Monday 21 October 2019

Peaky Blinders season 4 episode 1 review: 'It kicked off in terrifically gripping, hugely confident style'

Adrien Brody in Peaky Blinders
Adrien Brody in Peaky Blinders

Pat Stacey

Just when he thought he was out, they pulled him back in. Okay, so that’s Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part III, but it’s also pretty much every screen racketeer that’s ever tried to get out of the business.

Being pulled back in this time is Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) in Peaky Blinders, which kicked off its fourth season last night in terrifically gripping, hugely confident style.

Nobody really believed when we saw Tommy shop the rest of the Shelbys to the law last year, that he’d be let live the life of a legitimate businessman, did they, or that his nearest and dearest would really go to the gallows?

Thanks to that incriminating letter by the King that Tommy possesses, the Shelby necks are saved with just seconds to spare, and then we’re shunted forward a year to December 23, 1925.

Estranged Tommy is living a life of “sex, freedom and whisky sours”. Is he happy, though? Of course not. He wouldn’t be inviting 26 gypsies living down by the river near his country house to join him, his little boy and his housekeeper for Christmas Day dinner if he was happy.

The rest of the family aren’t exactly having a great time of it without him. Michael (Finn Cole) is hitting the cocaine hard. Polly (Helen McCrory), zonked on pills and booze, is having visions of spirits — the type that aren’t found in a bottle — and holding seances.

Tommy’s volatile older brother Arthur (Paul Anderson) is living the quiet life with his wife and son. He does a bit of gardening and some voluntary work “driving old people and cripples”.

One thing we know is that none of this can last long. And it doesn’t. The Christmas festivities — such as they are — are ruined when each of the Shelbys receives a sinister card, adorned with a black hand, from Luca Changretti — cast newcomer Adrien Brody, making a brief but strikingly menacing entrance at Liverpool docks.

Changretti is a New York mafia man who’s out for revenge on the Shelbys for the murder of his father (Arthur pulled the trigger, but Tommy ordered the hit) and he’s brought a small army of “soldiers” with him for the upcoming war.

As the old saying goes, the family that slays together stays together, so Tommy and his brood overcome their differences and prepare to head back to their home turf in Birmingham — but not before an explosion of violence has claimed early casualties on both sides.

Tommy is also facing another war, on the industrial relations front, with feisty union activist Jessie Eden (a real-life figure, played by Charlie Murphy), who wants equal pay for female wire cutters at Tommy’s factories.

So Tommy has been well and truly sucked back in. It’s nice to be going along for the thrill-ride again.

Read more: Cillian Murphy talks Ireland, family, and the 'long journey' back to Tommy Shelby for Peaky Blinders season 4

Peaky Blinders fans blown away by explosive series start

Love/Hate star Charlie Murphy promises 'fireworks' as she faces off with Cillian Murphy on Peaky Blinders 


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