Tommy Shelby’s (Cillian Murphy) season 6 story in Peaky Blinders was set up in the series’ very first episode. The BBC show’s sixth and final season focuses on Tommy as he tries to complete an increasingly complicated deal that will earn him a way out, four years after Polly Gray’s (Helen McCrory) death. Season 6 episode 3 showed, for the first time since Polly’s death, someone step up and become the family matriarch and temporary Shelby Company Limited boss, namely Ada (Sophie Rundle). This was foreshadowed as early as Peaky Blinders’ pilot episode.
In the very first Peaky Blinders episode, Tommy tells Polly he’s doing something that isn’t “women’s business,” avoiding discussing the topic at the family meeting. Polly retorts: “This whole bloody enterprise was women’s business while you boys were away at war, what’s changed?” Throughout the following seasons, Polly is Tommy’s Second-In-Command and most trusted advisor (on business as well as personal matters). With Polly gone in season 6, Tommy asks Ada to step in as temporary boss while he seeks out Esme (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) to lift the curse on his daughter Ruby (Orla McDonagh). Ada taking charge of the family as well as the family business has been a long time coming, considering Polly’s witty remark.
To answer Polly’s rhetorical question in Peaky Blinders’ pilot episode, nothing has changed: Tommy’s still at war, with Oswald Mosley (Sam Claflin), Jack Nelson (James Frecheville), Michael Gray (Finn Cole), and most importantly, with his two battling identities. On the one hand, he wants to get out; on the other hand, he keeps getting pulled back by his own past. In season 6 episode 3, Tommy learns that the gypsy curse that eventually kills Ruby was put on him for killing someone else’s 7-year-old girl. As Lizzie (Natasha O’Keeffe) gives him the tragic news, Tommy feels once again guilty for the death of his loved ones. While Tommy fights his ghosts, Ada is forced to take over the business and wastes no time in getting things done. She behaves just like Polly and confirms she was right: the endgame for Tommy had always been leaving his enterprise to the women of the family.
In Peaky Blinders season 6 episode 3, Ada truly shines in her role as Shelby Company boss. She remains composed and gracefully witty in a room with fascists Oswald Mosley, Diana Mitford (Amber Anderson), and Jack Nelson (and his giggling, ever less serious niece). When she tells Diana that caring for children is “a genetic thing,” and when she replies to Jack Nelson “My husband died, but of course, we speak often,” Ada exposes their prejudices and takes back the power in a room full of arrogant people who think they control the future of the world. Although Polly Shelby is irreplaceable, Ada is doing exactly what a Shelby boss would do: she takes control of whatever situation she finds herself in and turns it to her advantage, all the while protecting her family.
In season 6 episode 2, Ada tells Tommy “I’m not you, Tommy. And I’m not Polly either.” But she also says she wants to be like Polly, and that she knows Tommy must be stopped before he self-destructs. By episode 3, Ada does become Tommy and Polly, handling Tommy’s very complicated business relationships as well as giving Arthur (Paul Anderson) a direction. This proves Polly was right in Peaky Blinders’ very first episode: the enterprise is women’s business, and Ada is more fitted than Tommy to run the company in season 6.