An aura of doom hangs over Episode 4 of Peaky Blinders. Or rather, over the characters in it. As a one hour-sized middle finger to your peaceful Thursday night, this show is in rude health.
It’s rare that drama can so successfully crash into your living room and tell you to fuck off without courting resentment. Yet that’s what Peaky Blinders does, and we love it. We know the deal, we invite them in, we tacitly enjoy the sadism of it all from the distance of a screen.
The revellers at Mr Sabini’s sexy slo-mo nightclub aren’t so fortunate, as the Peaky Blinders gang launch a brutal attack on the gin & jiggling joint in retaliation for making us all feel a bit cold inside at seeing Harry Hancock’s throat ventilated last week. And filling its weekly quota of ‘Christ almighty, did you see that?!’ violence, Arthur Shelby glasses a man to death (genuine congratulations to whoever concoted the sound effect for that, you sick puppy).
What’s worse, the sight of a man dying in a mix of his own blood and tuxedo, or the satisfaction gleaned at seeing retaliation brought swiftly upon enemies? Don’t answer that. It wouldn’t reflect well on you either way.
Arthur Shelby’s rabid indulgences reflect well on the man protraying him though – Paul Anderson has an admirable understanding of when to play Arthur as the cartoonishly perverted and when to show the underlying human flaws.
Far more aware of the non-snortable pieces of the board than his brother, Tommy Shelby is putting his affairs in order like a man who suspects his luck is about to outrun him. It feels as if the end is approaching.
The opening minute sees Cillian Murphy and his sepulchred stare face striding through a cemetery, which would be portentous if he hadn’t done it so often over the past two seasons. Or maybe it’s a reminder that Tommy Shelby always walks perilously close to death. As of now he’s never walked closer.
Solomon and Sabini, Campbell and the Irish… Hollywood’s finest fugitives are sharing table space in sweatily tense and sweary scenes as disparate groups join forces and move against the Shelby family. The enemy of my enemy, and all that jazz. Uneasy alliances are beginning to crumble. If the actual crumbling is the stuff of a finale then what a finale it will be.
The one relationship that isn’t crumbling is between Tommy and the living embodiment of Bone China, Lady Fitz-Carleton (Charlotte Riley), who engage in some thoroughly expected lower-class/upper-crust intercourse after a lot of horse-talk foreplay. Let him enjoy it. With everyone plotting the Shelby family’s downfall you get the feeling this is as close to the high life, and to any woman, as Tommy’s ever going to get.
But wait! Hold your recently-purchased horses! In a perfectly-timed reveal, Grace (Annabelle Wallis) returns, equipped with an F. Scott Fitzgerald caricature boyfriend; a great Gatsby to Tommy Shelby’s great flat-cap-sby.
She broke Tommy’s heart in Season 1. She might yet get to do it again. That is if his mounting enemies haven’t put a bullet through it first.
Airs at 9pm on Thursday 23 October 2014 on BBC Two.
What did you think of the episode? Let us know below…