TV: Peaky Blinders goes Godfather - as series four raises the stakes

Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders
Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders
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Just when he thought he was out, they pulled him back in.

Peaky Blinders returns next week, and Cillian Murphy's cunning, venom-eyed criminal kingpin Tommy Shelby has never been more wealthy, powerful or 'legitimate'.

Nor more estranged from his ever dysfunctional family.

But series four will see fresh challenges for Tommy. As a new threat forces the Shelby clan - and the show itself - back to their gritty roots.

A quick refresher

Peaky Blinders' third series got somewhat lost in a convoluted story involving Russian exiles, nefarious espionage and an audacious heist that was all a bit Oceans's 11 with flat-caps.

In case you'd forgotten, at the season's conclusion every single member of the Shelby clan barring Tommy and Ada were arrested, with Tommy explaining he had "made a deal with someone even more powerful than our enemies".

This followed a frenetic wrapping up of the series' various plot-strands.

Michael managed to rescue Tommy's son Charlie from the clutches of Paddy Considine's loathsome priest. Arthur and John blew up a train.

And Tommy managed to steal a priceless haul of jewels and gems.

Enter the Mafia

In this new series, things look to be very much back to the drama's original winning formula, with a Godfather-esque twist.

Tommy's past actions - in both London and Birmingham - have placed the entire Shelby clan in mortal danger.

Enter the Italian-American mob, fronted by Adrien Brody's menacing Mafia enforcer.

Creator/writer Steven Knight has described Brody's character as "possibly the biggest threat" the family will face.

The emphasis will be on suspense and tension, with outbursts of violence along the way.

Personal drama and political fall-out

The show will once again put the Shelby family, and their various demons, at the forefront.

Tommy may be living it large in his lavish mansion. But he has never been more alone, as his actions have alienated almost all of his brethren.

Arthur remains a deeply troubled man trying to reform his life. Polly is in pieces, yet remains as delightfully sharp as ever.

Away from this personal conflict, the political machinations of the 1920s will continue to bleed into the on-screen action.

Murphy has revealed that this series will deal with women's suffrage and the General Strike. One new character, a female union agitator, looks set to be at the heart of this.

Focused and intense

As always, that blend of evocative period backdrop with modern swaggering style will return too.

As will Tom Hardy as sublimely outlandish London mobster Alfie Solomons.

Expect more slow-motion shots of Tommy walking through a factory, as sparks fly in the background.

Expect fresh indie covers of Nick Cave's ominous anthem.

And expect a much more focused, intense storyline than in the previous season.

Just as the Shelbys are returning to the things that made their name, so too, seemingly, is the show itself.

Peaky Blinders series 4 starts on Wednesday, November 15 at 9pm on BBC Two.

Originally published on our sister title iNews