The New World Order
The opening shots of a TV show can very often make or break a show. In the case of Gangs Of London, the opening scene sets both the tone and mood for this 9-part crime drama to follow and what an absolute scorcher it is. This action-packed first episode introduces a whole slew of characters and does so with some slick camera work and violent, adrenaline-soaked action. If this 90 minute episode is anything to go by, Sky Atlantic’s latest effort could just be one of the best shows of 2020.
Episode 1 of Gangs Of London begins in the heart of London as a man is interrogated while hanging upside down atop a building. Petrol is poured on him and he’s set alight. “What else can I do?” Sean Wallace says hopelessly as he watches the man burn alive.
After this dramatic opener, we cut back 1 week earlier to see two men receive instructions on a hit which happens to be for Finn Wallace, the most powerful crime boss in London. Killed in cold blood, Finn Wallace’s death causes ripples throughout the crime world as the two boys race away from the scene with a bag full of money.
A week later, the various families gather together to mourn their loss as Finn’s son Sean prepares for what comes next. The Dumani family, fronted by Alex and Ed, gather the crime bosses and reveal that one of them has murdered and profited from Finn’s death. Alex reassures Lale and the others that the docks will re-open and business will return while they find the one responsible. Only, Sean doesn’t see things the same way. He tells them all that everything will stop until he finds out who killed his Father.
At the funeral, the Albanian Mafia, fronted by Luan Dushaj, arrive to pay their respects. While they head inside, Alex gets a tip off from an investigator who happens to have CCTV footage from the night Finn was killed.
After grabbing a wad of money down a drain, Elliot pays his respects to Finn Wallace before heading into the pub and handing the money over to Jim, a nobody who works on Finn’s pay-role. Hot-headed and determined to make a name for himself, Elliot loses his temper after confronting the Albanians in the pub and walks out, believing they’re the ones responsible for killing Finn.
Outside, Elliot stumbles upon Alex in an alleyway with a group of men showing off the CCTV footage from that night. Finn’s driver, Jack, is still alive and bundled into a black van. As he plays the tape, Elliot interjects and believes he knows who’s van that is – an Albanian by the name of Bezmer who happens to work for Luan and the same one he confronted earlier in the episode.
With Mark taking the lead, Elliot tags along as a fight breaks out inside the bar. It’s a brutal, violent, bloody affair and one that sees Elliot finally find his man. Bezmer admits that Luan and the others didn’t kill Finn and Jack is awake and alive. Elliot throws himself head-first into the lion’s den as Bezmer drives him to the hide-out.
Once there, Luan kills Bezmer without a second’s thought and hands Jack over, admitting he didn’t actually know Jack was being kept in the basement. Elliot is allowed to leave and he bundles the bloodied man into the back-seat of a cab as Luan orders his men to investigate what’s been happening on his doorstep.
Jack and Elliot race away where he reveals the registration plate of the car – G443 SAV. As Sean catches wind of what’s happened, Ed implores him to see reason and make peace rather than turning all the business partners into enemies. Marian takes Sean’s side and demands Luan be brought to them.
Jack arriving with Elliot shatters the tension as Elliot reveals what happened with Luan and who he actually is. Admitting he did all of this alone, Sean doesn’t believe him. Elliot spills the truth that Jack knows “A couple of pikey kids” killed Finn and goes on to mention the reg plate. After some contemplation (and a gun to the back of his head) Elliot is allowed to help them on the quest to find the killers.
Elliot learns the whereabouts of the car and races to the scene, just as another leaves with Darren in the back. Up in the apartment, Elliot walks in and sees the driver of the red car lying in the bath, mutilated at the hands of a blood-stained gang member. He chokes Elliot out before grabbing the meat cleaver and coming at him. It’s a tense fight and one that sees Elliot come out on top.
Unable to get any information surrounding where Darren has been taken, Elliot leaves the apartment where he’s met by a woman named Vic in the back-alleys. She reveals that he’s actually an undercover officer and may be able to twist Sean Wallace’s hand and get them some crucial intel.
As the episode closes out, Ed hands Jack a cup of coffee and they talk about that night with Finn, asking where he was taking him. As they continue to talk, Ed reveals he’s spiked his drink. “For the good of the family Jack,” Ed says, as he stands up and slits Jack’s wrists to make it look like a suicide.
Who killed Finn Wallace? Right now there’s a number of different people it could be and with the wild-card of Elliot smack bang in the middle of this whole tense, messy affair, the door is left wide open for the remainder of the season to let this question fester and bubble up. There’s a lot of great moments in this opener, with Gangs Of London getting off to a breathtaking starting.
There’s a lovely balance of power that’s starting to become unbalanced and the little tensions and feuds between the different characters is interesting and certainly enough to keep you sticking around for more. The brutal fight sequences are bloody and incredibly well shot, helped along by some excellent camera work that keeps things tense and interesting right the way through.
While it’s still early days, all the ingredients are here for one of the best crime dramas of 2020. Let’s hope the show continues to live up to expectations after a blistering start.