By this point, it seems a bit reductive to say Peaky Blinders is a good series because, well, a BAFTA award for Best Drama does tend to speak for itself. But as season four came to an end there was a slight niggling worry over where the plot could go next that didn’t feel either out of character or falling into tropes of previous outings. Fans can rest assured that season five falls into neither of these traps, however, with an opener that is both outrageously Peaky while fresh enough to add some real intrigue to this gangster epic.
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Since its first episode, Peaky Blinders has challenged for the title of one of the most visually stunning shows on television, creating visual scenes beyond what one might imagine possible on the relatively low budget of a BBC drama.
But what the Steven Knight-created series has excelled in most over the last four seasons is its dissection of anti-hero Thomas “Tommy” Shelby (played by Cillian Murphy) as a man trying to build up his power while while being pulled down by his lingering trauma from WW1.
Season four was no different when it ended with a haunting breakdown that saw Tommy “talking to myself about myself” while he struggled to climb out from the PTSD lingering at the edges of his vision.
Reeling from the bloodshed brought by Luca Changaretta’s (Adrien Brody) Mafia-affiliated vendetta on his family, it was also one of the show’s bloodiest seasons with Alfie Solomons (Tom Hardy) and John Shelby (Joe Cole) among its victims.
Yet, by the end, it seemed the Shelby family had finally found some peace as Tommy headed into the House of Commons as the unlikely MP for Birmingham South.
But if this first episode of season five hints at anything, it’s that this new arena is just another battlefield for the enigmatic anti-hero.
The new series opens two years down the line as the Wall Street crash reverberates through the family – we see Michael (Finn Cole) heading back from America with his tail between his legs back, Polly (Helen McCrory) cutting short her glamorous excursion in Monte Carlo and Tommy holding a gun to his head as he teeters close to the edge once again.
The season premiere taps right back into the atmosphere the show has become so renowned for straight from its opening shot of Tommy astride his horse to the dulcet tones of Nick Cave.
Throughout the hour-long reintroduction, everything that makes Peaky so great is right back in there for fans to enjoy.
From the killer soundtrack to enough cigarettes to make you feel like coughing yourself, there are plenty of nods to what has come before (a particular favourite is the return of Alfie’s dog Cyril in a blink and you’ll miss it moment).
What the episode really excels in its ability to avoid the creakiness of plot that could result from its longevity.
This comes into its own in one of the final scenes of the episode, where in a conversation with a journalist, Tommy rivals the menace of Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone and showcases what makes the show so compelling.
This, in conjunction with allusions to Tommy’s suffering mental state throughout the opening scenes, sets the main character up at both his most vulnerable – and his most dangerous.
And, although you’ll only get a glance at Sam Claflin’s antagonist Oswald Mosley in this opening episode in the smoky halls of parliament, he looks set to be a frightening adversary.
As the man who would become the leader of the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s, the glimpse of what his presence could mean as the show tumbles towards the unavoidable beginning of World War II is enough to give you goosebumps.
Season five brings the Shelbys into a new world of glamour and power with the grafting scenes of earlier seasons well and truly gone.
They now have power, money and want to see their past left behind them – as Ada puts it, they’re above the rules.
God-like Tommy Shelby takes death into his own hands – but you can’t help but feel this divine ascent into the halls of Westminster is setting himself up for a mighty fall.
So could this season be as Knight described at the recent premiere as “the best so far?”
With an opening like this, it would be hard to argue against him.