A solid series of Peaky Blinders that shatters expectations with a handful of surprising twists.
With the explosive conclusion of Series 3, we left the Peaky Blinders on a nail-biting cliffhanger that saw John, Michael, Arthur and Polly arrested for various murders and facing the death penalty. Tommy’s shouts that he had made a deal with those more powerful than their enemies did little to calm our fears for the future of the Shelby family. It seemed our nerves were justified as Series 4 opens with the our main characters stood on the gallows. However, within 10 minutes they were acquitted and we jump forward nearly a year to the next Christmas. Pacing certainly felt off, Season 3’s mighty cliffhanger resolved far too quickly to be satisfying.
However, this allowed the majority of Episode 1 to be devoted to establishing a new storyline with Tommy isolated from his family for the first time. The Shelby family have left Small Heath and are enjoying their wealth in the country, but when they are served a black hand from Luca Changretta as a revenge for the death of his father, they are forced to reunite and return to the safety of their roots. It was nice to see that the villain of this series was a throwback to the past exploits of the Peaky Blinders; it rewards longtime viewers and shows that no bad deed goes unpunished.
Luca Changretta was played by the amazing Adrien Brody, known for his academy award winning performance as Wladyslaw Szpilman in The Pianist. His high level of skill and ability can be seen in this performance, but it was masked by the cartoonish nature of his character. If one was to think of a mobster, that is what Luca Changretta appeared as, pin striped suit, slanted hat and heavy Italian accent. It felt like an underdeveloped villain which was a shame given how much could have been done with the role in the hands of a talent such as Brody.
Episode 1 closes with the death of a major character, having been saved from the noose only a year earlier we see John Shelby be the first to die in the vendetta between the Changrettas and the Shelbys. At times Peaky Blinders, as with most others on TV, can fall into a rut of refusing to kill off main characters; so no matter the danger they appear to be in, the audience has little emotional reaction because ultimately we know that they won’t die. As Episode 2 opens in the aftermath of John’s death, this predictability is shattered and Peaky Blinders boasts its ability to keep viewers on their toes. It was a shame to lose Joe Cole (John Shelby) and Aimee-Ffion Edwards (Esme Shelby) as both characters brought a unique, refreshing presence to the show. However, as one Shelby falls another is ready in the wings and this was the first series to give more of a role to the youngest brother, Finn Shelby. I’m a little dubious about how exactly Finn is supposed to have aged over the 4 seasons, his wiki page states that he is now 17 but from series 1-4 we have gone from 1919 to 1925 meaning that he was 11 when series one started and given the look of Series 1 Finn, he is much younger than 11. However, we’ll suspend our disbelief and enjoying the rising presence of Harry Kirton.
This series also saw the death of another beloved character, Tom Hardy’s Alfie Solomon. In a shocking twist Tommy confronts and kills Alfie at Margate Beach after Alfie has yet again betrayed the Shelbys. At this point, I wonder why Tommy trusted Alfie, after all I’m pretty sure he’s betrayed them at every given opportunity. However, his character was a real asset to the show and his death will leave a major hole in the comedic entertainment of the show, which ought to be filled.
It would have been nice to see the subplot of the socialist threat and Jessie Eden romance fleshed out a little more as it felt more like a time filler than committed storyline. Perhaps this will be the direction of the next series with Tommy as the newly elected MP solving the socialist issue. After all Peaky Blinders, has shown itself willing to tie up loose ends.
Tommy Shelby continues to grow the interests of the family beyond the confines of their humble upbringing and each season the stakes get higher and the risks deadlier. This series showed a willingness to defy the expected and leave audiences shocked and enthralled; one can only hope that this trait will also be carried over into the fifth series which premieres in 2019.
Peaky Blinder Series 4 is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.