By Marta Zabo
Peaky Blinders' twist in season 6 changes the show's dynamic: Tommy doesn't have a crutch anymore, and Michael has a fresh motive for revenge.
Warning: This article contains spoilers for Peaky Blinders season 6, episode 1.
Peaky Blinders killing Polly Gray in season 6, episode 1 was the right decision, changing the show's dynamic and giving great development to several characters. After the tragic death of Polly's actress Helen McCrory in 2021,Peaky Blinders' season 6 deals with Polly's absenceby bringing the character's journey to an end. Aunt Polly only appears in her elegant portrait, which adds to her powerful send-off at the beginning of the season 1 premiere. Her funeral is also a moment that announces a dramatic change for Tommy (Cillian Murphy) and Michael (Finn Cole).
Season 6 episode 1 sees Tommy informed by the IRA that they have not only stopped the assassination of Oswald Mosley (Sam Claflin), but they have also decided to remove Tommy's crutch, Polly. By restructuring Shelby Company Limited, the IRA has the upper hand over Tommy, and he ostensibly gives up on defeatingMosley. Peaky Blinders then jumps four years into the future, showing Tommy dealing with new situations arising from the end of the Prohibition in December 1933. But as Tommy meets Michael for the first time since Polly's funeral, it becomes clear Michael wants nothing more than revenge on Tommy, as it was his schemes and ambitions against Mosley that got Polly killed.
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Four years after Polly's death, Tommy is a different man, having forsaken alcohol, Arthur (Paul Anderson) has reached a brand new low, Finn (Harry Kirton) is threatening to go off the rails, and Ada (Sophie Rundle)is assuming the position of the Shelby matriarch. None of these great changes could have been brought to this level of complexity without the death of a character as important as Polly, as she tied the Shelbys together and offered them quality counseling even when sheclaimed she wouldn't.
Why The IRA Killed Polly In Peaky Blinders
The Peaky Blinders season 5 finale leaves Tommy in absolute shock as, to his knowledge, no one knew of their plan to assassinate Oswald Mosley. Tommy was usually one step ahead of his enemies, but with Mosley, even Tommy wondered if he met his match. It's only in season 6 episode 1 that it's revealed who protected Mosley, killing PTSD-suffering army sniper Barney Thompson (Cosmo Jarvis)and Aberama Gold (Aidan Gillen). The IRA found out about Tommy's plan and intervened, as, for a reason undisclosed yet, they need to keep Mosley alive.
But Barney and Aberama are not the only ones killed by the IRA, as they tell Tommy: "We've made some changes to the structure of your organization." Indeed, they killed Polly Gray as a way to remove Tommy's crutch and leave him in an even more vulnerable position than before. Even though Polly had retired, Tommy was relying on her arguably more than on anyone else. In season 5, Polly questions her own son on suspicions of him plotting withthe IRA against Tommy. Throughout the season, she mediates between Tommy and Michael and warnsthe former that this growing feud between them will end with one of them dead. This is the last piece of advice she gives Tommy, and he is left without direction after her death.
Polly Gray Could Never Have Retired In Peaky Blinders Season 6
Following the failed assassination attempt on Oswald Mosley, Pollyprobably had the means to escape abroad, but she had too much tying her to the Shelby Company. Firstly, she had to oversee the war between her son and her nephew that she knew was coming long beforeher death. Secondly, she would have been on a personal vendetta for Aberama's death, as season 5 saw Aberama propose to Polly with Tommy's blessing. This was a big moment for Polly, too, as it was the first time she was showing her vulnerable side to a man after her relationship with Michael's father. Aberama's death at the hands of the IRA would have been the main fuel for Polly in season 6.Finally and quite tragically, Polly once saidthat nobody ever really got out of Shelby Company Limited, even when they wanted to.
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Polly's Death Sets Up Tommy's Biggest Struggle
In the opening scenes of Peaky Blinders season 6, the Shelby family attends Polly’s funeral and the TV series includes a shot of Polly's eyes hidden in the clouds. This goes to showthat Polly Gray will still play a major role in Tommy's life (and in Peaky Blinders)despite her death. In the wake of Polly’s death, Tommy becomes a changed man, giving up alcohol and trying to abstain from violence. He’s ultimately trying to get out of the game, a dream that Polly herself once held but had always seemed impossible for Tommyas he struggled with his PTSD and compulsive drinking. Now, Tommy's desire to get out is further fuelled by his attempt to make amends for his part in Polly'sdeath.
When the war against Luca Changretta (Adrien Brody)is over in season 4, and Tommy's mental illness isback, Polly tells him to "shake hands with the devils and walk past them." Now, as Tommy encounters new (Jack Nelson) and old (Michael) enemies, he seeks advice from Polly once more. At the end of season 6 episode 1, Tommy asks for Polly's guidance as he tells her, "They know I'm trying to get out."He is worried about his daughter Ruby's health and, as she spoke Romani in a delirious state, he knows Polly is the only one who understands the complexity of the situation. Indeed, Tommy's attempt to get out promises to be a strong story in season 6, and it wouldn't have been possible without Polly's death.
Michael Vs Tommy Is Better Than Any New Villain
AfterPeaky Blinders season 5, it seemed like Gina Gray (Anya Taylor-Joy) was going to be season 6's true villain and Tommy's worthiest adversary. In the season 6 premiere, Gina quickly becomessidelined, her motive against Tommy paling in comparison to that of her husband Michael. At his mother's funeral, Michael promises to destroy the man responsible for her death: Tommy Shelby. But Tommy knows of Michael's vendetta and expects Michael to strike in a big way, but is unsurprisingly one step ahead of him.
Four years after Polly's death, Tommy invites Michael to Newfoundland in order to strike a deal with Gina's uncle Jack Nelson (a powerful Boston gangster based on Joseph Kennedy). He gives Michael a bag of opium to take to the States, then tips the police about it, putting Michael in prison. Furthermore, Tommy convinces Uncle Jack to leave Michael in prison for "a while longer, just until the press lose interest." Tommy Shelby further humiliates Michael as he tells him Jack and Gina will be coming with him to England, confirming Michael's fear that Gina has already forgotten about him and is backing the winning horse - in this case, her uncle. This is not the end of Michael vs Tommy - in fact, it looks like it's going to be the best war in season 6, and it was Polly's death that escalated this great conflict.
Related:Peaky Blinders: Why John Shelby Was Killed Off In Season 4
Polly's Death Changes The Entire Shelby Dynamic
Season 6 shows the Shelby family four years after Polly's death, and all the main characters have been deeply affected by it. Arthur, who has always had issues with substance abuse, had reached his lowest point yet. His sole responsibility in season 6 episode 1 was to dress as Father Christmas and give the kids their presents. However, Ada found him in a borderline comatose state, mumbling kind words about her. With Polly gone, Ada seems to be the Shelby matriarch, ever more responsible and determined to keep the family together and in a good mental state. Later in the episode, Ada finds Arthur in the Chinese neighborhood and warns the club owners to never sell opium to Arthur again.
But Arthur and Ada are not the only Shelbys changedby Polly's death. Finn seems to be increasingly unstable, and of course, Tommy considers himself a new man, having forsaken alcohol and promised to only useviolence as the last resort. He seems to be fulfilling Polly's wish to wave his devils goodbye and seek a way out from the Shelby Company. But Tommy's conflict with Michael (and Gina's family) has just begun, so getting out or not touching alcohol won't be easy for Tommy. Polly's death in Peaky Blinders season 6 opened a myriad of doors for the show's story as well as its characters.
New episodes ofPeaky Blindersair every Sunday in the UK, with a Netflix date for the US to follow.