Cillian Murphy’s complicated character in ‘Peaky Blinders’
Cillian Murphy talks about the inner workings of his character in hit show “Peaky Blinders.” (Oct. 10)
Spoiler alert: This story contains plot details of the sixth and final season of “Peaky Blinders.”
“Peaky Blinders” says farewell to star Helen McCrory as the British crime series returns for its sixth and final season (now streaming on Netflix).
“Harry Potter” actress McCrory, the wife of “Homeland” and “Billions” star Damian Lewis, died in April 2021 at 52 after a battle with breast cancer.
Besides dealing with the grief of the sudden loss, producers had to rewrite the entire COVID-delayed season to reflect the loss of McCrory’s formidable matriarch Polly Gray – known as Aunt Polly to crime family head Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy).
The Season 6 premiere is dedicated to “the memory of Helen McCrory OBE,” and Polly’s presence looms large throughout the season.
Helen McCory dies: ‘Peaky Blinders,’ ‘Harry Potter’ actress was 52
In the final moments of Season 5, Shelby was in despair over his foiled assassination plot against fascist leader Oswald Mosley (Sam Claflin) , putting a gun to his head in a foggy field. With the final season announced, it was clear this would not be the end for the unraveling crime boss and politician.
Season 6 picks up in the same muddy field, with Tommy actually pulling the trigger. But his brother Arthur (Paul Anderson) had removed the bullets, fearing the worst. “They wouldn’t let me pass,” Tommy moans before the sound of a telephone ringing interrupts.
The phone call is from Irish Republican Army member Captain Swing (Charlene McKenna), informing him the group had kiboshed the assassination (“we need to keep Mr. Mosley alive”) and that the bodies of “your people” killed in the fray were being delivered.
Among the dead is Aunt Polly, killed as a direct message to the empire-building leader. “You’ve had a crutch to lean on; last night we kicked away that crutch,” Swing says, making it clear it’s Tommy’s fault, since “you consistently fail to understand your own limitations.”
Polly is shown only as a portrait in the ensuing funeral pyre, as her son Michael Gray (Finn Cole) lights her carriage aflame in tribute to their Romany gypsy heritage. The camera shows each grief-stricken family member’s face, focusing on Michael, who blames his father figure Tommy.
“I swear in the name of almighty God, no matter what it takes, no matter how many lies I have to tell, I will take revenge on Thomas Shelby,” Michael vows, setting up the struggle for the final season.
Polly’s family gets ‘Peaky’ revenge
Polly’s family provides a full “Peaky Blinders” sendoff in the series finale. Arthur kills Captain Swing, but not before telling her why.
“Her name was Elizabeth Grey; she was my Aunt Polly,” Arthur says.
After shooting Swing, Arthur says, “Rest in peace, Pol,” and drops his gun in a manner that suggests a life-changing permanent gesture.
Later, Michael leads Tommy into a car seemingly loaded with explosives and then (lamely) feigns forgotten cigarettes to escape the oncoming explosion.
“Mum, it’s done, it’s over. May God forgive me,” Michael says after the glass-shattering bomb. But Tommy has outsmarted everyone again, having the bomb switched out to another car and confronting his once-beloved betrayer.
“Polly was half of me; she still visits me in my dreams. She’ll visit me no more,” Tommy says, before shooting Michael. The drastic act makes Tommy realize he truly has “no limitations.”
Damian Lewis pays sweet tribute, McCrory is ‘much missed’
McCrory received a real-world tribute this week more than a year after her death from Lewis, her husband of more than 14 years.
Lewis spoke stoically but sweetly during a June 9 TV interview on “Good Morning Britain.” to promote his annual soccer charity game. BBC hosts Ben Shephard and Kate Garraway had attended a recent private memorial for McCrory.
“She was a fabulous human being, and people from all walks of life have been in touch to say what an impact she had on their lives,” said Lewis, adding that the memorial service “was a special day” filled with McCory’s “tribe” – actors, directors and writers.
“She is much missed,” said Lewis, adding she would continue to show her support in spirit at the June 12 charity game. “She is with us again this year.”