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TV Review: Peaky Blinders (Season 4, Episode 2)

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We have waited so long for the Shelby family to be together again under the same roof. And while the first episode of season four provided us with a reason for this unlikely reunion, it is not a happy one at all.

Episode one ended with John Shelby being shot right on his doorstep by members of the Italian Mafia. Michael was also wounded and their fate was left to be unveiled in episode two.

The second episode of this season has finally pierced the subtle veil of immortality which has been spreading over the Shelby family. Somehow they all managed to survive Inspector Campbell’s plots, the IRA’s games, Sabini and the Russians. While their soldiers and loved ones (yes, we’re still not over Grace’s death) fell victim to the plots of Shelby’s enemies, the family always managed to stay intact.

Until now. John Shelby is gone. And after an episode of wild rage, so is Esme with their kids and John’s rings. Michael Gray, meanwhile, is fighting for his life, and you wouldn’t want to be anywhere near Polly at this moment - though we can easily understand the horror she is going through as she only recently reunited with her son - and now he might not wake up.

While Michael's fate remains unclear, Tommy sets a funeral for John in a traditional Romani fashion. His body is burned in a wagon funeral pyre, while Tommy’s speech finally reveals the truth of what happened to all of them in France. We now know that Tommy, John, Arthur, Danny, Freddie and preacher Jeremiah were convinced that they’d die in France. They sang The Bleak Midwinter and the attack they expected never happened.

It was then that they all agreed to treat the second life they were given as  “extra”. We finally understand the significance of In The Bleak Midwinter — the hymn, which was sang at Tommy and Grace’s wedding and the prayer Arthur muttered with the rope around his neck. The Bleak Midwinter is their phoenix song of rebirth and we’re sure we’ll be hearing it at least one more time this season.

The open-field funeral turns out to be a classic Tommy plot: using his family as bait - again - his men manage to take down two Italians. “This is how you do a vendetta,” Tommy says. “They take one of ours, we take two of theirs”.

Polly, however could not be less impressed with Tommy’s decision to turn even the funeral of his own brother into a staged performance of power. While the two of them have always been opposites, managing to work together for the greater good of the family, it is unlikely Polly will be able to tolerate Tommy for much longer.

That is, until Michael wakes up and, being the strategist he’s already proven himself to be (are we seeing a second Tommy Shelby growing within him?), convinces Polly to help Tommy “go through all of this”. In return, he promises a trip to Australia to search for his sister’s grave once the war is won.

Meanwhile Ada is being investigated by the military for Communist action, Jessie Eden is calling a strike (which Tommy doesn’t really seem to be bothered about), Arthur seems to finally feel in his own waters again (or canals, if you wish) and May Carleton makes a reappearance. Could that be an innocent coincidence?

There are also a couple of new characters introduced including Aberama Gold, played by Game of Thrones' Aiden Gillen, which is already a sign of cunning intentions. Although Polly warns Tommy not to hire any new people, he quickly makes Gold’s son an honorary Peaky Blinder, after seeing him fight.

Last, but most definitely not least, Tommy finally meets Adrian Brody's Luca Changretta. The intense scene has Tommy facing Luca, during a conversation which has Adrian Brody showcasing his best Godfather accent and mannerisms. We can definitely see where he got the inspiration for this role from.

It is only episode two but we’ve already had a spine-chilling moment, when Luca Changretta calmly positioned six bullets on the table - each engraved with a Shelby name. He knocked John’s over, and made a promise that Tommy will be the last one left, once he’s seen his whole family die.

Are we about to witness a Game-of-Thrones-style massacre, in which everyone dies? We’re about to find out.  

Peaky Blinders airs on Wednesdays at 9pm on BBC Two.

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