Season 4 of Peaky Blinders begins with the Shelby family and their associates separated by the terrible deal Tommy (Cillian Murphy) made at the end of season 3. Feeling betrayed, they are keen to start their own lives away from Tommy and his relentless ambition. When a threat is made by the Changretta family, they will have no choice but to bury their differences and come together.
Season four pulls no punches. Right from the outset there is a shocking death and seeing the once united Shelby family, disillusioned and no longer trusting each other is really upsetting. Every member of the family is obviously traumatised and Tommy is struggling to hold it together, having failed to deal with anything that happened to him during the war or since.
This season brings new enemies and associates, with varying degrees of success. Luca Changretta (Adrien Brody) is excellent as the smooth New York gang leader. He’s obviously a big De Niro fan and has been hitting the Scorcese hard, but it works. The remaining Changretta gang members are totally disposable.
Tommy also faces opposition from the communists around his factory conditions, which leads him into an interesting flirtation with Communist leader, Jessie Eden (Charlie Murphy) but I am not sure I buy their chemistry.
There’s a new association with a gypsy leader called Aberama Gold (Aiden Gillen) who’s boxer son, Bonnie (Jack Rowan) brings some light relief. Aberama gave me the absolute heeb but a completely unleashed, Aunt Polly (Helen McCrory) obviously had a different opinon and their rabbit hunting adventures are quite something.
Alfie Solomons (Tom Hardy) is also back, so is May Carlton (Charlotte Riley). As always Tommy is unsure if Alfie is friend or foe as his loyalty is forever ready to turn on a dime and the interactions between them continue to be one of the best things about the show.
I had mixed feelings about this season. It is exciting to see the Shelbys come up against a foe that actually seems like a real threat. Tommy is clever but the Changrettas are clever too and they have almost unlimited firepower and no qualms when it comes to killing. The family being at odds with each other is uncomfortable to watch although realistic considering what has happened and I struggled a bit with the sense of gloom this cast over the season. One of the things I loved about the earlier seasons was that it was dark and gritty but also very funny and that family trumped all. There is little light in season four. It was great to see a bit more of what Tommy was like before the war and to learn about Polly’s gypsy past but Tommy has become so hard and cold that he is bordering on unlikeable.
That said, it’s a significant improvement on season three and I am excited to see what they do with season 4 and the launch of Tommy’s political career. I am also interested to see if the taint of being associated with the family continues to spread. In this season its mostly Arthur’s (Paul Anderson) wife Linda (Kate Philips) who is impacted. I wonder if there will ever be a point where it is all too much and Tommy’s dream of respectability is eternally crushed.