The latest episode of peaky blinders sees Ada Shelby (Sophie Rundle), who dresses up and walks into Shelby’s offices to claim them as her own.
This moment seems like a victory moment for a character that has been marginalized throughout the series, finally placing her in the center of the family as she long deserves.
Since the very first episode, Ada has been overshadowed both within the drama and in the family order by her more power-hungry, ruthless and bolshy brothers. Tommy (Cillian Murphy), the clan’s unmatched leader, has Arthur (Paul Anderson), his violent second-hand man and John (Joe Cole), his younger, more sensitive brother.
As series six progressed, Finn (Harry Kirton), the youngest brother, was added to the family. You’d be forgiven if you don’t remember him, since he has barely been seen at the halfway mark.
Although there have been many lovers and wives, Aunt Polly was the glue that kept everything together. Now, it’s been gone and the shoes are almost impossible to fill.
It is unlikely that anyone would want to assume her position within the family. Polly was a formidable family member, and her familial duties were a source of envy for many. She often had to make great sacrifices and carry a lot of personal weight while she kept the boys’ noses clean.
Just as it seemed like she was finally going to get a happy ending it was overturned by the IRA’s decision “removed the crutch form the Shelby organisation” to kill her (made more poignant due to the tragic real-life death the actress).
Ada was often an afterthought for casual viewers of the show. She was the rebel in the group. She stood out and broke away from the group. Ada fell in love with communist Freddie Thorne, and they had their son, Karl.
Ada Thorne has been so far removed from her family that she doesn’t even have the family name. She is their refuge in London while the rest of their group carry on their business in Birmingham.
Ada Shelby is given a title in the legal department of the company at some point during season 3. We don’t see her doing much in that area. We don’t know what her role is, but we do know that she does have one.
Ada is isolated by her own will, but it seems that writer Steven Knight was not sure what to do. In season 5, she has a cordial, but ultimately unloving relationship with Ben Younger (Kingsley Ben-Adir), until he is bumped off (well… blown away) soon after. She was pregnant at the time with his child.
There were some racial issues in their relationship at the time. Younger was shocked when Karl, still a child, declared that he didn’t want a Black father as the pair became closer. These comments would have to be part of why Ada kept their relationship a secret if she had enough influence to allow her son to pick up on the rhetoric.
She was essentially ignored, hidden, and relegated until series 6. While she colored the story of the boys, Peaky Blinders was a men’s game, with the exception Polly.
This new series however is a completely new game.
Ada is seen in three episodes stepping up in many ways. She remarks to Tommy at the start of episode one that she “doesn’t work for Tommy anymore”, but by episode three, it is clear that Ada can fulfill his role.
As Tommy continues his descent into darkness and Arthur’s opium dependence takes control, everything about Tommy’s once-bleak, but funny character is changing. Ada is now in the position that she deserves within the family household as well as on the show.
Ada Shelby role was small, but it has been fully developed and realized. She was a voice of reason, not that people paid much attention to it before, and she is now taking over the entire business. This character development is long overdue but it’s better late than never.
Polly is the only one who can replace her, and everyone (including actress Sophie Rundle) knows this. Steven Knight finally allowed Ada to flourish after five seasons and literally decades of showtime. We now have a brand new, alternative and brilliant female character that doesn’t have to depend on a man to make her story work.
In just one episode, she commands the same respect as Tommy and calls the shots in the office like she was meant to. While her suits are similar to Polly’s, they are unique to her and she makes intelligent comments to Isaiah about his behavior regarding races he knows he’s fixed.
It’s understandable that Tommy’s attention is not on Ruby, his little girl, but it’s also necessary to focus on the revenge he will likely plot. Arthur is now a miserable mess, as he tries to clean himself up. Arthur is no longer the force he was once.
We are eager to see what happens to the Ada Shelby family’s fate.
Peaky Blinders Series 6 airs Sundays at 9pm on BBC One.