Peaky Blinders, episode 3 - TV review: Helen McCrory plucks at the heartstrings as Polly Shelby

The actress shone in her portrayal of the mafia matriarch

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The Independent Culture

It’s not all about visceral violence and glamorous gangsters on Peaky Blinders. Sometimes viewers are offered a window into the softer side of life in the Shelby family.

Helen McCrory's portrayal of the Brummie mafia matriarch this week is moving. Polly is usually blunt and business-like, but her maternal instinct to protect her son Michael gently plucks at the heartstrings.

Here is a woman who is mired in the criminal underworld but is desperately trying to stop her son from descending down a similar spiral.

At times the Birmingham inflections slip and her plummy accent comes through, yet she is convincing as Polly, balancing the tough battleaxe with the caring mother well.   

Sadly, Michael appears to be treading a similar path to destruction as his father, witnessing an assassination attempt on Tommy’s life is just the start.


Despite the impressive-sounding speech about blowing his own hands off, the “teddy bears’ picnic” scene reveals that he is just a green boy and tragedy is on the cards.

Cillian Murphy continues to delight with his callous Tommy Shelby. Even though he is a ruthless, murderous villain he remains likeable as the anti-hero of the series.

So much of his performance rests on the piercing stares from those cold, icy blue eyes - it’s disconcerting how long he can go without blinking.

With Tommy Shelby it is all about subtext, his silence in the bakery as Tom Hardy’s Solomons gives a Fight Club-esque speech is a classic example. Their relationship is based on a mutual respect and distrust.         

But this is McCrory’s episode. As the only strong female character in a cast of men, she more than holds her own.