This review contains spoilers.
Even the best of dramas is bound to have a mis-step every now and again, and while the fourth episode of Peaky Blinders is the weakest yet, there was still plenty to enjoy.
The driving force of the episode is the escalation of tension between the Peaky Blinders gang, and their growing number of adversaries – be it the Lee family, Freddy Thorne or Chief Inspector Campbell. At times, the way that the stakes increase works very well. At other times, not so much.
The development of the relationship between Tommy and Grace is handled well. Great writing by Steven Knight teases the viewer into thinking Tommy is aware of Grace’s deception, only to twist in another direction and make us think he is oblivious to her wiles. It fits well with Tommy’s character, who plays his cards close to his chest, that the viewer is never sure exactly how much he knows about Grace.
Yet again, the acting is good across the board. From the lead actors down to minor roles like Misfits‘ Natasha O’Keeffe and Luther‘s Aimee-Ffion Edwards, performances are universally strong. Sam Neill is in particularly fine form as CI Campbell, getting his best lines since his powerful speech in the opening episode.
Campbell had waivered slightly in the last couple of episodes, allowing himself to be manipulated by Tommy Shelby’s machinations. Here, Campbell strives to take the power back, breaking down doors and applying pressure to the Shelby organisation and Birmingham’s communist movement.
The scene shared by Campbell and Tommy fizzes with tension. With great relish, Campbell reveals the sadistic punishment he will exact on the Shelby family should Tommy not give up the location of the guns he has been ordered to find. It was chilling stuff. Sam Neill and Cillian Murphy do a great job of making Stephen Knight. On a side note, I found the torture of communist Stanley Chapman – which happens off-screen, though you do see his bloodied corpse – far more disturbing than the controversial ‘By the Book’ mission from the recently released Grand Theft Auto V.
All of this makes Campbell a legitimate danger to the Peaky Blinders. Following the opening raid on their headquarters by the gypsies, the Lee family also become a legitimate threat. I was hoping to see this conflict play out through the remaining episodes, yet it has been swept aside with the marriage of John and a girl from the Lee family. It was all incredibly contrived, and an unsatisfactory end to what had been an increasingly bloody conflict between the families.
The pregnancy storyline with Ada and Freddy was weak. Ada lacks the spark of her Aunt Polly, portrayed wonderfully by Helen McCrory, and Freddy seems little more than a selfish idealist. The events of the episode’s conclusion – Ada going in to labour, and then Freddy arriving only to be captured by the police – were all too predictable. It did create tension between Polly and Tommy, and seeing a divide among the Shelby family should be interesting.
The pressure is certainly on Tommy to keep all the plates spinning and survive the escalating conflicts he creates. While not as strong as previous episodes, strong foundations have now been laid for what should be a hugely entertaining final two episodes.
Read Tom’s review of the previous episode, here.
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