Cillian Murphy rides once more into the breach (on his one-horse open slay). His return is grander than a canyon and it’s bloody spectacular. Tommy is a man full of his own importance and the cinematic opening sees him once more as the star of his own Hollywood tragedy. Television shouldn’t look this good, television shouldn’t feel this good, television shouldn’t sound this good and yet here we are in 1929 setting higher and higher bars for programme-makers in 2019.
While Murphy rocks every scene he’s in with a vibrant coldness, the malevolent world of Peaky Blinders is brought to life by every character, every set detail, every chord struck and every line said in the Brummy timbre. Quality runs through every pore of its sweating but very furrowed brow. The show knows how bloody good it is and even if the first ten minutes play out like a blockbuster film, it’s the subtlety in everything that follows which transcends it beyond just theatre – this is art.
The central theme of series five looks set to be Tommy’s inner demons but this isn’t an overnight thing. This has been going for six years. Strands from previous series are always picked up on or referenced to. Nothing feels throwaway and even if Steven Knight did scrunch an idea up and throw it in the bin he must later save it from the recycling to take us by surprise.
Maybe Michael will wish Knight had trashed the bit where he inadvertently loses a lot of money in the stock market crash because Tommy is furious with him. Actually, Tommy is furious with everyone. Lizzie, their son, and later on a journalist. “What do I have to do to make people f**king listen to me?!” he bellows. His family might zone out but the irony of Tommy being welcomed into the Garrison with open arms by an adoring public is strong. His reputation has changed with his role as an MP but with the inner turmoil rapidly escalating he should be feared more now than ever.
With Tommy’s struggles as the centrepiece, the show has evolved. It may not be the Arctic Monkeys blasting riot fuelled pubescent early days anymore but in middle age, it is ageing well. The storytelling is even better, the direction is more on point and the impending sense of doom is even more sinister. Anna Calvi’s score is perfectly in sync with Tommy’s despair. It’s a glorious marriage made in hell.
Believe it or not, there are softer moments too and Arthur’s attempts at holding a meeting are uncomfortably funny. Even when Finn got shot we were allowed to raise a smile. Sorry Finn While there has been many funny lines in the past it feels like a concerted effort has been made to make the lighter moments lighter. That may have something to do with the transition to BBC1. It’s not even a criticism because the comedy works and in every other way, there’s no sense of compromise. Peaky Blinders is still unrelentingly dark and violent. Which is nice.
It’s a wonder of scriptwriting how Knight can focus on Tommy’s downfall and unite his venture into politics so harmoniously, yet alone everything else that’s going on. In parliament, he isn’t much more corrupt than the fellow politicians and it’s delicious to see him let loose in this world of careerist vagabonds. Two standout scenes highlight this perfectly. The first when he knocks red wine onto the table and the second when he’s at loggerheads with a journalist by the name of Michael Levitt. Two people are simply talking in a darkened room but the tension is unbearable and broken up only slightly by Tommy’s insistence that he writes it all down. The closing scene is confirmation that with power comes great irresponsibility. Levitt Is shot down im a swarm of bullets. It’s graphic and shocking and would no doubt maker Quentin Tarantino a little jealous.
So our antagonist is making enemies out of his own family, has enemies in his own head and is making new enemies with each new scene. With friends like Tommy and all that..
A LITTLE PEAK
– Ada is pregnant. In an incident-packed episode this news felt small fry.
– The surprise appearance of Grace felt eerily out of place at first but in full context, it does make sense.
– We see a little glimpse of Oswald Mosley and as hindsight has taught us, anyone with a ‘tashe like that shouldn’t be trusted.
– It’s good to see Aberama Gold still working for the gang. For the time being anyway.
– Lizzie has quite clearly had enough of Tommy’s shit. In fact all the women have. An uprising is in the offing.
– Michael is going to have quite the welcome back. Let’s just say the order on bunting has been cancelled.
Contributed by Michael Lee.
Peaky Blinders Continues Tomorow Night at 9.30pm on BBC One.