In Brief

Peaky Blinders: season four preview and air date - which main character will die?

The Shelbys are reunited but can they survive as the cult show ‘returns to its roots’

The season four opener of Peaky Blinders previewed to a selection of press and a few lucky fans last week - and judging from their reactions, it looks like a real return to form for the cult gangster drama.

Warning: possible spoilers ahead

 Having betrayed his family at the end of the last season, “things look decidedly grim for Tommy Shelby [played by Cillian Murphy] and the Small Heath clan on their return, with the noose (literally) tightening around the necks of some of your favourite characters”, says the Radio Times.

What follows is a catharsis of sorts, yet this first episode sees the Shelbys scattered and only forced back together after receiving an anonymous letter warning that the Peaky Blinders are in “danger of annihilation” at the hands of Mafia boss, played by Adrian Brody.

Deadline Hollywood says the Shelby family, led by Tommy, are “gearing up” for a turf war in a series that sees not only Oscar-winner Brody joining the cast but also Game of Thrones star Aidan Gillen and Happy Valley’s Charlie Murphy. Another Hollywood A-lister, Tom Hardy, will return as Jewish gangster Alfie Solomons, in what “folks from the show say is the best [season] yet”.

Without wanting to give too much away, leading man Murphy dropped a few hints about season four during an interview with Today FM in Ireland last month.

“In the classic gangster arc, the last season was sort of all about the wealth, the house and all that material stuff… This season is a sort of a return to the roots,” said Murphy, adding: “That's about as much as I can reveal.”

The Sun has confirmed that at least one major character will meet their end at the hands of Brody’s character, Luca Changretta, “but it is not all high-octane drama and gruesome violence”: the new season also addresses the social changes of the 1920s, including the General Strike of 1926, through the introduction of Jessie Eden, a real-life communist who led a series of factory worker walkouts.

It is “a brooding yet brutal” return for Peaky Blinders, concludes Christopher Hooton in The Independent, with showrunner Steven Knight still managing “to convey a serious amount of plot information without the dialogue ever feeling clunky or expository”.

‘Labour of love’

In an interview with the Birmingham Mail Knight gave a revealing insight into how he writes the drama.

First he won’t let anyone else write it – and he doesn’t like the cast improvising, although the one exception is Tom Hardy.

Knight said: “I don’t like ad-libbing. I think it can lead to confusion and phrases that aren’t in the period.

“There are exceptions and Tom Hardy is one, as he tends to ad-lib. It’s his style and that of the character, who flits all over the place.

“And yes, it was Tom who ad-libbed ‘Listen, sweetie’ in the last series.”

Describing it as a “labour of love” Knight said he based much of the story around the tales he was told by his grandparents about gangs in Birmingham.

“The writing just happens, it’s quite fast and enjoyable.The hardest part is making selections and deciding how the characters move forward and what to leave behind. It’s very hard for me to let a character go.”

Knight also added that the series could live on past series five.

“It might be the last (series), I don’t know, we will see how it goes.There is certainly the interest and there’s a ton of life left in Peaky. I don’t want to pull the plug while it’s still vibrant.”

“I might do another one and then a film.”

Peaky Blinders season four begins on BBC One on Wednesday 15 November at 9pm.

Peaky Blinders: what does the new trailer tell us about season 4?

2 October

Thomas Shelby is set to return to our screens for Peaky Blinders' fourth season this autumn, when fans and followers will find out how he will make good on his promise to protect his family following the dramatic denouement of season three.

The character, played by Cillian Murphy, who won a GQ Television Actor of the Year award for the role, appeared to be in the process of turning over a new leaf last season – but it wasn't so.

In a dramatic final sequence, after his wife Grace was shot dead by a rival gangster and his young son Charlie held ransom on the orders of the shadowy Economic League, Tommy gathered the Shelby clan together and revealed they were all about to be arrested - although he promised it was all part of his plan.

Fans will now have to wait until season four premieres to find out whether the battered and beleaguered gang leader can pull off the ambitious scheme.

What will happen in season 4?

Teasing the synopsis, the BBC have revealed that the new season takes place six months after the last episode and opens with Tommy receiving a mysterious letter on Christmas Eve which tells him that the Peaky Blinders are in “danger of annihilation.”

The synopsis continues: “As the enemy closes in, Shelby flees his country house and returns to the streets of Small Heath, Birmingham where a fight for survival begins….”

Tommy's risky plan to place his entire family in the clink will be a central theme of season 4, says Murphy.

"Everything has changed because I think his family think he has betrayed them," he says. "It'll be up to Tommy to demonstrate that he hasn't betrayed them and that he has a bigger plan. And the question is, what that bigger plan is. Who is he going to call, you know, what is going to happen to the family? Can he ever get that level of trust or love back again?"

Speaking to radio station Today FM in Ireland he said that: “In the classic gangster arc, the last season was sort of all about the wealth, the house and all that material stuff”.

“This season is a sort of a return to the roots. That's about as much as I can reveal. ”

Will there be any new stars?

Yes - Game of Thrones star Aiden Gillen, Charlie Murphy from The Last Kingdom and Academy Award-winning actor Adrien Brody are joining the cast, reports Deadline.

"We have a dream team gathered for series four of Peaky Blinders, coming to us for love of the series, which is great," creator Steven Knight said. "We couldn't have hoped for more."

Murphy has been nominated for a Golden Globe and a Bafta, while co-star Tom Hardy won the Rising Star Bafta in 2011. However, Brody will be the show's first Oscar-winner heavyweight. He took home the best actor gong for 2003's The Pianist.

Could other Hollywood heavyweights join the cast?

With the arrival of Brody, Peaky Blinders demonstrates it is capable of some serious Hollywood pulling power. The question is: who else could be next? The rumour mill is focusing on Samuel L Jackson, who has declared himself a major fan.

"I want to do some British TV. I'd love to be in Peaky Blinders. That's a great show," he told the Daily Star.  

Speculation went into overdrive after Knight dropped hints Jackson's dream might come true.

"Watch this space," he told the Birmingham Mail.

"When someone like that expresses an interest then of course you do something about it."

Don't expect Jackson to pop up in series four, though; Knight made clear nothing would happen until series five.

Plenty of other actor fans have come out of the woodwork, including Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts while Steven Spielberg, Stephen King and Ed Sheeran, Pink and Brooklyn Beckham have also confessed their love of the show. 

Even David Bowie fell for the Peaky charms – the singer sent Murphy a photograph of himself with razor blades in his cap and asked that his music be used on the show.

Jack Rowan, the star of Channel 4's thriller Born to Kill has also been cast in the show.

Talking about his new role, Rowan said he was "over the moon" at having been cast, adding that being given the chance to work with some of his on-screen heroes was "unreal".

Rowan said to Digital Spy: "I'm absolutely over the moon to have joined the cast of Peaky Blinders. It's a show I've enjoyed watching from the very beginning so to now be a part of that world and act alongside some of my acting idols is just unreal."

Rowan has featured in both Silent Witness and ITV's Beowulf, but it was his role as the sinister lead of Born to Kill that propelled him to fame.

He said of his preparation for the role of Sam: "I watched loads of films and documentaries, and read a whole lot of material – all stuff that the production team sent through to me. I also did some work by myself… I took little bits from all of the psychopaths that I watched, both real and fictional characters, and I put it in a little box, shook it up, and saw what came up with. That was Sam."

Will Tom Hardy return?

Arguably the best character in the series is Alfie Solomons, the loveable Jewish hard man played by the equally loveable Hardy.

"We can't do it without Alfie," scriptwriter Steven Knight told Deadline, when asked if the scene-stealing character would be back for season four.

Hardy has been spotted on the set of the next season, filming on a beach near Southport.

According to the Daily Mail, "the Taboo actor appeared at ease in his striped white shirt which he paired with a black waistcoat, oozing 1920s style".

He was joined by Murphy, meaning fans have more conflict or collaboration between the two powerful mobsters to look forward to next season.

Who has written the 4th and 5th series?

It has been confirmed that creator and writer Steven Knight will be the primary writer for every episode of seasons 4 and 5. 

“I’m loving it, and it’s not like work, it’s not like a labour, I love doing it, and the boys are coming back and they’re loving the scripts.”

Will season 4 be as good as the last three seasons? 

Many critics - and fans - felt that season 3 drifted away from what made the show truly special; “season 4 looks set to appease them with a return to form” says The Independent.

According to Knight, it will be worth the wait - as they may turn out to be the best episodes yet.

“I’m very, very excited because I’m just completing episode six of series four, which again I think is the best yet,” he told Deadline. 

Cillian Murphy echoed the sentiment. “I think Season 4 will be the best it has been,” Murphy told NME in July. “I’m very excited about it, we just wrapped last week and I think people will be in for a lot of surprises.”

Knight also said making the fourth series of the show had been entirely painless.

"I'm loving it and it's not like work, it's not like a labour. I love doing it and the boys are coming back and they're loving the scripts," he said.

Will this be the final season?

Even before Season 4 airs, attention is turning to the fifth and potentially final season, which has already been ordered by the BBC.

Knight has long spoke of his desire to take the Shelby's up to the outbreak of the Second World War but admitted "it does get harder to get the cast together as the actors are being pulled into feature films. It’s a victim of its own success".

"We don't know for sure," he said. "We will see how we feel about it. Peaky is one of those things everybody loves and the response has been so magnificent on both sides of the Atlantic.

"I have got the end in my mind - whether that happens at the end of five is the question. I want it to end when the first air-raid siren sounds in Birmingham."

Could there be a Peaky Blinders film?

Numerous British TV shows have been turned into films, including Absolutely Fabulous, Da Ali G Show, The Inbetweeneers, Dad's Army and The Thick of It, so rumours have been circulating for some time that Peaky Blinders will eventually follow suit. 

Last year, Knight and his executive producer Caryn Mandabach admitted that discussions about a big-screen version of the gangster drama had been held.

However, when asked directly by Deadline whether he would take part in a cinematic version of the show, Murphy was noncommittal. 

He said: "I'm sort of ambivalent about it. I'm sort of like, 'Eh, yeah, I don't know, I'm not sure.'

"I love the idea sort of theoretically, but it has to come at the right time, you know? You can't alienate the beautiful democratic thing of television where everyone just watches it."

Knight himself attributes the success of the show primarily to the advent of streaming services such as Netflix, which screens Peaky Blinders in the US.

"Without a platform [US audiences] are never going to get a hold of it and I think these are exciting times in television because we don’t really know what's going to happen next. It's all being stirred," he said.

Why is it not filmed in Birmingham?

While small portions of the drama are filmed in Birmingham, where the show is set, much of the filming is done in locations outside the UK's second largest city. 

"It's a problem finding locations you can control for a length of time that are accurate for the period," says Knight.

"Blame Hitler - the older parts of Birmingham have been bombed or knocked down and the other ones are still lived in, so it's hard to get access.

"We couldn't find what we wanted until two weeks before filming started, when we heard about these three terraced streets in Liverpool that Ringo Starr had bought to stop his birthplace from being demolished," he adds.

"No one lives in them so they were perfect for us. The streets show the Shelbys' neighbourhood of Watery Lane in Small Heath."

The Birmingham Mail reported that production has started in Liverpool back in March, with scenes also filmed at the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley in May.

While details of season 4's plotline are scarce, various sources have shared photos of cast and crew on set in Liverpool, with Murphy in character filming scenes running around the streets of Toxteth with a gun in hand.

Will Manchester United stars turn up in the next season?

Manchester United legends Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville paid a visit to the set of Peaky Blinders over the weekend, making former team-mate David Beckham "jealous".

The former players were photographed alongside Steven Knight in the renovated Victoria Public Baths in Manchester, where the show is shooting, and chatted to cast members including Paul Anderson, who plays Tommy's tough older brother, Arthur Shelby.

Neville also posted a picture of himself alongside the actor on Instagram, which prompted Beckham to leave a comment: "So jealous".

Despite the renewal, season three has seen rating drop dramatically. But the show has plenty of fans – and many are household names, Radio Times reports.

"Famous fans who have made themselves known included Brad Pitt, novelist and The Wire screenwriter Dennis Lehane; Tom Cruise; legendary Hollywood director Michael Mann (who emailed [Peaky Blinders creator] Steven Knight to say he and his wife had binged on the first two series over a weekend); footballer John Terry; Julia Roberts; Steven Spielberg; horror novelist Stephen King (who tweeted, 'Watching a cool British series called Peaky Blinders,' and banged the drum again in a recent RT interview); shock jock Howard Stern (who described it on air as 'The Sopranos in 1920s Great Britain'); and troubadour Ed Sheeran."

The show is also said to be a favourite of rapper Snoop Dogg, who asked to meet Knight on a recent visit to London.

The show's most legendary fan, though, was David Bowie, Radio Times says. "He sent a photo of himself to Cillian with razor blades in his cap about a year ago," Knight told the site. "I got in touch with his people who came back straight away and said he was a big, big fan."

The show's renewal comes as part of a new season of BBC dramas including an adaptation of One Day writer David Nicholls' Us and a Barbara Windsor biopic.

Peaky Blinders: What will happen in episode four?

24 May

Warning: spoilers ahead

Episode three of the latest season of Peaky Blinders placed Cillian Murphy's Tommy Shelby at the centre of it all again, with the "magnetic gangster" grief-stricken following the fatal shooting of Grace.

The death was confirmed in last week's episode, to the horror of fans. The aftermath also saw a different side of Tommy appear, as he "mourned her in cheekbone-flexing, saucer-eyed silence", as the Daily Telegraph's Michael Hogan put it.

That silent response did not last long and Tommy was soon "regressing into Blinder mania and bloodlust as he sought revenge", says The Independent.

Culture editor Christopher Hooton also notes that "deeper cuts" were made into the characters last week, allowing the cast to shine, "whether it was Polly struggling to accept that she can be seen as a beautiful woman and not just a gangster, or Arthur contemplating parenthood".

Although episode three took a somewhat slower approach than previous, action-heavy instalments, this took nothing away from the overall spectacle.

The Guardian said it was "drenched in darkness and despair", while the Express compared it to the Godfather trilogy, "much like a self-contained film with a strong narrative backbone and plenty of nuance".

So which way will the series twist next?

According to the synopsis for episode 4 on the BBC's website, "Tommy and [Princess] Tatiana play a personal and dangerous game to acquire information from one another, and Tommy finally comprehends the magnitude of Tatiana's warped ideals".

In the short trailer, Tatiana is seen waiting for the Blinders' chief in his office. "She's a confident woman, but Tommy's not intimidated by her. The princess wants to know what proof he has of Father John Hughes (Paddy Considine) being a traitor," International Business Times says.

According to the BBC, the episode will also see "Polly reveal a dark secret, with terrible consequences for Tommy".

Away from the world of fiction, a photograph of the real Peaky Blinders has reportedly emerged.

Romany John Loveridge found a photograph of his father, Maize, and his uncle, Dick Gordevoy, alongside four "tough-looking, dapper individuals" he believes are the Peaky Blinders.

"They called them Peaky Blinders, but they were just tough Romanies," the 80-year-old said. "That's how we knew them."

"My dad was a very hard man," Loveridge told the Birmingham Mail. "He could fight - they could all fight. It was a way of life. Whenever there was a gathering, there was a fight.

"That was the way it was. It was just a natural thing, to have a fight was normal. My dad knocked out a neighbour when he was 75."

According to Loveridge, the Peaky Blinders also took part in these street fights.

The picture "has been something of a riddle among the Loveridge family for close to a century", the paper adds. "There had always been rumours that the individuals on the print were Blinders and the links with the travelling community have now been confirmed by the BBC Two show."

Loveridge added: "All the pieces of the jigsaw have come together. After all these years."

Peaky Blinders: why is season three losing viewers?

18 May

Peaky Blinders season three continues to attract high praise from critics, but it is said to have lost half a million viewers between the series' opener and episode two last week.

The second instalment of the new series ended with a cliffhanger, involving Grace Burgess (Annabelle Wallis) lying wounded in the arms of her husband, Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy), following a bodged assassination attempt.

Paddy Considine also made his first appearance as Father John Hughes, a powerful priest who was part of a secret far-right organisation that sometimes goes by the name the Economic League.

"It was a great climax to a strong episode as Tommy's constantly spinning plates – Shelby business, Russian business, Grace business, Economic League business – threatened to overwhelm him once and for all," said Sarah Hughes in The Guardian.

Like the first episode, this was "beautifully done" by Belgian director Tim Mielants, said Michael Hogan in the Daily Telegraph. "That closing shot looked like a Renaissance painting come to slo-mo life, while Tommy's opening trip to the armoured vehicle plant – all steam, sparks, steel and billowing flames – was a gorgeously grubby contrast," he added.

So how did the show lose 500,000 viewers in a week? The Sun suggests it might be down to complaints about "muffled" dialogue.

One viewer told BBC's Points of View feedback show that she was "very disappointed" with the quality of the sound. "This detracted from our enjoyment of the programme and also our understanding of the plot," she said. Another complained that it was "hard to hear speech on indoor scenes".

Points of View presenter Jeremy Vine said there were even complaints about some of the mobsters being "potty mouthed".

Fans will be hoping for better sound tomorrow at 9pm, when Tommy's mission for revenge threatens to splinter the family and a traitor is unmasked in episode three.

Why Peaky Blinders 'is better than ever' in series three

10 May

Two million viewers tuned in to watch Cillian Murphy's return as Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders season three last week, with critics hailing the show as better than ever.

Creator Stephen Knight's series follows a gangster family - the Peaky Blinders, named for the razor blades sewn into the peaks of their caps - in Birmingham after the First World War. Last week's first episode opened in 1924, two years after the end of season two, and saw gang leader Tommy wed his sweetheart Grace. But Tommy is a troubled man with more than wedded bliss on his mind.

Reviewers were united in their praise.

Murphy doesn't wait long to remind us just how sorely his presence on our television has been missed, says Morgan Jeffrey on Digital Spy. His first big speech is "a magnificent piece of work" and "his baby-faced brute remains captivating throughout".

Peaky Blinders is "glossy and grimy at the same time, brutal, blood-soaked yet somehow beautiful", adds the critics, who sums up the show as "top-drawer drama that looks and feels like nothing else on television".

This season feels ratcheted up in every respect, says Christopher Hooton in The Independent. With its billowing smokestacks, moody lighting and charred scenery, the show stands alongside Game of Thrones or Mad Men for looks. But the writing and performances are also stronger than ever, notes the journalist. Murphy is developing that "Gandolfini-esque ability" to say so much using only his eyes and the dramatic stakes are now much higher in this "f***-you to Downton Abbey".

Birmingham's Small Heath "can never have looked uglier nor more thrilling", says Euan Ferguson in The Observer.

"One actually wants to go to what may have been, back then in 1924, the most sulphurous, mephitic place on this black Earth: impossible smokestacks loom and belch, dizzying aqueducts sail the high, dark sky," he says. "It's Fritz Lang's Metropolis given a greasy coat of toxic tar; and it's venal, and my, it's exciting."

This "terrific series" has many strengths, adds Ferguson, not least the music, which included "perfectly suited interjections" from Radiohead's Nick Cave. David Bowie is said to have been a "big, big fan" of the show and personally asked Murphy to feature one of his songs in the soundtrack.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"content_original","fid":"94697","attributes":{"class":"media-image"}}]] 

Another standout is the "unflinching way" Peaky Blinders "contrasts the worlds of power and money with the grubby, ripped fingernails of appalling violence necessary to achieve them", says Ferguson.

The episode opened "slowly but sumptuously", writes Carol Midgley in The Times. Parts of it were hard to follow - or indeed hear- but the tension and sense of menace mounted to a "stylish crescendo in which scenes of shagging, bare-knuckle fighting and a Russian infiltrator meeting a protractedly gory end" – all skilfully intertwined with "the trademark stonking soundtrack".

Midgley concludes that "the stage is set and promises that this series will be a cracker."

Peaky Blinders has certainly got some boots to fill, says Rob Smedley at Cultbox, having unashamedly swaggered back into the Thursday night BBC Two drama slot that "still has the cordite smell and police tape of Line of Duty hanging around it".

Though beautifully shot and filled with strong performances, it didn't quite have the sense of gripping menace we associate with it, continues the journalist, but still, we're only at the opener so there's "plenty of time yet for the show to raise both its game and its red right hand". 

Peaky Blinders airs at 9pm on Thursdays on BBC2.

Peaky Blinders season three: What time does it start and what can we expect?

05 May

Tommy Shelby and co return for a third season of period crime drama Peaky Blinders tonight.

The gangster-family epic is set in Birmingham after the First World War and named after a gang who sewed razor blades into the peaks of their caps.

In season three, their leader, the fierce Tommy (Cillian Murphy), continues his plans to move up in the world.

So what can viewers expect?

While season two focused on the Birmingham mob heading to London, season three will see Tommy "go international", says The Independent, "pulled into the glamorous and dangerous world of international intrigue in 1920s Britain, putting his entire organisation and family at risk, and forcing him to question everything about his own ambitions and desires".

The Shelby brothers – Tommy, Arthur (Paul Anderson) and John (Joe Cole) – will reunite for Tommy's wedding, but there's a question about the bride. The season two finale left the gang leader torn between two women: his first love, Grace (Annabelle Wallis), who betrayed him but is now pregnant with his child, and the beautiful May (Charlotte Riley), who also has the necessary connections to get him the legal gambling licences he desires.

A 15-second trailer shows him bruised and grubby with a cut on the bridge of his nose. As the camera pans in, he can be heard saying: "The things I do, I do for my family." [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"content_original","fid":"93284","attributes":{"class":"media-image"}}]]

Who else can we expect to see?

Mad Max star Tom Hardy will give an encore performance of his "magnetic gangster" Alfie Solomons, says Digital Spy. And "as if there wasn't enough dangerous charisma floating around", the series will also feature the compelling Paddy Considine, star of Dead Man's Shoes, adds the site.

At first, Considine's character was mysteriously described as "the representative of a force beyond anything Tommy has previously encountered", but the show's creator Steven Knight has since revealed that he plays a "priest – not a very nice person".

It seems the new series will see Tommy face "a new corrupt organisation: the Church", says The Independent.

What time does Peaky Blinders begin?

The fun begins at 9pm on BBC Two.

Is it a true story?

The fictional characters echo real people from the streets of Birmingham, according to historian Carl Chinn, who has written a book called The Real Peaky Blinders. His research suggests the gang existed in the 1890s, but would not have been able to afford to use razor blades in their caps, as in the show. The real-life violence was "brutal", Chinn told the Birmingham Mail, but he added that they were "nothing like the American mafia". Creator Knight maintains that the Peakys were still around in the 1920s and says he was inspired to write the show by a story of his own father having to deliver a note to the real-life Peakys, although they were the Sheldons rather than the Shelbys.

What are the critics saying?

"Thomas certainly seems to have gone up in the world," says Sara Wallis at the Daily Mirror. The first episode begins with his wedding, but the "new Mrs Shelby doesn't exactly get the day she dreamed of, as Tommy still has business to conduct".

A visitor puts the Shelby family in danger, adds the critic, and pulls Tommy "into one of the most dangerous situations he's encountered".

With its billowing smokestacks, moody lighting and charred scenery, Peaky Blinders "puts every penny it has to good use", says Christopher Hooton at The Independent. "This is particularly true of the new season, the first episode of which is a visual orgy, with its fastidious set design, immaculate costume and poised shot composition."

The writing is "stronger than ever and so are the performances", with Murphy developing a "Gandolfini-esque ability to say so much using only his eyes", continues the journalist.

"Intentionally or not, the first episode feels like a 'f*** you' to Downton Abbey. The Shelbys are now starting to match the Crawleys in terms of wealth and land, but you'll find no 'hanky panky with the maid' bulls**t here, with Peaky Blinders depicting 1920s Britain warts and all, as it should."

How will the show end?

Series four has already been commissioned, meaning fans can look forward to the period drama continuing for some time. There is even said to be talk circulating among the production team of a Peaky Blinders film.

"It's early days but it's being discussed as a definite possibility," one source told the Radio Times. "The show has international appeal and it is high octane with a lavish period look that would make it perfect for the big screen treatment."

Knight has already said he wants the show to end with the air raid sirens of World War II. Apart from that, anything could happen. "I don't know where it's going to go," admits Knight. "It's best not to know, I think, because if you plan it out it will be very logical and measured, whereas if you just let it happen, then whatever happens, happens."


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