For us heathens that brandish figurative razor blade-endowed flat caps stateside as (un)official members of the Peaky Blinders crew, it’s been a particularly strenuous month or so. Season 4 of Steven Knight’s addictive gangster drama has been airing new episodes weekly in Europe since November 15th. Considering the manner in which season 3 concluded, international employees of Shelby Company LTD have been suffering through their own form of detox, desperately resisting spoilers each passing Wednesday.
Thankfully, Netflix will provide the fix by releasing all six episodes of season 4 on December 21st. It’s a largely meaningless conciliation for enthusiasts, no doubt, as the entirety of season 4 will have already premiered overseas by that time, but I digress.
For those needing a refresher – in the waning moments of season 3, the Shelby family were celebrating their triumph over the Russians inside Tommy’s office while he distributed the spoils of the Blinders’ latest victory amongst them. Then, just as all appeared resolved and the Shelbys destined for calmer waters, Thomas (Cillian Murphy) had his kin abruptly placed in handcuffs and taken away on his authority. A shocking cliffhanger that left countless in disbelief and demanding our fearless leader answer for his betrayal.
Season 4 of Peaky Blinders, a show that has clawed its way to preeminence with sheer, unadulterated badass-ery, essentially picks up where season 3 left off. Obviously, as demonstrated by this season’s preludes, the Shelbys that found themselves inexplicably behind bars are able to escape the noose. As always, head-honcho Thomas Shelby’s deceitfulness is equalled only by his impeccable calculation, managing to free his imprisoned brethren with a spot of blackmail utilizing a personalized letter from King George.
Speaking of the devil, whilst his flesh and blood are busy readjusting to freedom, Mr. Shelby is enjoying readymade whores, bottomless whiskey, and a safety that could only stem from honest work. Sporting a new pair of smart spectacles, Thomas might be spending the festive season alone, save for Lizzie (Natasha O’Keeffe), but he is seemingly unbothered by his estrangement from the family.
As for the recently liberated constituents of the Shelby tribe, these once inestimable members of what was, at one point in time, a thriving, family-first business, are no longer associated with the notorious Peaky Blinders, or more importantly, Tommy. Uprooted from Small Heath, John (Joe Cole) and Esme (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) have settled down, but are never a wrong word or two away from a steamy embrace or physical altercation. Arthur (Paul Anderson) and Linda (Kate Phillips), meanwhile, have done much of the same. Although, admittedly, this long-haired version of Arthur is much more tame under the control of his uber religious wife, and therefore a lot less fun. Predictably though, this blip in behaviour doesn’t last too long.
Polly (Helen McCrory), the lone Shelby yet to forgive Tommy for his actions, has lost all control of her up until latterly dormant mystical powers. Michael (Finn Cole), still residing with his aforementioned mother, frequents Thomas’ usual hangouts for advice regarding Polly’s bizarre midlife crisis, but can’t get her to lay off the hooch despite his best efforts. Still, one can’t help but marvel at Michael’s transformation, seeing as just roughly two seasons ago he was an insignificant, mild-mannered teen. My, how a cocaine addiction and a taste of power can change a man.
Divided and without Tommy’s direction, this is by far the weakest state we’ve ever seen the Shelbys inhabit. Howbeit, when each Shelby household receives a “Black Hand” death threat from a revenge-driven Luca Changretta (Adrien Brody), head of the New York mafia, in retaliation for killing Vicente and Angel Changretta, the family’s estrangement must come to an end and the Peaky Blinders are forced to put their differences aside and reunite in order to survive the impending Italian onslaught.
Oscar winner Adrien Brody is arguably the show’s biggest acquisition thus far. Complete with cross tattoo, toothpick, and speech characteristics plainly resembling Marlon Brando’s Don Corleone, Brody’s Luca Changretta might be burdened by stereotypical Italian/mafioso characterization, but there’s no denying his dramatic capabilities – epitomized by a glorious six-minute back-and-forth between himself and Thomas in episode two.
Other newcomers to the show this season include Aberama Gold, a hitman for hire portrayed by Aiden Gillen (The Dark Knight Rises), who I must say has been the highlight of season 4 for me personally. However, the most intriguing and indecipherable addition to the series this year is Jessie Eden (Charlie Murphy). A feisty, incorruptible union representative and worthy verbal sparring partner for Tommy.
Jessie’s intent and motivations aren’t exactly transparent just yet. Although, her most invaluable contribution to the Peaky Blinders brand has already been made. What she’s able to exhume from Tommy’s past, prewar, a period deemed long dead and forgotten humanizes and deepens a character that might’ve grown tiresome had he continued down the one-dimensional path laid out in front of him.
When you enlist in the Peaky Blinders army you can expect a lion’s share of brawls, bullets, and broads. What most don’t anticipate is an irresistible ensemble performing immaculately as a collective, delivering an absorbing, visceral story entrenched within imposing production and costume design. These attributes are precisely what has made Steven Knight’s period crime-drama startup so successful, now four seasons deep with a fifth on the way. Viewers will soon find out that the latest six-episode story arc is no slouch and even though nothing of what has made Peaky Blinders a hit has changed, it seems the Shelbys won’t escape unscathed this time.