The most recent post I published before this one discussed all the issues I had with Star Wars: ‘The Last Jedi.’ The movie’s focus was to serve as a major point of transition (pivot) from old Star Wars to new Disney Star Wars. It was a risk Rian Johnson took for sure and risk is great in art. However, the execution was anything but great in my opinion, as I have outlined before. Meanwhile, on BBC, Peaky Blinders season 4 was also one of transition and risks taken. The difference was the execution here was fantastic. Here’s why.
Also, there will be no spoilers in this post, by the way. All concepts discussed will be high level.
About the Show
Peaky Blinders is a great new organized crime series available to binge on Netflix. It features a gangster family in Post-WWI Birmingham, England. The brothers of the Shelby family have returned from the war as changed men. Their time in the service has shaken them to their core due to the post-traumatic stress of trench warfare. With a new outlook on life–if a much bleaker one–their new mission is now to grow their rag-tag gang into a respectable organization. To give you an idea of how far they have to go, the name of their gang stems from a practice of sowing razor blades (“blinders”–I’ll let you infer why) into the brim of their caps (“peaky”).
Big names like Cillian Murphy, Helen McCrory, Tom Hardy, and Adrien Brody are at their best in this series. However, lesser-known faces like Paul Anderson, Sophie Rundle, and Joe Cole also emerge in a big way. On top of this, the writing is brilliant overall.
One of the aspects of writing I appreciate the most in general, character development, is a clear emphasis. Creator Steve Knight allows us to really grow with the Shelby family as their story unfolds. One of my personal favorites in this regard is Arthur Shelby (Paul Anderson), who’s pain you feel as he struggles to battle the demons of post-war civilian life. We can’t possibly understand the horrors of the trenches, but Anderson and Murphy both help us visualize the resulting pain.
What I Loved About Season 4
First off, adding Adrien Brody as Italian-mafia-rival-out-for-revenge Luca Changretta, was a fun wrinkle. Some might have questioned the Brando-esque accent, but I thought Brody was menacing either way.
That being said, what was really great was how Thomas Shelby’s struggle with Luca led to two things:
- A greater appetite for risk taking – more so than any other season, it really felt like no one was safe. Even the most loved of characters are on the knife’s edge here and the tension is fantastic. Can’t go into much more detail without spoilers, but watch and you’ll see what I mean.
- A backdrop for change – when you want a story and the characters within it to transition, they should be given a reason to NEED transition. The run in with Luca Changretta was just that for the Shelby family. While Thomas has continuously shifted toward a legitimate business over time, the threats involved with not doing so were clear and present thanks to Luca. The direction the story goes at the end of season 4 because of him is even more exciting to me. A new chapter has certainly begun!