rooting for her. Helen was always magic in every single scene she was in with Cillian. Polly understood Tommy’s lingering trauma from World War I. She also tried to curb his dangerous impulses. A strong, devout, beautiful, and resolute woman.
The wisdom of Solomons
“He’ll wake up. Granted, he won’t have any teeth left, but he will be a wiser man for it.” — Alfie Solomons, from episode three of Season 2.
Having Tom Hardy play the Jewish gangster-entrepreneur Alfie Solomons is just one of so many examples I can point to about Peaky Blinders being absolutely perfectly cast. With his at-times barely decipherable accent, Alfie could come off as hilarious, menacing, downright evil, but also helpful — often in the same sentence. Honestly, there are probably a dozen more quotes from him that I could have included here.
What Tommy wants, he gets
“I don’t pay for suits. My suits are on the house, or the house burns down.” — Tommy Shelby, in episode three of Season 1.
Enough said, right? Peaky Blinders showed us so many sides of Tommy Shelby. The brilliant businessman. The traumatized war veteran. Devoted brother. Later on, he even became an upstart politician by getting himself elected to Parliament. But, in this case, we glimpse the killer underneath it all, the gangster who follows no code but his own.
No fighting at the wedding
“This is my f****** wedding day … Despite the bad blood, I’ll have none of it on my carpet … No fighting. No f****** fighting. No fighting. NO F****** FIGHTING!” — Tommy, to basically everybody in episode one of Season 3.
Ask any Peaky Blinders fan to start listing their favorite quotes from the show, and while there are sure to be variations here and there, I guarantee you this admonition from Tommy on the day of his wedding to Grace, angrily instructing everyone to behave themselves and to refrain from drugs as well as getting into any fisticuffs, will be on Every. Single. List.
Tommy almost dies
“Oh … and there’s a woman. Yeah. A woman… who I love… And I got close. I nearly got F****** EVERYTHING!” Tommy, right before he thinks he’s about to be killed, at the end of Season 2.
I don’t think I breathed once throughout this entire scene of five minutes or so. Tommy’s been picked up and taken to a field, out in the middle of nowhere, where three IRA assassins stand over a grave. Tommy’s grave. This can’t be the end, can it? The killers stare at him, blankly. The director of the scene, it’s as if he knows what you’re thinking. Because, at one point, the camera angle changes so that you’re looking down onto the scene, the three killers on every side of Tommy in a triangle formation. He’s not getting out of this.
He asks for a cigarette. He delivers those amazing lines, with the thousand-yard stare of a war veteran. One of the killers pushes Tommy to his knees. “In the bleak midwinter,” Tommy laments, before … the rest of the scene unfolds (no, I’m not spoiling it!)
That line from an English carol
“In the bleak midwinter …” — every time a main Peaky Blinders character almost dies.
There’s something that feels so quintessentially English about this phrase that ends up becoming a recurring line throughout the show. Tommy, in Season 4, breaks every viewer’s heart when he explains the significance. It’s a reference to the moment when Tommy and the rest of his comrades were cut off behind enemy lines during WWI. They were out of bullets, and with nowhere to go — unable to retreat. They assumed they were moments away from the Prussian cavalry wiping them all out. To comfort themselves before the end, they sang In the Bleak Midwinter.
Only … the end never came. The Small Heath Rifles lived to fight another day. From that day on, they told themselves that every day they got to live henceforth was extra. And when death did finally come? They’d meet it, once again, by quoting the carol’s refrain.
Don’t do it.
“Don’t f*** with the Peaky Blinders.” — Polly, in episode three of Season 5.
Is there any other line from the show that did a better job of cutting like a knife than this one? The gang was always known for dispensing terrifying violence against its enemies, which makes lines like this one all the more scary.
In this particular case, Polly delivers the warning to the sadistic Inspector Campbell. He got what was coming to him, of course. And Peaky Blinders fans got a line that would end up ranking as an all-time favorite.