Fixed horse races. Cursed sapphires. A whole lot of Irish whiskey. If the ingredients of Peaky Blinders sound like they came straight out of the Gritty Period Drama Cookbook, that’s because they did. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch. Sure, this BBC show smells like “Boardwalk Empire from Over There,” but it tastes just as good as—if not better than—the pulpy gangster series that came before it.

Set in the 1910s and ’20s, Peaky Blinders traces its eponymous Birmingham, England street gang from ragtag to big time while also following the evolution (and/or devolution) of the Shelby family that runs it: Tommy (played by Cillian Murphy), the moody, merciless head of the family; Arthur (Paul Anderson), the unhinged older brother with a cocaine habit and the worst undercut outside of Williamsburg; Ada (Sophie Rundle), their sister who falls in love with a communist on the run; and Aunt Polly, the matriarch of the family, magnificently played by Helen McCrory.

At the start, the Peaky Blinders (the gang gets their name from their pageboy caps, worn with razorblades sewn into the brims for easy mutilating of enemies) are minor players, collecting protection fees and brawling with drunks throughout the neighborhood of Small Heath. The boys have just returned from the trenches of World War I, and are suffering their way through recovery: flashbacks, addictions to their drug-of-choice, and lots of unnecessary violence. But when the Shelby family’s gang mistakenly steals a crate of weapons meant for Libya, Winston Churchill sends Major Chester Campbell (Sam Neill), a law enforcer with a Belfast brogue, to straighten things out alongside Grace Burgess, a charming Irish spy (Annabelle Wallis).

Although the series is about the entire Shelby mob, Peaky Blinders’ best moments come when Tommy’s gloriously quiet swagger is matched up against his milieu of adversaries: morally rigid Major Campbell; the mercurial Italian gangster Darby Sabini (Noah Taylor); the sneering baker and bootlegger from Camdentown, Alfie Solomons (a terrifying Tom Hardy); the delightfully irate horse race fixer Billy Kimber (Charlie Creed-Miles); the outcast Russian oligarch Grand Duke Leon Petrovna (Jan Bijvoet); and the scariest of them all: the sinister, somber priest Father Hughes (Paddy Considine).

Over the course of the three seasons, you get to watch the Peaky Blinders transform from street gang to semi-legitimate business to the criminal enterprise running southern England—all against a backdrop of campy period detail, set to a soundtrack that includes Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, and Tom Waits. Yes, it’s another drama about an antihero conquering his demons to realize his ambitions, but with its solid supporting cast and over-the-top visuals of gritty Birmingham, it’s also one of the best conflicted-hero period pieces this side of Deadwood. Here’s how to drink it all in, one shot at a time.

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