Since it aired in 2013, Peaky Blinders has become one of the most popular British shows to come out in years. Netflix has helped it reach a worldwide audience and the fourth season is set to be released by the streaming service. Season 4 recently aired in the UK and it featured all the violence and grimy glamour that fans have come to expect. Tommy Shelby faces a new enemy unlike any he’s dealt with before. Worse of all, the Shelby family are divided after last season’s heart-stopping ending. With threats on all sides, Tommy needs to go back to his roots if he wants to survive. The Comic Vault presents a spoiler free review of Season 4.
At the end of Season 3, the Peaky Blinders were arrested and it seemed as if Tommy was the one who turned them in. The opening scene of the first episode sees the Shelbys about to hang until it’s revealed that Tommy made a deal to spare them. A year later, an exiled Tommy is living a life of “freedom, sex and whiskey sours” away from his family. Cillian Murphy brings his usual swagger and steely gaze to the role, but he portrays a sense of desolation that hasn’t been seen in Tommy before.
The beginning of Season 4 sees all of the Peaky Blinders separated. Arthur is living a devout life on a farm with his family, while youngest sibling John is caught in a sexual whirlwind with his wife Esme. Meanwhile, Polly Gray, self-medicating on whisky and pills, sees ghosts wherever she goes. The Shelbys are thrown back together by sinister Christmas cards, courtesy of the Mafia. After a brutal encounter with a Mafia assassin in his country manor, Tommy realises no one is safe and returns to Small Heath.
Leading the charge against the Peaky Blinders is made man Luca Changretta, played with great enthusiasm by Adrien Brody. Brody gives his character a scene-chewing menace that makes Changretta one of the most formidable enemies in the series to date. There’s a sense of Brody channelling a young Brando or Pacino, but he injects enough of his own personality to stop the performance from coming across as pastiche.
Brody is joined by fellow shady newcomer, Aidan Gillen, who plays hitman Aberama Gold. The Peaky Blinders make a deal with Gold to help them with the Italians. The Game Of Thrones alumni gives his character a dubious charm that’s reminiscent of his work as Littlefinger. Gold might have agreed to help the Peaky Blinders, but it doesn’t mean he can be trusted.
Tom Hardy also returns as unpredictable Jewish gangster Alfie Solomons. Hardy is one of the best part of the series and steals every scene he’s in. He antagonises Tommy, Gold and Changretta at different moments and everything that comes out his mouth is either hilarious, ominous or oddly poignant. I thought Hardy’s best scene was when he squares up against Brody and they try to out ham each other. Hardy comes away as the victor.
The women get their moments to shine as well. Helen McCrory is remarkable as Polly, giving the Shelby matriarch an unhinged desperation that makes her the wild card of the season. She could either be the gang’s salvation or their damnation. Charlie Murphy also gives a fiery performance as new character Jessie Eden. Jessie is more than a match for Tommy as she campaigns to get equal pay for women.
The quality acting is bolstered by intense action sequences that include a meat hook in a kitchen and a violent shoot out on the streets of Small Heath. Peaky Blinders is at its best when there’s a sense of urgency and Season 4 feels like a return to form.
Several important themes are explored in Season 4, such as family, politics and honour. The political background of Season 4 is interesting because women were starting to push for independence, as evident from the real life figure of Jessie Eden. More of Tommy’s past is explored and we finally get an explanation of the importance of the ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ poem.
Season 4 crackles with energy, danger and colourful characters. Compared to Season 3, the storytelling is a lot tighter and recaptures the working class charm of the original season. By order of the Peaky fuckin’ Blinders you need to watch this show.
Season 4 is available on Netflix now.