“No, I’m not god…. not yet”
It is the early 1920s. The world has just begun recuperating from the loss caused by World War I – both, human, and financial. The streets of Small Heath in Birmingham, UK are abuzz with women flocking to buy the day’s groceries and men running off to the races they have bets placed on. The gloomy weather is suddenly a witness to the sharp silence as chatter quiets down and streets clear out in a matter of seconds upon the sight of a tall, handsome man in a dusty black coat riding his way on a horse which prances like it is ready to take down the enemy at the warfront. The town only knew one man who was welcomed with such silence and fear, and that man could be none other than Thomas Shelby, the leader and the patriarch of the Shelby family criminal gang of tall, fiercely built men, and manipulative, pretty women.
During WWI, Thomas along with his elder brother Arthur served as a sapper for the British army digging trenches day and night to place a huge number of explosives under the positions where the enemy was holed up. His younger brother John, was in the cavalry. Years of hardship and life-threatening experiences during the war have shaped Thomas into the alpha male that he is today. Thomas Shelby and his family run the fearful, dreaded local gang known as the Peaky Blinders who make their money by placing illegal bets on races, and running a betting and extortion racket. The gang is feared across town because of their unique way of sewing razor blades into their rather stylish caps which are later used to injure (and in many cases, kill) the enemy in case a skirmish took place.
Just like any gang leader, Tommy Shelby wants the Peaky Blinders to have a firm hold over Birmingham and over the UK, in the larger picture. This obviously stems from the fact that the only success they have as a post WWI gang is controlling Small Heath, their home turf. Thomas has everything carefully planned out in order to climb the stairs of power while his family, make the steps under his supervision. Rival gangs are always a threat, but not a bigger threat than Tommy himself which often is the case as most of the rival gangs either surrender, or suffer defeat at the shrewd mind of Thomas.
Despite being not the eldest, Thomas is the patriarch of the family and the leader of the gang owing to his handsome, authoritarian, and an intimidating personality thanks to his incredibly sharp and foxy brain accompanied by a masculine voice so deep and firm, it reminds you of the merchant of death. Dressed always in his signature suit and hat, Tommy is always comforted by a pack of cigarettes, and is one of the few people to walk the earth who make smoking look cool. His eyes so deeply blue and poised, always drenched in thoughts, yet focused like an owl. Picture a wedding ceremony: the couple are beaming with joy, the guests are having the time of their life, and suddenly enters a well-built man dressed in a black suit holding a lit cigarette in between his right thumb and index finger. His footsteps reek of confidence and power, evidently as the whole room goes silent in his awe. That is the personality and aura of Thomas Shelby.
Tommy is a man of few words. Few, but definitive. He speaks only when he has to, and only when he is done reading the person in front of him with the help of a handful of stares in a matter of minutes. There is the authority of an army commander, the power of a king, and the confidence of a marksman in his deep, well-modulated and slightly hoarse voice. Thomas is not a man to back away from a fight, having spent his early manhood fighting in the WWI. Thomas is a man toughened by war, and built by his own principles. He once told a girl that he killed a man just because he “looked at him the wrong way”. Even though he is still haunted by the war in the form of PTSD, he makes it a point to never let his personal terrors affect his “business”.
Thomas may be a lethal gangster who took crucial decisions in the midst of a crisis, but beneath the façade of this man with blooded hands was a complete family man. He is a man who gives his family members equal importance, love, and respect because he knows that before a gang, Peaky Blinders is a family. Shelbys are a group of people who are rulers if together, and losers if alone. A series of events over the years, both professional and personal, may have made Tommy a broken man, but not a man who will bow down to another. He has been instrumental in establishing the upper hand of Peaky Blinders in the UK and around the world, but the fire within him is only kept alive by two things: his family and the ambition to “not stop until he finds a man he cannot defeat”.
Perhaps this is what Thomas Shelby really is. On a day when Tommy was battling his demons, his son Charlie asked him the following question:
“Are you not god?”
His reply summed up everything there was that one could know about him
“No, I’m not god…. not yet”