Peaky Blinders series four preview: an explosively brilliant first episode as the Mafia come to Brum

Is Adrien Brody’s hitman going to be Tommy’s most formidable adversary yet?

Programme Name: Peaky Blinders IV - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 1) - Picture Shows:  Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy) - (C) © Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd 2017 - Photographer: Robert Viglasky

“We’re not the Peaky f****** Blinders unless we’re together,” says Cillian Murphy’s Tommy Shelby in the series four opener.

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Well, quite.

You’re not the Peaky f****** Blinders if you’re dead, either. And things look decidedly grim for the Small Heath clan on their return with the noose (literally) tightening around the necks of some of your favourite characters.

Obviously we don’t want to spoilt things, but having seen the opening episode all we’ll say is that it would be a brave writer who dispatched the likes of Helen McCrory’s Polly at this early stage in proceedings.

But there are other dangers outside the law. And this series they come in the form of that little-known bunch of folk called The Mafia headed by a particular chilling cove played by Adrien Brody. Will he be even more dangerous than Paddy Considine’s Father Hughes? He hardly says anything all episode except for a little joke to the customs official who asks him the purpose of his visit. “Pleasure,” he smirks. Yikes.

Programme Name: Peaky Blinders IV - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 1) - Picture Shows: Luca Changretta (Adrien Brody) - (C) © Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd 2017 - Photographer: Robert Viglasky

The action opens with Tommy somewhat, ahem, estranged from his family having shopped them in the finale of the last series; he is languishing in a hotel enjoying lots of fine spirits and various prostitutes, his piercing eyes looking from behind some rather bookish specs with a wistful glare as if yearning for the good old days.

Also wanting something of a change is Arthur who is residing in a bucolic idyll and engaged in the very un Arthury-sounding pursuit of “spending his time in the garden doing voluntary work”. He is also, believe it or not, keeping chickens. Farmer Arthur doesn’t quite have the convincing ring about it, does it?

How Tommy sorts out the many issues which have arisen from this little family misunderstanding forms the spine of the first episode, but a fresh surprise emerges thanks to the delivery of a Black Hand – Cosa Nostra-speak for an unmistakeable promise of death.

Should be interesting, especially as the newly-rusticated Arthur comments archly: “I have been served a Black Hand and [Linda] won’t even let me have a spud gun in the house”.

Tommy also has another adversary in the form of Jessie Eden (Charlie Murphy, below). She’s a fiery union boss modelled on a real-life firebrand who was very active in Birmingham in the 1920s, the era of the General Strike.

Programme Name: Peaky Blinders IV - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Jessie Eden (Charlie Murphy) - (C) © Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd 2017 - Photographer: Robert Viglasky

Jessie makes her entrance in some style, marching into the Shelby offices and using the gents because there aren’t any ladies within striding distance. Writer Steven Knight can capture the essence of character with fantastic economy and he does so with Jessie who looks like she may prick Tommy’s conscience this series. It also goes without saying that Peaky Blinders remains as visually dazzling as it is exciting to watch.

But does Tommy have too much on his hands? It seems likely that the Mafia may prove his sternest test yet and there is a climax to episode one which will push the clan to its limits. Can he sort things out?

“You’re the wild gypsy boy forever Tommy,” he is told at one point. But will the Gypsy Boys from Brum be out of their depth when it comes to seeing off the Mafia? I can’t wait to find out…

Programme Name: Peaky Blinders IV - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Aimee-Ffion Edwards (Esme Shelby), Joe Cole (John Shelby), Jordan Bolger (Isiah), Sophie Rundle (Ada Shelby), Paul Anderson (Arthur Shelby), Cillian Murphy (Tommy Shelby), Helen McCrory (Polly Gray), Finn Cole (Michael Gray), Natasha O'Keeffe (Lizzie Stark), Harry Kirton (Finn Shelby), Kate Phillips (Linda Shelby) in series four of Peaky Blinders, coming soon to BBC Two Photographer: Robert Viglasky | © Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd 2017 Production credit: A Caryn Mandabach and Tiger Aspect Production - (C) © Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd 2017 - Photographer: Robert Viglasky
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Peaky Blinders series four starts on BBC1 on Wednesday November 15 at 9pm