Peaky Blinders season 6 may not entirely satisfy the violent gangster warfare of past installments. It does, however, offer compelling closure of the personal demons that torment the Shelby family while setting up their climactic feud with the fascists for the upcoming film. Even before the season began, the Shelbys were rocked with an unprecedented loss: Polly Gray actress Helen McCrory passed away of breast cancer at age 52 in April 2021, just three months after Peaky Blinders season 6’s production resumed following several delays from the COVID-19 pandemic. As one of the greatest fictional gangsters to ever grace television, Peaky Blinders season 6 suffers from the absence of Polly. But the poignant handling of her fate enhances the Shelbys’ riveting personal journeys while increasing the stakes of their internal hostilities.
Picking up in 1933, Arthur Shelby is still abusing drugs and alcohol, racking with his trauma from World War I and his wife, Linda, leaving him at end of season 5. All the while, Tommy has tasked Michael and Gina Gray with selling opium in America, though has put his cousin in prison as a test of loyalties. The external conflict that pervades Peaky Blinders season 6 is the family’s opposition to the growing sentiments of fascism under Oswald Mosley, as well as the movement of the regime into the United States via Gina’s Uncle Jack Nelson. As per usual, Tommy’s strategies as he deals with the fascists seem skeptical on the surface, but audiences learn to trust his judgment as Cillian Murphy’s character operates under a revised conscience.
Peaky Blinders season 6 is an eloquent exploration of the Shelby family’s reckoning with their Romani past and internal family struggles. Still reeling from their foiled plan to assassinate Oswald Mosley in Peaky Blinders’ season 5 finale, the Shelbys are now confronted with their personal demons as the fascists are still on the rise. Tommy Shelby faces his mortality at his own hands, grappling with the fact that “they wouldn’t let [him] pass.” The end of Peaky Blinders season 5 left Tommy with the demoralizing realization that he had finally found the man he couldn’t beat, but season 6 gradually reveals that this man is none other than Thomas Shelby himself. As Tommy contends with his Romani blood, role in the deaths of his loved ones, and personal mortality, Peaky Blinders season 6 sees the Shelby family patriarch’s most psychologically toiling journey yet.
Perhaps the best example of how Peaky Blinders season 6 approaches the family’s emotional unraveling is in terms of the losses they suffered entering the new installment. The series has an appropriate, touching, and dignified tribute to not just Polly Gray, the Shelby family’s clever, terrifying, and resilient matriarch, but also to the late Helen McCrory, whose absence is felt equally by the characters and viewers. Upon the actress’ untimely passing, Peaky Blinders’ final season was presented with two significant dilemmas: How to approach the absence of the enigmatic Polly and how to supplement the inimitable charisma of McCrory. Peaky Blinders season 6 was miraculously able to do justice to both unprecedented situations, keeping the memory of McCrory alive throughout the series while also maintaining Polly as a significant motivation in the Shelby family’s internal battles. Neither McCrory nor Polly is truly gone in season 6, as Tommy, Michael, and Ada (who earnestly steps into Polly’s role in the family) continually reflect on her influence on the family through flashbacks and her ominous Romani prophecy: “There will be a war, and one of you will die. But which one, I cannot tell.”