“We’re not the Peaky Blinders unless we’re together,” Michael declares, a sentiment that was never truer than in this glorious opening to the fourth season of Peaky Blinders. Fast-paced, riveting and true to form, the Shelbys come back swinging and are sure to deliver.
As Season Three ended with the arrest of Pol, Arthur, John, and Michael, the episode begins with the four of them heading towards the noose. What follows is a wonderfully tense opening sequence. Creator Steven Knight uses slow motion and close-ups to exacerbate the drama to a nail-biting effect. Of course, Tommy has a plan, and through blackmailing the King manages to get them off in the nick of time.
The show then jumps forward a year to Christmas, 1925. Normalcy seems to have returned, yet that day still lingers in their memory, delivering drastic consequences for them all. Ostracised from the family, Tommy (played by the brilliant Cillian Murphy) is living the faux contented life of “sex, freedom and whisky sours,” a contrast to the other Shelby men who are existing in their cloistered environments. Arthur, whose life is dictated by Linda, seems almost castrated, while John passses the time aimlessly shooting ducks, and Michael wastes his potential on a cocaine habit.
Evidently, the younger women, Ada and Lizzy, are the only semblance of sanity, with matriarch Pol degraded to a frail shell of a woman with a pill problem. The Shelbys are divided and at their most vulnerable. At this low they are served the Black Hand: a promise of blood to come. Out for revenge, Luca Changretta sails into town, played by the excellently cast Adrien Brody. Recently released from jail, Changretta chillingly divulges that that he has come not for business but for “pleasure”. As his greatest threat yet, Tommy will meet his match with this classic Italian-American gangster.
This incredible episode has many excellent moments, including a cutting display of physical prowess in the kitchen scene. Here the audience is reminded that no matter how much Tommy strives for legitimacy (that outlandish OBE he obtained) he will always return to his most base level, being a “wild gypsy boy forever”. The use of anachronistic music, this week including ‘Adore’ by Savages and ‘Atlas Salvation’ by Yak, once again perfectly complements the scenes and helps to further engross the audience in a world unlike their own.
While the events of the previous season veered slightly away from the intricate family dynamics, clever subversive plot and beautifully executed cinematography that make Peaky Blinders great, Season Four is bringing it back to where its strength lies. Similarly, the Shelby clan is returning to its roots, re-uniting in the one place where they can be protected: the slums of Small Heath.
If this opening episode is to reflect the rest of the season, then we are in for a real treat.
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