TV Review: Gangs of London (Sky 1)

Some epic storytelling and a mighty ensemble make the hyper-violence of Gangs of London highly watchable

“A war was started when my father was shot”

Sky 1 seem to have got themselves quite the coup in Gangs of London, a major new series which – if there was any justice in the world – ought to break through the limitations of Sky’s minimal audience share. Created by Gareth Evans and Matt Flannery and boasting a highly exciting ensemble cast, it is a visceral and highly violent look at an immense power struggles between power syndicates in London after the assassination of the patriarch of its premier crime family.

Finn Wallace ruled the streets of London for 20 years but in the wake of his untimely death and with no-one taking responsibility for ordering the hit, it falls to his younger son Sean to take the reins. But Sean is a highly volatile young man  and the careful balancing act required to keep the billions of pounds flowing through the organisation and to maintain the equilibrium between so many warring factions is of little interest to him whilst his father’s killer remains unpunished.

Photo Credit: AMC/SKY

And there really are several warring factions.  The Wallaces have to contend with the Albanian Mafia, Kurdish militants, a Pakistani heroin ring, Welsh travellers, Danish assassins, the Nigerian Mafia and shadowy power brokers as well as keeping an eye on their long-time partners in the Dumani Family and of course, the Met. Over the course of nine lengthy episodes, it’s a hell of a lot of people and competing interests to keep track of but all in all, I’d say the show just about pulls it off.

Where I wasn’t so keen was in the levels of hardcore violence, if only because extended fight scenes aren’t really by bag. Evans is well known in the action crime genre and he sticks to his strengths – the Danish invasion episode is unquestionably fantastic – it just doesn’t  engage me in the same way that the verbal conflicts do. Once the depths of the undercover police operation and internal power struggles become evident, you long for tongues to be unleashed rather than guns.

But that’s more a personal preference. Everyone can relish in the wild-eyed force of Joe Cole’s Sean, especially contrasted with Paapa Essiedu’s pseudo-brother figure Alex and Sọpẹ Dìrísù’s factotum on the rise Elliot (who just happens to be undercover…). With Michelle Fairley and Lucian Msamati also on blistering form as the respective surviving parents of Sean and Alex, the action is undoubtedly gripping from the start. And giving nothing away, that final episode…!!!

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