Series three of Peaky Blinders left us to witness possibly the most shocking and intense betrayal of the Shelby family by none other than our favourite cunning patriarch, Tommy Shelby, who sent Arthur, John, Polly and Michael down for their crimes. Despite this, the opening episode of series four took no prisoners, reviving the world of 1920’s Birmingham and immersing the audience back into the discord caused by the last Shelby family meeting.
Series four episode one “The Noose” had a private screening at the Kino-Teatr, St Leonards-On-Sea, with director David Caffrey, producer Joe Donaldson and actress Charlie Murphy in attendance. “Anything I do, I try to shoot for the big screen,” admitted Caffrey, “and having the opportunity to see the episode here with friends is such a pleasure for me.”
The title of the episode is established with the first shot revealing the triple gallows from which our victims will be suspended, and after Tommy’s seemingly lackadaisical rescue of his family from being executed, we see that a year later the noose is still ever-present in their lives. Polly is a far cry from her former self, self-medicating and slowly losing her grip on reality, Michael is concerned about his mother’s mental state whilst dealing with his own by playing in the snow, John is living it up in a country home with the regularly inebriated Esme, and Arthur is living an uncharacteristically monotonous life with Linda and their child. Tommy’s existence comes as no surprise, however, as he falls into a lonely reality with only his devoted servant Frances and sister Ada willing to talk to him – barely.
A new character introduced in the episode is Jessie Eden, played by Charlie Murphy (Love/Hate, Happy Valley), previously mentioned in series three as the leader of the strike concerning women’s work environments. The real-life Jessie Eden lead a week’s strike of ten thousand women during a period when working rights for women were practically non-existent and pushed for action leading towards unionisation. “Our script editor, Bryony Arnold, met the living family of Jessie Eden,” Caffrey told us, “She showed them Charlie’s first couple of scenes we had shot. One of the grandchildren who remembered Jessie started to weep openly due to Charlie’s performance.”
Murphy added, “The fact that she was a real person was such a treat because it’s all there somewhere – you just have to find it. We are storytellers so there is some poetic license to that past, which I think Steven [Knight] has knitted together nicely.” Murphy also admitted the pair would experience more conflict, stating “She’s basically investigated everything Thomas Shelby, and she now knows every inch of Birmingham which he owns, all the seedy names he’s used and the corporations that he’s shied away from letting the public know he owns.”
Joining Charlie Murphy in the cast is Aiden Gillan (Game of Thrones, The Wire) as Aberama Gold, a gypsy hard-nut and untrustworthy ally to the Shelby family, as well as Adrien Brody (The Pianist) as Luca Changretta, a member of the Italian mafia which served all members of the Shelby family with a “black hand” – threatening to kill them off one by one.
As a newcomer to an already well-established show, David Caffrey has proven his directing skill on shows such as Line of Duty and Love/Hate, for which he won two IFTA awards. “The first director [of Peaky Blinders], Otto Bathurst, and the writer/executive producer, Steven Knight, created this nostalgia of Birmingham and they did something really amazing visually […] There are little bits of each episode that we feel we have pushed the envelope more than the seasons before.” As well as directing the series, Caffrey is responsible for what he believes to be one of the best tracks on this series’ soundtrack, “The only thing I can take credit for is the song used during the factory strike. We’ve actually done a rework of Skepta’s “Shutdown” on violin as everything is being shut down – and that was my idea!” On the topic of how one of TV’s most iconic soundtracks is formed, producer Joe Donaldson also commented “Basically everyone thinks they have amazing taste in music, presents all these songs and everyone else goes “That’s shit!” and you spend weeks arguing about what’s good and what’s not – but eventually you end up with something that’s good.”
The fall and decline of the Shelby clan promises for an eventful and beautifully crafted series, and the finale of “The Noose” reminded us all, as Michael put it, “We’re not the Peaky fucking Blinders unless we’re together.”
Peaky Blinders airs on Wednesdays at 9pm on BBC2. For more info about future events at Kino-Teatr, visit https://www.kino-teatr.co.uk.