John Michael Shelby, also known as Johnny or John Boy, was the third of Shelby siblings and a high ranking member of the Peaky Blinders. He was also a 1/3 shareholder in the Shelby Family business, Shelby Company Limited. He was the husband of Esme Shelby and therefore related to the Lee Family through marriage.
After the Peaky Blinders get mixed up with the Changretta Family, John receives the Black Hand from them, but is slow to react and misses a warning from his brother Tommy, and is shot to death in his family estate.
Being the third oldest Shelby, John frequently attends any Shelby family meetings that take place in the Shelby home. From these meetings it is evident that John does not trust and dislikes coppers, and isn’t afraid to hurt them to make them leave the Peaky Blinders alone.
John idolizes the Peaky Blinders moniker; the whole image and what they stand for. While he is more good humored than his older brothers, he has the famous Shelby temper. His actions can sometimes be reckless, but he has shown to be more similar to Thomas when dealing with the family business. While he is not as cutthroat as Thomas or rash as Arthur, he is just as dangerous and capable.
John originally helps run the books for the Peaky Blinders, suggesting he is better with numbers and books than his brother Arthur.
Series 1 · 1919
John is 24 years of age at the start of the first series. He is young and handsome and immaculately groomed, first seen at the blackboard of the betting shop with a ledger in his hand. He aids Thomas and the Peaky Blinders in fixing the race of the horse Monaghan Boy.
At one point, John is walking down the alley of Slum Street and gets interrupted by Polly Shelby, who points a Webley revolver at John’s head, informing him that his younger brother Finn was playing with it that very afternoon. John promises her that he will no longer leave guns lying around for his younger brother to find.
After Arthur Shelby Jr. gets interrogated and beaten up by Inspector Campbell, John along with the rest of his siblings help clean Arthur up.
John is present at Thomas’s first meeting with Billy Kimber at The Garrison Pub, and though he initially resists working with the insulting man, he obeys his older brother Thomas’s wishes and keeps this opinion to himself.
Along with the Peaky Blinders, John stops the Lee family at the Cheltenham races and helps return to Billy Kimber his stolen money.
In Episode 1.4, John calls a family meeting. He informs them that he is going to marry the prostitute Lizzie Stark so that she can help him with his kids, who have become exceedingly difficult to take care of. The plan fails when Thomas later informs him that he offered Lizzie money to service him and that she said yes. John decides not to go see Lizzie as he had planned.
The next day, Thomas reveals to John that he will be getting married to a Lee family member to settle the dispute between the Shelbys and the Lees. At first he is furious, but John agrees and marries Esme Lee, and they have a wedding with fireworks and dancing. Ada Shelby’s water breaks soon after the ceremony, and she gives birth to her son, and John’s nephew, Karl.
When John’s father, Arthur Shelby Sr. shows up to their family home, John is simply uninterested, unlike his brother Arthur who had missed the man greatly.
Series 2 · 1922
John is now 27 years of age, and his relationship with Esme is doing well. At a Shelby family meeting, John expresses his dislike of Thomas’s plan for southward expansion of the Shelby Family business to London, stating that he doesn’t want to change things as their business is already successful and that expanding the business is a dangerous idea. Thomas offers him a chance to leave his title and the business before the expansion, but John decides to stay.
John heads with his brothers and his cousin Michael Gray to the Doncaster Bloodstock to buy a 1,000 guinea horse. He also heads with Arthur and Thomas to London once again to tear up Sabini’s club.
In an effort to get his brother Arthur out of prison, John obeys Thomas’s orders and blows up the residence of Field Marshal Henry Russell, (also so that Thomas does not have to go to the man’s house in order to assassinate him.)
He heads to the Epsom Derby along with the Peaky Blinders gang. There, John helps ruin Sabini’s plans by confiscating his men’s takings and destroy his licences at gunpoint.
Series 3 · 1924
John is now 29 years of age. At the beginning of the series, he is expecting his second child with Esme.
However, in 3.02, John ignites the war between the Shelby family and the Italians by threatening Angel Changretta, Vicente Changretta's son, during the meeting when they discuss Angel's relationship with Lizzie Stark, John's ex-fiancee. Later, when Angel threatens him back, John takes him by surprise when Angel is picking up his suit, stabbing him in the eye. That causes Thomas' wife, Grace, to be killed by the Italians as revenge against Angel.
In 3.03, when Thomas orders John and Arthur to kill their school teacher, Mrs. Changretta, John gets angry at Thomas and starts screaming at him. In the end, John and Arthur spare their school teacher and when Thomas tortures Vicente Changretta, Arthur shoots him to spare him the pain.
In 3.04, John appears on the hunt with the rest of the male members of the Peaky Blinders. When he comes back from the hunt, he catches his wife, Esme, trying to steal money to sustain her cocaine addiction. He warns her against it and promises to buy her a big house, later kissing her.
In 3.05, John takes part of the orgy at Wilderness House and visits one of the Peaky Blidners spies, comforting him.
In 3.06, he and Arthur blow up a train with six innocent workers inside them at the orders of Thomas Shelby, who had been manipulated to do so by the Russians. He is later arrested by the police due to the conspiracy to cause explosion and murder.
Series 4 · 1926
Having been pardoned for his crime of exploding the train, John is now 30 years of age and has been living with Esme and their children in their isolated, countryside estate.
After receiving the Black Hand from the Changretta family, John is slow to react. He misses a phone call at night from Thomas that was intended to warn him to leave immediately to Small Heath. Thomas sends Michael over to his estate to convey the message, but Esme, John, and Michael are ambushed on John's porch by a section of Changretta mobsters wielding automatic weapons.
John pushes Esme indoors and fires his rifle at the enemies, but both he and Michael are ultimately gunned down. Michael is severely injured while the more exposed John is shot dead by a dozen bullets.
John marries Esme in order to keep the Lee Family and the Shelbys from not only going to war with each other but to stop fighting amongst themselves. Esme and John have three children together and Esme is also the step-mother to his other four children from his first marriage with Martha who died before the show. They do love each other, as displayed by their affection towards one another and when they made a solemn promise to each other. In season 3, John promises to buy Esme a house with lots of land in order for him and the family to camp out when she feels like she's being cooped up. He also defends her when Tommy accuses her of betraying him when his son, Charlie, is kidnapped.
It has been mentioned multiple times that John has four children but they were never seen onscreen in the first series. In Episode 1.4, John informs his family of how difficult they have become to manage for him as a single father. In Episode 1.6, one of the kids yells up to him saying "Katie has wet the bed" indicating he has at least one daughter. In the second series it's mentioned in the episode about the expansion in the family meeting that Esme has a baby herself, and in the third series Esme is once again pregnant, totaling John's children to 6. Though John's children are never named, they are seen throughout the third series at family events and photos. From those shown on screen, he has a daughter named Katie and another unnamed daughter and two sons from his first wife Martha. His children with Esme are unnamed, though he does refuse to name their second child Arthur after his father's death.
John admires his older brother. In the first season they have a conversation about how the whole family should look out for each other. Tommy tells him that their grandfather would be proud of John, since John runs the books. John keeps following his brothers orders, however he got tired of it and felt like Tommy needed to be more clear with the brothers. It leads to the tense conversation between the two of them in season 3. Tommy gave a speech at his funeral.
Arthur is John's oldest brother and the one he is closest to out of the four. Arthur and John not only grew up together but also served in the same regiment in the army. They are the closest to one another since they both lean on one another when they partake in illegitimate business. Throughout the series they are constantly together, there is hardly a scene where they are not together.
Both of them often share their burdens of killing enemies together. For example when Tommy asked them to kill Changretta and his wife, they were hesitant since his wife used to teach them in primary school. Although the pair often do things together, they have very different views. When John says he will cut one of the Italian's a smile, Arthur says he should apologize but Tommy says he should actually kill him to send a message to Sabini, which John does. John is however less violent than Arthur, who has killed more people in the show, and John seems to have more of a conscience than Tommy as Lizzie Stark says she doesn't see what she see's in Tommy's eyes in his.
John informs Polly that when he was Michael’s age, he’d killed 100 men and seen 1,000 die. Hinting that she is not doing a good job as a parent, he tells her to let Michael come to the Doncaster Bloodstock horse auction with him and Arthur and Thomas. Polly does as John suggested.
Upon meeting his cousin for the first time, John tells Michael, “I used to put you in a shoebox and kick you down Watery Lane.” John treats him similarly to how he treats his younger brother Finn—he is protective of him and keeps an eye on him as per Thomas’s orders.
John also begins to resent Michael taking a more crucial role in the company when he becomes financial advisor and Tommy is seen to be telling Michael more than he tells John. John gets particularly annoyed at this when he speaks to Michael before him, getting very angered "you saw Michael before us!" Tommy doesn't understand John's anger stating that legitimate business is the priority, prompting the response from John of "Since when!". John does not like Tommy treating him like a 'toy soldier' and puts part of the blame for this onto Michael.
Despite Lizzie being a previous partner of John’s, he still keeps a good friendship with her. When he finds her rattled and distraught at the Epsom Derby, John speaks to her, and Lizzie tells him that he should quit being a Peaky Blinder because he is too honorable a man for it (unlike his brother Thomas).
- "Anyway, we're Peaky Blinders. We're not scared of coppers. If they come for us, we'll cut them a smile each."
- “John I don’t see the same thing in your eyes that I see in Tommy’s. You should get out.”
|Series 1 Appearances|
|Episode 1.1||Episode 1.2||Episode 1.3||Episode 1.4||Episode 1.5||Episode 1.6|
|Series 2 Appearances|
|Episode 2.1||Episode 2.2||Episode 2.3||Episode 2.4||Episode 2.5||Episode 2.6|
|Series 3 Appearances|
|Episode 3.1||Episode 3.2||Episode 3.3||Episode 3.4||Episode 3.5||Episode 3.6|
|Series 4 Appearances|