Gangs of London, on AMC+ in the U.S., follows the Wallace crime family as they try to stay on top after the patriarch, Finn, (Colm Meany) is killed. With oldest son Sean (Joe Cole) now head of the family, crime syndicates all across London are taking advantage of his inexperience to become number 1. Meanwhile, all is not well inside the family itself, which includes the Dumanis as well as the Wallaces. Ed Dumani (Lucian Msamati) was the consigliere to Finn Wallace, and his son Alex (Paapa Essiedu) is Sean’s “brother” and partner in the firm. Finn’s death destroyed the illusion of unity, and we watch as each family member swiftly moves in their own direction. Between the lack of communication in the Wallace family and the power grab by their former business partners, the carefully built structure of the London underworld is quickly and violently crumbling.
The (Multitude of) Characters in Gangs of London
There is a head-spinning amount of characters in Gangs of London. Within the Wallace family, there are those in the business, mentioned above, but also the widowed Marian (Michelle Fairley), who is determined to find Finn’s latest mistress; the sister Jacqueline (Valene Kane), a nurse who wants nothing to do with the family; Billy (Brian Vernel), a bored junkie, and Shannon Dumani (Pippa Bennett-Warner), Ed’s daughter who is a single mother on the periphery of the business. Then there are the gangs, which include London-based Kurds, Albanians, Welsh Gypsies, Pakistanis, and a mysterious group who is responsible for Finn’s murder. Each gang has a backstory that explains their machinations. Lastly, there is Elliot (Sope Dirisu). He is a low-level Wallace grunt who is ambitious, but whose motives aren’t clear. Through a series of circumstances that involve Elliot fighting to the death with SEVERAL different adversaries, he finally gets next to Sean. In the first few episodes, it’s hard to keep track of who’s who, especially in the crime families, but it becomes clearer.
A word about the violence
I am not squeamish about violence. Horror, yes, violence, no. But there is some seriously gratuitous and gory violence in Gangs of London. Like Tarantino level. Because of this, the show teeters between a thoughtful and well-written drama and a brainless action movie with choreographed fights and endless bullets. As someone who relishes a series with a plot I can sink my teeth into, the bloodbath is distracting and frankly tiresome. I find myself thinking, “Yeah, I get it. A powerful gun pulverizes a head. Can we move on?” For those of you who can’t stomach a lot of violence, this show isn’t for you.
Our Take on Gangs of London
Gangs of London is a classic, Godfather-like, story of a son taking over a criminal empire, and the chaos it begets inside and outside the family. Because the writers give us the back story on the business partners/rivals of the Wallace family, we are invested in watching their power plays. However, we don’t know much about the actual Wallace family, and how Finn was able to control the other gangs. What we do know is that they took their turf by force in the beginning, and later through money laundering partnerships. Now they have a real estate empire, which is semi-legitimate, and they have tentacles in every distribution route in the city, which gives them control of global drug trafficking. Will they be able to hold onto it? I like Gangs of London, and I’ve been bingeing it. At 5 episodes in, my interest in the byzantine plot is winning over my boredom at the continual fight/massacre sequences, but that may change.
You can subscribe to AMC+ via Amazon Prime. Note that Gangs of London will be on AMC’s broadcast channel in 2021 if you want to wait.
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