Entertainment & Arts

Peaky Blinders season 5 return: Critics praise 'slick' first episode

Peaky Blinders
Image caption Peaky Blinders has returned for a fifth series with Cillian Murphy's Tommy Shelby now an MP

The return of Peaky Blinders, the drama about the criminal Shelby family, has been broadly praised by critics.

Set in 1929, the fifth series begins as the Wall Street Crash hits and Tommy Shelby is forging a career as an MP.

The Express's Fay Watson said: "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."

In her five-star review, Watson continued: "What the episode really excels in [is] 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."

Image caption Peaky Blinders is being shown on BBC One for the first time

Writing in the Metro, Tilly Pearce said in her four-star review: "Peaky Blinders season five has been one of the most anticipated returns to TV for the past year, so Tommy Shelby and the gang had some high expectations to fill. Thankfully, they do - and then some. Welcome back, fellas."

She praised lead actor Cillian Murphy (Tommy Shelby) and his ability to "portray a million emotions through one look" but acknowledged the performances of the rest of the cast.

"One of the best things about Peaky Blinders is there are no weak links - with every actor standing out in their own right within this twisted Birmingham gangster world."

Ed Power in the Independent concluded the new series had arrived "with swagger" and was "slick, a bit superficial and absolutely gripping".

"It's a reminder, too, that Peaky Blinders is at its best when it sets realism to one side and spirals into a Brummie-noir fever dream.

"There's lots of that in the episode. As is the tradition, the show literally hits its stride when Tommy dons cap and walks in slow motion while some interesting punk rock strikes up in the background.

"Scenes such as this encapsulate what Peaky Blinders has become. It's a rock'n'roll riot in vintage clobber and, judged by those standards, an absolute triumph."

Image caption Helen McCrory's "power" is praised

The Bafta-winning Peaky Blinders is being shown on BBC One for the first time with this new series - a move which meant another hit period drama Poldark had to been brought forward to an earlier slot.

Peaky Blinders' move gave it its highest overnight ratings so far, pulling an average audience of 3.7 million people, peaking at four million. ITV1's new Jane Austen drama Sanditon, being shown at the same time, attracted an average of 3.3 million people, peaking at 3.6 million for its first episode.

Peaky's channel hop was a point picked out by Gerard O'Donovan's four-star review in the Telegraph.

"There's no sign of Peaky Blinders softening its act yet, despite a promotion to BBC One and, even more provocatively, to Sundays," he said.

He went on to praise the look and atmosphere of the episode, while still poking fun at one scene in particular when Tommy "emerged from the mist on horseback against an impossibly panoramic West Midlands landscape" before picking up the phone to order a hit.

"Ludicrous in any other hands, but here positively mythic," he said.

Image caption A phone box scene elicited some sniggers

He also highlighted the actresses in the show, led by Helen McCrory as Shelby matriarch Aunt Polly.

"The women, too, in Peaky Blinders have power, if only by association with Tommy, the pivotal point of all their lives. And none more so than Helen McCrory's parodically sensual Polly."

However some critics were not wildly impressed by the return of the Brummie posse. Jim Shelley in the Mail felt it was all a case of deja vu saying "the episode had everything you'd expect from its grand return or season debut".

But he continued that it lacked "a special ingredient that took it to another level the way other gang dramas like Gomorrah, Boardwalk Empire, or The Sopranos had long before they reached their fifth series".

"Peaky Blinders didn't take any chances with its audience or give us something we hadn't seen before."

Image caption Sam Claflin as Tommy's political rival Oswald Mosley will become a central figure in the series

And jaded disappointment was the tone of Stuart Jeffries in his three-star Guardian review, who branded the episode a "poor show" but, good news for fans as "the formula is the same".

"Sharp duds that reprove today's sartorial slobathon? Check. Caps that allow middle-aged chumps like me to feel ancestral connection with their great-grandads? Check. Gaudy, exploitative violence? Sure," he said.

"The six-abreast Reservoir Dogs strut across cobbles, backlit by factory flames? But of course. Cillian Murphy as mob boss Tommy Shelby in existential crisis like Tony Soprano? Oh, go on then."

But Jeffries does also let slip that "the pleasure of watching period drama is pointing out its shortcomings".

The second episode of Peaky Blinders, series five, will be shown at 21:00 BST on BBC One.

See also: Who was Sir Oswald Mosley?


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