‘Peaky Blinders’: Episode 4 review

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‘Change is good’ Tommy says, but only so long as it favours his web of control over the city. You almost have to admire how smoothly Tommy kills two birds with one shotgun wedding: making peace with the pantomime gypsy villains The Lees, and foxing his brother John’s marriage to a well-known prostitute, in a cold, calculating move that saves the Shelby family from the clap and the kaboom.

Tommy’s not so much without a heart as he’d like to think however. He’s changing too, not just by becoming a legitimate gambling concern, but by allowing secret agent Grace to compromise his heart and business. Does she spell redemption or doom for Tommy? It’s uncertain, but if Tommy does makes a false move in the future, it’ll be because of his feelings toward her.

Sam Neill’s Inspector Campbell moves from being the do-gooder plod and part-time Edward Hardwicke lookalike that he was introduced as in Episode 1, to a moustached loose cannon, belting out threats and beatings with the wry smile of a bastard who enjoys his work. Campbell came to London promising to burn away the corruption (he had a speech and everything, remember), but all he’s done is doused it with a new brand of slime by making deal with gangs and killing suspects.

The one person who isn’t willing to change is Communist Pin-Up Freddie Thorn (Iddo Goldberg), who still refuses to leave the smoke and tumult, despite the fact that all he seems to be able to accomplish is getting small crowds of discontented factory workers to raise their fists and shout ‘YAAAAAAAH!’ in agreeable unison. ‘If you want me out of Birmingham it’ll have to be in a wooden box,’ he tells Aunt Polly. Has he not seen this show?

If Freddie’s not in a box by the end of this series – or even by the end of the next episode – it’ll be a miracle. Especially as he’s hauled away by the rozzers just as he catches his first glimpse of his newly born and gooey son. And given how ‘fucked’ Inspector Campbell leaves Chapman, Freddie will be lucky if he gets to leave the police station with his red flag flying intact. You really should feel sympathy for the one man willing to stick to a certain code when all around are abandoning their’s, but you don’t. Maybe it’s his weird haircut. Maybe he should change that.

Only one other thing shows no sign of changing: the week-on-week quality of Peaky Blinders. Never have such terrible people been so well presented.

Aired at 9pm on Thursday 3 October 2013 on BBC Two.

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