Warning: contains spoilers for Peaky Blinders season five.
Polly Gray, Shelby Company treasurer, Romani Queen and clairvoyant witch, is the fabric of Peaky Blinders. The glamorous, redoubtable Shelby matriarch is a matchless creation. Sharp-tongued and sharply tailored, Polly gets all the best lines and all the best looks. She’s an integral part of the family’s ascent, having run the bookmakers while the boys were fighting in France, and continuing to run things ever since at Tommy’s side (or just as often, at his throat). She drips wit, shoots rapists, twists mafiosos around her little finger, scares the shit out of abusive nuns, makes drunken speeches at the Bullring, and predicts the future. In other words: she’s Polly fucking Gray, a corner of the Shelby family triangle on which this whole mad drama rests.
Played by the late Helen McCrory, Aunt Polly was supreme. The acclaimed stage and screen actor and philanthropist died from cancer in April this year. Heartfelt tributes were paid by her cast and crewmates, and by fans and critics who recognised her vibrant talent.
It’s not yet known how involved Polly’s character will be in Peaky Blinders’ sixth and final season, which wrapped filming in May after a disrupted production period due to Covid-19. One bonus scene from the previous run though, might suggest a possible future for McCrory’s much-loved character.
Originally filmed for season five, episode three ‘Strategy’ (from 09:40 in the video above), the scene features Polly and her love interest Aberama Gold, played by Aidan Gillen. Polly has just broken Aberama out of hospital where he was recovering from an attack by rival Scottish gang the Billy Boys, who murdered his only son Bonnie (Jack Rowan).
Aberama takes Polly to a beautiful hillside and shows her the view, telling her “Two miles that way, a mile that way, south of the river, including the river and all the trout that swim in it. All mine.” Both Romani gypsies, Polly assumes Aberama means he has permission to camp there, but no. He’s bought the land.
“With stolen gold, blood money, rings from ladies’ fingers, takings snatched out of the hands of bookmakers and bankers. 30 years’ worth of it. All mine. There is where I was planning to build my house.”Peaky Blinders, deleted scene season 5, episode 3 ‘Strategy’
Polly initially scoffs at the idea of wild traveller Aberama Gold living in a house, when he corrects her. It won’t be a house, but a mansion, with 20 bedrooms, and stables, and a caravan in the yard for the grandchildren. He already has the plans drawn up. It was to have been the place where he’d finally settle, and then when his time came, he would have left it to his son. It was all meant for Bonnie.
In the hospital, grieving the loss of his son and the future he’d planned, Aberama was told he had a visitor. The nurse had asked him “Polly Gray, yes or no?” “I said yes,” Aberama tells Polly, which is when she realises why he’s brought her to the hillside and exactly what it is he’s asking her. This is a marriage proposal, one that Polly greets sardonically with a comment that maybe his morphine hasn’t quite worn off yet. “The nurse said Polly Gray, and I said yes,” repeats Aberama. Polly looks out at the view.
The next episode, Aberama proposes on one knee with a ring, and Polly accepts. The wedding’s in four weeks, she tells Tommy in another unbroadcast scene. It’s to be a gypsy wedding and Arthur’s the best man. But Polly and Aberama never reach their wedding day. In retaliation for his revenge attack on the Billy Boys, Aberama is stabbed to death in the season finale.
Polly Grey’s happy ending is taken away from her – as tends to happen to members of the Shelby family, perhaps deservedly considering the lives they lead. Though likely too sentimental for a show as gutsy and unpredictable as Peaky Blinders, if it’s feeling indulgent in its final season, perhaps Aberama’s land, and his dream of a house and stables, a river filled with trout, and a caravan in the yard, could be Polly’s future away from the Shelby Company, somewhere that wild girl could be free.
Peaky Blinders season six will air in late 2021 or early 2022 on BBC One.