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Peaky Blinders: Season 4 - First episode review

Peaky Blinders

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

FROM its tense, near-death opening to its bullet-riddled finale, the first episode of the long-awaited fourth season of Peaky Blinders was a tremendous return that bore all the hallmarks of sweeping gangster epics.

Creator Steven Knight has seemingly raised the bar with this latest entry by making the stakes surrounding the Shelbys even more critical.

For starters, they’re a disbanded family, still counting the cost of the last-act ‘betrayal’ by patriarch Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) at the close of the last season (and which saw the remaining members of the Shelby clan carted off to prison).

In those gripping opening minutes, Aunt Pol (Helen McCrory), Michael Gray (Finn Cole), John Shelby (Joe Cole) and Arthur Shelby (Paul Anderson) were seen being dragged to the gallows for a seemingly inescapable date with the hangman, only to be saved at the 11th hour by Tommy, whose growing influence saw him successfully blackmail the right people in power and get a knighthood into the bargain.

Jumping forward a year, Tommy was then seen to be very much alone, estranged from his family, and running a respectable business. He still has his own son (who he intends to spend Christmas with) but in all other respects he cut a lonely figure.

The rest of his family, meanwhile, were attempting to lead their own lives, until each received a letter in the post bearing a black hand – a message that meant they had been targeted for assassination by the New York mafia, led by vengeful Luca Changretta (Oscar winner Adrien Brody), whose father had been executed by the Shelbys in a previous series.

Brody was seen only fleetingly, but no sooner had the cards been opened, then his influence began to grow.

Tommy desperately attempted to call a family meeting, in a bid to circle the wagons, and even had to deal with one assassin, masquerading as a sous chef, in his own kitchen. The killing was typically bloody.

But worse was to come. As the opener reached its climactic moments, Michael and John were apparently gunned down in a hail of bullets.

It was a shocking climax to an episode that had us gripped from start to finish. Can either of them possibly survive? Who knows…

What this opening salvo did confirm, however, was that Knight hasn’t lost his touch. If anything, Season 4 promises to be the most striking series yet, if only because – for the first time – it looks set to focus on a very personal Mob rivalry. Whereas previous clashes with rival families has been business-led, this one is very much driven by revenge.

And given the climactic events, there’s now scores to settle for both sides.

It goes without saying that the signature style established by the first three seasons of this show remains intact, with plenty of slow-motion walks set to throbbing soundtrack moments, along with Nick Cave’s now iconic theme. The look and lighting of the show is also as stylish as ever.

But there’s real substance here, too. The various journeys of the Shelbys to this point have clearly already taken their toll, which means that it should be fascinating to see how the surviving members come together in light of those final moments. Can the psychological wounds of past misdeeds be healed?

It may have been two years in the waiting, but season four of this striking BBC series looks to have upped its game once again. On the evidence of the first hour alone, there’s a cinematic majesty and epic scope befitting the big screen, which is where it could well be heading.

Roll on the remaining five hours…

Peaky Blinders: Season 4 airs on BBC2 on Wednesday nights from 9pm.