Warning: this article contains spoilers for Peaky Blinders season 6, episode 1.
Peaky Blinders killing off Polly Gray in season 6 episode 1 was the right decision, changing the dynamic of the show and giving several characters great development. Following the tragic death of Polly actress Helen McCrory in 2021, Peaky Blinders’ season 6 deals with Polly’s absence by ending the character’s journey. Aunt Polly only appears in her sleek portrayal, adding to her powerful send off at the start of the Season 1 premiere. Her funeral is also a moment that heralds a sea 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 have also decided to take away Tommy’s crutch, Polly. By restructuring Shelby Company Limited, the IRA has the upper hand over Tommy, and he ostensibly gives up on defeating Mosley. Peaky Blinders then jumps four years into the future, showing Tommy dealing with new situations stemming from the end of Prohibition in December 1933. But as Tommy meets Michael for the first time since Polly’s funeral, it becomes clear that Michael doesn’t want nothing more than getting revenge on Tommy, as it was his plans and ambitions against Mosley that got Polly killed.
Four years after Polly’s death, Tommy is a different man, having given up booze, Arthur (Paul Anderson) hits a whole new low, Finn (Harry Kirton) threatens to go off the rails and Ada (Sophie Rundle) assumes the position of matriarch Shelby. None of these big changes could have been brought to this level of complexity without the death of such an important character as Polly, because she bound the Shelbys together and offered them quality advice even when she claimed that she wouldn’t.
Why the IRA killed Polly in Peaky Blinders
the Peaky Blinders The Season 5 finale leaves Tommy in shock because, as far as he knows, no one knew about their plan to assassinate Oswald Mosley. Tommy was usually one step ahead of his foes, but with Mosley, even Tommy wondered if he’d met his match. It wasn’t until 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 discovered Tommy’s plan and intervened, as, for some as yet undisclosed reason, they have to keep Mosley alive.
But Barney and Aberama aren’t the only ones killed by the IRA, as they tell Tommy: “We’ve made some changes to your organization’s structure.” In effect, they killed Polly Gray to remove Tommy’s crutch and leave him in an even more vulnerable position than before. Even though Polly had retired, Tommy probably relied on her more than anyone else. In season 5, Polly questions her own son on suspicion of a conspiracy with the IRA against Tommy. Throughout the season, she mediates between Tommy and Michael and warns the former that this growing feud between them will end in the death of one of them. This is the last 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, Polly probably had the means to escape overseas, but she had too many ties to the Shelby Company. First, she had to oversee the war between her son and her nephew that she knew was coming long before he died. Second, she would have been on a personal vendetta for Aberama’s death, as Season 5 saw Aberama propose to Polly with Tommy’s blessing. It was also a big moment for Polly, as it was the first time she showed 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 Polly’s main fuel in Season 6. Finally and quite tragically, Polly once said that no one ever really left Shelby Company Limited, even when they wanted to. .
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 shows that Polly Gray will always play a major role in Tommy’s life (and in Peaky Blinders) despite his death. In the wake of Polly’s death, Tommy becomes a changed man, giving up alcohol and trying to abstain from violence. He eventually tries to get out of the game, a dream Polly herself once had, but which had always seemed impossible for Tommy as he struggled with his PTSD and compulsive drinking. Now Tommy’s desire to come out is further fueled by his attempt to make amends for his part in Polly’s death.
When the war against Luca Changretta (Adrien Brody) is over in Season 4, and Tommy’s mental illness returns, Polly tells him to “Shake hands with the demons and walk past them.” Now, as Tommy encounters new (Jack Nelson) and old (Michael) enemies, he once again asks Polly for advice. At the end of Season 6 Episode 1, Tommy asks for Polly’s advice as he tells her, “They know I’m trying to get out of this.” He worries about the health of his daughter Ruby and, as she spoke Romani in a delirious state, he knows that Polly is the only one who understands the complexity of the situation. Indeed, Tommy’s attempt to get out of it 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
After Peaky Blinders Season 5, it looked like Gina Gray (Anya Taylor-Joy) was going to be Season 6’s true villain and Tommy’s most worthy adversary. In the Season 6 premiere, Gina is quickly sidelined, her motive against Tommy pales in comparison to her husband Michael’s. At his mother’s funeral, Michael promises to destroy the man responsible for her death: Tommy Shelby. But Tommy knows about Michael’s vendetta and expects Michael to hit hard, but unsurprisingly he’s one step ahead of him.
Four years after Polly’s death, Tommy invites Michael to Newfoundland in order to make a deal with Gina’s uncle, Jack Nelson (a powerful Boston mobster based on Joseph Kennedy). He gives Michael a bag of opium to take to the United States, then informs the police, putting Michael in jail. Also, Tommy convinces Uncle Jack to leave Michael in jail for “a little longer, until the press loses interest.” Tommy Shelby further humiliates Michael by telling him that Jack and Gina will come with him to England, confirming Michael’s fear that Gina has already forgotten about him and is supporting the winning horse – in this case, his uncle. It’s not the end of Michael vs. Tommy – in fact, it looks like it’s going to be the best war of Season 6, and it’s Polly’s death that has escalated this great conflict.
Polly’s death changes the whole dynamic of Shelby
Season 6 shows the Shelby family four years after Polly’s death, and all of the main characters have been deeply affected by it. Arthur, who has always struggled with substance abuse, was still at his lowest point. His only responsibility in Season 6 Episode 1 was to dress up as Santa and give the kids their presents. However, Ada found him in a borderline comatose state, mumbling kind words about him. With Polly gone, Ada appears to be the Shelby matriarch, ever more responsible and determined to keep the family together and mentally sound. Later in the episode, Ada finds Arthur in Chinatown and warns the club owners to never sell opium to Arthur again.
But Arthur and Ada aren’t the only Shelbys changed by Polly’s death. Finn seems to be increasingly unstable, and of course Tommy sees himself as a new man, having given up alcohol and vowed to use violence only as a last resort. He seems to fulfill Polly’s wish to say goodbye to her demons and seek a way out at the Shelby Company. But Tommy’s conflict with Michael (and Gina’s family) has only just begun, so dating or not touching alcohol won’t be easy for Tommy. Polly’s death in Peaky Blinders Season 6 opened myriad doors for the show’s story as well as its characters.
Next: Peaky Blinders: What the Gypsy Phrase “Tikna Mora O Beng” Means and Ruby’s Vision
New episodes of Peaky Blinders airing every Sunday in the UK, with a US Netflix date to follow.
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