"I think Helen would've wanted us to continue with the influence of Polly," Knight says.
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Warning: This article contains spoilers from the final season of Peaky Blinders.

The sixth and final season of Peaky Blinders is missing a very important face. In April 2021, series star Helen McCrory died of cancer. For five seasons, McCrory had brilliantly played the part of Polly Gray, the aunt of Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy) and ferocious matriarch of the Peaky Blinders. Heading into season 6 (now streaming on Netflix), the show had to figure out how to honor both McCrory and her character. It wasn't a task they took lightly.

"First of all, issues of plot and story and television programs are insignificant compared to the tragedy that was the death of somebody so brilliant and so fantastic," Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight tells EW. "But it presented us with a situation."

In the end, the show decided to kill Polly, a death that's revealed in the very first moments of the new season. "The idea that Polly's alive but she's gone to America or something wasn't right," Knight says. "We wanted to pay tribute to the character and hopefully the actor at the same time, so we wanted that to be part of the show.

Helen McCrory on 'Peaky Blinders'
Helen McCrory on 'Peaky Blinders'
| Credit: Netflix

"I think Helen would've wanted us to continue with the influence of Polly," he continues. "She is still a very strong influence on Tommy, and therefore the whole thing. Her death is a catalyst for a lot of stuff that happens, all the way up to the end of episode 6."

For star Cillian Murphy, it was critical to honor Polly's impact on Tommy, and therefore McCrory's impact on the series. "Helen would've been in the series if we had shot in 2020, so she's very much part of the series," Murphy says. "Her influence is still in there, particularly for Tommy."

After Polly's death in the season 6 premiere, the series jumps four years into the future. Tommy still hasn't quite figured out how to function without her. "It's been very hard for Tommy to operate without Polly because she was his closest confidant and the person he trusted most," Murphy says. "It's very much in the story, that absence."

Polly is incorporated into the season in a number of ways, with both Michael (Finn Cole) and Tommy talking to her in flashbacks. The show also resurfaces memorable scraps of Polly's dialogue, specifically a line from season 5. Finally, she ends up being the reason that Tommy and Michael enter into a war. She always said one of them would die if they started a war, and — spoiler alert — Polly, per usual, was right.

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