I hadn’t yet seen any reviews or spoiler space posts for this series so I figured I’d throw one together if anybody was interested in discussing it. Say anything you want to in the comments. THERE ARE SPOILERS AFTER THIS, DO NOT READ PAST THIS POINT UNLESS YOU WANT TO BE SPOILED ON THE CURRENT SEASON OF PEAKY BLINDERS
So where did we leave things at the end of season 3? Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) had sold out the rest of his family and the Peaky Blinders to the police leading to everyone being taken away in handcuffs. Season 4 begins with Arthur (Paul Anderson), John (Joe Cole), Michael (Finn Cole), and Polly (Helen McCrory) all being granted a last minute save from death by hanging by Tommy. The family scatters from there, none of them really happy but all of them angry at Tommy for his actions.
The Christmas season 1925 brings changes to that. Each member of the family receives a letter from Luca Changretta (Adrien Brody) before the holiday containing the Black Hand (kill or be killed). After the murders of Angel and Vincente last season, Luca has come from New York to avenge his family and carry out revenge against the Shelby’s and Gray’s. With help from recently returned Ada (Sophie Rundle), Tommy convinces the other members of the family that they need to meet on Boxing Day to discuss the threats from Luca. But after Tommy discovers (and kills in brutal fashion) a mafia agent among his kitchen staff, he realizes the murders are going to take place on Christmas Day and attempts to gather the family before then. The season premiere ends with Michael arriving to bring John and Esme (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) to the meeting but they are ambushed by agents of Changretta. John is killed in the ensuing shootout and Michael is injured (though survives as the bullets that hit him passed through John first).
I’m not going to summarize every episode but this was an excellent start to the season, Luca is established as a credible threat and John’s death felt like it exposed the Shelby/Gray clan as being more vulnerable to threats than they had been in the past. The second episode, showing the rest of the family reacting to news of John’s death is also very well done. This cast has always been one of the show’s strengths and their chemistry with one another just continues to improve.
The plot for the season evolves into familiar territory for the show. Enemies come at the family from all directions. Tommy is beset by threats from an underground Communist movement to his legal factory businesses. He also deals with leftover resentments from the rest of his family, most particularly Aunt Polly who (in addition to her anger about the jailtime) is angry about Michael’s injuries and blames Tommy for them. Arthur, in spite of his anger, eagerly embraces his return to Tommy’s side. Ada is investigated for her ties to the Communist movement but also eventually helps Tommy make contacts within that movement through Jessie Eden (series newcomer Charlie Murphy). We also meet an Irish gypsy named Aberama Gold (Aiden Gillen, a welcome addition to any show) who’s grooming his son to be the next great welterweight boxer and is looking for Tommy’s backing in his debut fight. Alfie Solomons (Tom Hardy), Tommy’s most consistently threatening ally, also returns to the show. He can’t be trusted but he knows things about everyone and that makes him useful (and Hardy is truly excellent in the part, and funny as hell). Luca and Tommy clash (the gun battle in episode 5 is terrifically shot and incredibly suspenseful) and Luca attempts to bargain with Polly who gives the appearance of being tempted to exchange Tommy’s life for Michael’s.
I was going to summarize the finale a bit but it all sounded a bit contrived without going episode by episode so I’ll just jump into a couple other things I wanted to mention about the show.
– David Caffrey. He directed all six episodes of the season and I thought he did a terrific job at it. Several scenes, including the shootout in episode 5 I mentioned I thought were really superbly done. And the show’s been good at doing this each season, having a single unifying visual direction does wonders.
– The core cast is great. Again as I mentioned above, they really do have a chemistry that is remarkable. The 3 leads (Murphy, Anderson, and McCrory) especially.
– The storyline. I’ve liked the show on a whole so far, but I felt like the storyline this season was tighter and more focused than season 3 was. But…. I didn’t really love the fake out of Arthur’s death. I LOVE Anderson’s performance as Arthur. He has a terrific swagger and line delivery. But it felt cheap and a bit too convenient to have Tommy come up with that good of a plan to deceive the Italians on the spot AND to get the rest of the family on board in the chaos following the boxing match.
– Adrien Brody. I’m going back and forth on him. He’s not bad really, but as an actor he’s always left me a little bit cold. And the accent he puts on just made it sound like he spent two weeks binging the Godfather films before the start of production.
– I’m really curious where ‘Tommy as a member of Parliament’ goes in season 5 (the show was renewed for seasons 4 and 5 at the same time and the BBC has confirmed a 2019 premiere). We’ve always had glimpses of Tommy having a cozy, if uneasy, relationship with the British government. Seeing him operating within that government is going to be interesting.
– Is Alfie Solomons dead or not? Tough to say. It was definitely a headshot but the quick glimpse we got of the impact it seemed positioned in a spot that wouldn’t necessarily have to be fatal. Perhaps it depends on Tom Hardy’s future availability given his busy film career.
What say you Avocado?