On the surface, Peaky Blinders is a show about an early 20th century family of gypsies and petty criminals rising to build an international, respected, far-reaching yet still criminal empire. Actually, it’s about trauma. Trauma haunts the Shelbys, no matter where or how far they go.
Arthur is lost in a haze of drugs, drinks, and violence, fighting for a normal family, a normal life he’ll never have. Ada loses a husband and then another would-be husband, but their children remain, and so do society’s unblinking stares. The most prevalent example, however, is Tommy Shelby, the tragic hero at the center of this period drama.
A distinguished soldier post-WWI, Tommy suffers from PTSD when the show begins, and from there, his nightmares only escalate in lockstep with his success. Tommy fights off a new police chief but loses his best friend. He secures a knighthood, but his wife is shot. Tommy becomes a Member of Parliament, but his cousin loses most of the family’s money.
Throughout the seasons of the show, you can see the life fading from Tommy’s eyes. Worse things keep happening, but Tommy’s reactions grow dimmer. Having already been fractured, his heart completely turns to stone. What’s fascinating is that Tommy knows all of his — and yet he keeps on going.
“I thought I could just march and march,” he confides to his brother. “I just kept up that fucking left, right, left, right, left, right, fucking rhythm. I’d never have to stop.” Tommy Shelby survived the war, but he never came home. Ever since he went, he’s just been marching. Left, right, left, right, left, right.
For most of us, life isn’t as traumatic as for any one member of the Shelby clan, but, sometimes pain-induced, sometimes out of habit, we too can just keep marching.
Why are you marching? What’s your destination? Where will all that left-right lead you? Think about the last stop before you take off. You might find you can’t stop once you get going.
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This post was previously published on Niklas Göke’s blog.
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