Peaky Blinders may be all about criminals… but some of them are great people, while others are evil through and through.
In this British gangster drama, the Shelby family encounters many enemies and allies, and some characters who fall somewhere in between. The characters are each compelling in their own right, but a few stand out from the rest.
The villains usually have a purpose, but some of them are just plain evil, which makes them even more terrifying. Similarly, the hero of the show, along with his family, is not exactly a good guy. Yet the audience still empathizes with him and wants him to succeed in his endeavors. Here are the five best and five worst characters of Peaky Blinders.
BEST: Jessie Eden
Jessie Eden is one of the characters in the series who is based on a real person. Though she doesn’t appear in the show very much, she plays an important role as a (somewhat enigmatic) union convener. As a female communist in 1920s Britain, she’s incredibly brave to speak up and act, no matter the cost.
She organizes and leads a strike of all-female workers, which fans may remember as the scene where Linda convinces Polly and Lizzie to join her in leaving their posts and joining the strike. Jessie also has the unique opportunity to have the upper hand over Tommy, somehow finding information about his past and pre-war love.
WORST: Darby Sabini
Sabini seems hell-bent on exacting revenge on Tommy, or maybe he just truly enjoys being violent. His introduction to the series comes in the way of slicing the inside of Tommy’s cheek at the beginning of season 2.
The rest of the season follows him finding ways to kill Tommy and falling in and out of his alliance with Alfie. Sabini plays an instrumental role in season 4, though viewers never see him; he sends the assassin to work as a chef in Tommy’s kitchens, but Tommy kills him. His entire character is based around violence, fury, and murder.
BEST: Alfie Solomons
Alfie is unwaveringly entertaining to watch, expertly portrayed by Tom Hardy. His character is dynamic and constantly evolving, which makes his amusing appearances even more interesting.
Not only is every single piece of dialogue funny, but Alfie is clever and has a unique relationship with Tommy. When he dies at the end of season 4, everyone is shocked – but perhaps even more shocked when he makes a sudden reappearance at the end of season 5.
WORST: Tatiana Petrovna
Tatiana’s stay in Peaky Blinders is short, but she seems to cause nothing but trouble when she’s around. Her personality is unstable, and she makes Tommy questions many fundamental things about himself. This should be interesting to watch, but Tatiana also tries to “heal” him from Grace’s death.
Just before Grace is shot, Tatiana tells Tommy that the necklace she wears is cursed. After she dies, Tatiana takes advantage of Tommy and instead of allowing him to grieve his wife, she makes life much harder for him.
BEST: Ada Thorne (née Shelby)
Ada is the only female of the Shelby siblings, and she handles her rowdy, headstrong brothers with grace and responsibility. She begins the series as little more than a child but reveals her character when she marries Freddie despite his social standing and names their child after Karl Marx.
Ada brings a level of civility and logic to the family, and without her presence, they would all be in disarray. She also has very strong morals, which is why she initially refuses to be involved with the company. When she agrees to lead the United States branch of Shelby Company Limited, she vows to only deal with the legal end of things.
WORST: Father John Hughes
Father Hughes is the main antagonist of the show’s third season. He’s a priest, but not a nice one. He represents the Economic League, also known as Section D, and manipulates Tommy, going so far as to have Charlie kidnapped.
This becomes important when the Shelbys learn that he’s a pedophile and child molester. In fact, Michael is one of his victims, which is why he’s the one to kill Hughes. The Economic League previously protects Hughes from any punishment.
BEST: Arthur Shelby
Arthur is one of the most complex characters in the series. He’s erratic and hard to keep up with, but fans still root for him. As the oldest Shelby brother, he carries a certain amount of responsibility, but he’s not much of a leader or role model in the earlier seasons. When he marries Linda, he’s torn between devoting himself to his wife and following Tommy’s orders.
On several occasions, Arthur promises her that they will move away, but their plans always fall through. By the fifth season, he’s developed some semblance of a moral compass and earned a degree of honor, but he’s still tormented and unstable, which makes him simultaneously worthy of pity and empathy.
WORST: Chester Campbell
Chester Campbell may just be the most despicable and disliked character of Peaky Blinders. In season 1, he’s racing to find Tommy’s stolen guns but soon makes it a personal vendetta, after he feels that Tommy has stolen Grace away from him.
In season 2, his level of evil skyrockets, and he becomes a cold, ruthless, unfeeling, vengeance-seeking brute. He forces Polly to perform a vile act, and by the end of the season, she kills him at the races.
BEST: Thomas Shelby
Though the series is called Peaky Blinders, it’s really about Tommy more than anyone else. His character is put under a microscope and given the most opportunities to evolve. Most episodes open with closeup shots of his eyes, and Cillian Murphy imbues the character with many quirks and mannerisms that reveal his character in subtle ways.
As the leader of the gang, he is in charge of everything that goes on within the business, and he uses his position of power to climb the ranks. By season 5, he’s involved in politics and using it to his advantage. Hopefully, he will continue to use his power in more positive ways going forward.
WORST: Oswald Mosley
Season 5 introduces a new antagonist and threat to Tommy’s authority: Oswald Mosley. Smooth and suave at first, it quickly becomes apparent that he hides a more monstrous part of himself beneath the surface.
He’s a hardcore fascist who has an unhealthy obsession with Ada and swans. Tommy feigns alliance with Mosley so that he can eventually take him down, but somebody is already two steps ahead of him. When Tommy’s hitman is killed, he realizes that he has, for the first time, been outsmarted and defeated.