Peaky Blinders, Season Four (2017)

Reviewer: Charity Bishop

Previous seasons of the top-rated BBC and Netflix drama have been over-complicated; this one finds the sweet spot between action, plot twists, and believability as it thrusts the Peaky Blinders into a dangerous new situation.

Sicilians never forget. And one of them, Luca Changretta (Adrien Brody), wants to pay Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphey) back for the execution of his father. The New York-born Italian arrives in London with a pressed, tailored suit, a tough-guy accent, and enough determination to give the disbanded Shelby family a run for their money. Since their arrests and subsequent near-executions, Thomas has lost contact with most of his family; his sister Polly (Helen McCrory) has gone a little over the edge, between her superstitions about gypsy blood and seeing ghosts, and the pills they had her on at the prison; Arthur (Paul Anderson) is trying hard to live the "good, clean life" his wife demands from him (and failing), and John (John Cole) is itching for a good fight.

Each receives a black hand (death threat) a few days before Christmas, which forces them to band together, alongside Ada (Sophie Rundle), in a desperate bid for survival; while Thomas forges an uneasy alliance with a gypsy don (Aidan Gillen), he also faces potential strikes, communist uprisings, and a fragmented black market. The result is six intense episodes with a good dose of the Italian mafia on the side, which makes it hard for me to imagine them topping this the next time around! Brody proves a fine, intelligent, if somewhat reckless, foil for Thomas and succeeds in getting in a few good licks, violence-wise and verbally. Not everyone lives through the final episode, either, so hold onto your hat.

The costuming is gorgeous, with special attention given to the details of the world these characters inhabit; it looks as expensive as Luca's suits. The music, as always, is full of unconventional choices that give it a hip, dark flavor but entwine into an ongoing theme of the man in the black hat with the 'red hand.' The acting is terrific, even though I thought some of the design choices questionable (Gillian in a blonde hairdo, really?), and it brings back a host of old adversaries, some of them for a final bow. The only problem I have with it is an ongoing issue with the entire series; it's such a brutal, literal world, the romances of Thomas Shelby seem under-developed and without cause, so I'm forced to conclude most of them are based on sexual attraction alone. It makes sense given his character, but the romantic subplots always seem like an afterthought. That's not what the audience is really here for, anyway... they stick around for the shoot-outs.

Sexual Content:
Episode 3 features two explicit clothed sex scenes (one rather long); the finale includes one with nudity; a man stands naked at a window (his bare backside shown); references to whores; a boy says women found him a whore, but he didn't enjoy it since "she's only doing it for the money."
 
Language:
Hundreds of 4 words. Several abuses of Jesus' name. Several uses of c**t and slang for the male anatomy. General profanities and crudities (bloody, damn, b*tch, etc).
 
Violence:
Occasional gore; men are shot in the head, face, and chest; a man is strangled with a garrote and almost loses his fingers in the process; men are beaten about the face, kicked repeatedly, and blinded with razors (off-screen). A prize fight turns brutal (a man is shown with blood all over his face).

Other:
Copious amounts of smoking and drinking.