Gangs of London
Who the hell is Elliot Finch? Of course, we could ask this question of most Gangs of London characters at this point. Gareth Evans’s two-part intro to this world has been heavy on gloomy atmosphere, exquisite fight scenes, and underworld world-building. After the murder of Wallace crime family patriarch Finn, we’ve been introduced to various arms of his organization, and we’re being slowly clued into the competitions and connections there. The loyalty the Dumanis feel toward the Wallaces; the secret deal Alex Dumani might have with the Pakistani crime family, the Afridis; and the irritation Kurdish crime leader Lale feels toward Sean Wallace in his desire to exact justice for his father all come into play in this second episode of the series.
And, most importantly, we learn that the Wallaces’ grip on London has not gone unnoticed by police officers — the remaining ones who aren’t being paid off by them, that is. Which is exactly who the pint-glass-smashing, dart-wielding, and Jack-rescuing Elliot turns out to be. In that frantic, brief, very-evocative-of-The Departed scene with his handler Vicky (Jing Lusi), we learn Elliot has been undercover for two years, tolerating his racist boss Jim in an effort to get closer and closer to the Wallaces. Finally, in the span of 24 hours, it happens in a whirlwind: taking on that bar full of Albanians, realizing that Besmir was hiding something, taking Besmir hostage, and then going from there. Elliot’s bosses wouldn’t shut his mission down now, would they?
We pick up where the premiere left off, with hostage Besmir taking Elliot to London’s Albanian neighborhood, leading him into a nondescript storefront, and then guiding him down into a secret underground space. Finn’s driver Jack hasn’t succumbed to the Albanians’ pressure, but when Elliot arrives, Jack goes with him as readily as his broken body can take him—and when Besmir tells Elliot to let Sean know that he helped, Albanian leader Luan has him shot. Why should Besmir get a favor with the Wallaces when Luan could? Luan’s the boss. Besmir is a nobody. In a very The Wire–like moment, Luan instructs two of his men to dump Besmir’s body somewhere (“If you get caught, you did it. We’ll provide a lawyer”), reminds Elliot to vouch for him to Sean (Luan “let” Elliot and Jack leave), and chastises his second in command for not knowing that Jack was being held on his turf (“I want to know what’s happening on my own doorstep”). Luan is a step behind, and he needs to catch up.
The same goes for Sean, who is trying to muscle his way into running the Wallace empire. At his father’s funeral, he reiterates their bond (“Finn Wallace is still here. He’s in me”), and afterward, against the united front presented by Ed and Alex, he underscores his commitment to attacking, terrorizing, or killing whomever it takes to find out the truth about who killed his father (“I’m not interested in peace”). Ed is surprised by Marian siding with her son, but he recovers quickly to Sean with, “I promise you I will give you everything, just like I did for your father.”
Is Ed hedging his bets, trying to keep things cool with Sean in case the son does take over? I think so — but I think Elliot’s intrusion into this cozy upper echelon is a complicating factor. Not just because we know that Elliot is undercover police, although that inherently adds an element of danger here. But also because Sean doesn’t seem like the kind of person to offer infinite trust, or infinite patience, to anyone, even allies. Elliot has now impressed Sean by retrieving Jack and returning him to the Wallaces of his own volition — and refusing to balk at Sean’s exaggerated threats, practically laughing off that whole “belt sander to your eyes” thing — while Ed and Alex disagree with Sean’s tactics and are committed to maintaining the business’s bottom line. I’m thinking that Sean’s inherited loyalty to Ed and Alex isn’t going to last much longer, but note that look Shannon Dumani gave Elliot when he dragged Jack in. That was an “I’ve never seen you before, and I want to see more” glance, and I agree, Shannon! Elliot is rightfully grabbing all the limelight here!
In fact, Sean seems sort of irrelevant to this episode, doesn’t he? We see Elliot at home, and learn that his father’s career as a boxer (one who used to throw fights, I think?) probably shaped Elliot’s fighting prowess, and that they have a prickly relationship. I’m not sure Elliot’s father knows what his son does — either as an undercover cop in reality, or as a Wallace crime family employee in falsehood — or understands how he keeps showing up with wads of money. We also learn more about the Welsh traveler community led by Kinney Edwards (Mark Lewis Jones), who after Darren and Ioan have been gone a week leans on Ioan’s brother Pat (Garmon Rhys) to reveal where the teens are hiding. Is Kinney the most ruthless person on this show? Possibly! He drops a car on Pat’s leg, then he orders the murder and dismemberment of Ioan so that he can’t share any information about what Darren did, and then he scurries Darren out of London through his traveler connections. It’s a brutal, ruthless act of protection from an extremely scary father, and it also leads to this episode’s crazy fight scene, again featuring Elliot after The Horseshoe sequence last week. I dub this showdown: Leave it to cleaver! (I’m so, so sorry.)
It seems simple at first. Elliot gets a text with the location of where Darren and Ioan’s car, the license plate number of which Jack had memorized, has been found. He races over to the rundown St. Raphael’s Estate, pulls out his gun, and makes his way through this mostly abandoned building. As Elliot creeps around hallways, Evans — with his askew compositions and tracking shots — almost evokes the lenses of Christopher Nolan or Leigh Whannell. But once Elliot arrives in the room where Kinney’s butcher, in Wellies and tighty-whities, is hacking apart Ioan, Evans unleashes his own style. This fight is beautiful and grotesque, and all the details come together: that sticky, slimy trail of blood on the floor; the abandoned mattress Elliot uses as a barrier between himself and that serrated cleaver; the little patch of bloody skin from Ioan’s body that Kinney’s man notices is caught on his ear; the broken fingers, the chokes, and that tricky final move Elliot does to drop himself under the cleaver caught in the wall while dropping Kinney’s man onto it. That man’s blood spurting onto Elliot’s face was very gross, and yet even with his death, the scene ends with a tragedy anyway — Pat kills himself rather than saying anything about where Kinney took Darren. Even in death, the Welsh travelers stick together.
And so do the Wallaces. Ed clearly knows something more about what Finn was doing in that apartment building on Albanian territory, right? “I’m tired of being the one holding all of this together,” he admits to Jack before poisoning him and then staging his suicide, and there is so much history in that sentence. Who is the “her” Ed mentioned? Was Finn having an affair? What is the “all of this” — was Finn making secret deals outside of the realm of the family? And when Ed says, “I wish I didn’t have to do it, but I do. The truth is, I haven’t had to do this for years. But it’s for the good of the family, Jack. It really is. And that’s all there is to it” — does that mean Ed has killed to protect Finn before? How many times? And who? Sean was so convinced that his father was a good man; a criminal, yes, but one whose motives were just. How much of that is a lie, and if so, what is Sean going to do when he finds out?
As Long as You Comply
• My bad! I thought the kid Sean set on fire and dropped from that skyscraper in the premiere episode was Ioan, but with Ioan’s actual murder this episode, I was clearly wrong. So Sean just killed some random kid. Not cool, Sean!
• Note that we learn from Kinney that Darren and Ioan thought they were killing “some Albanian nobody.” Would the Albanians, who Sean, Ed, and Alex seem to suspect, really have used that as a cover story? Or is that another clue that the most obvious answer here isn’t the right one?
• Two little moments that made me laugh: the Albanian enforcer locking the door behind him after letting Elliot and Besmir in, and that first taxi driver refusing to let Elliot and the beat-to-hell Jack into his car. Their fastidiousness in this ultraviolent world — amusing!
• What was in that copy of The Secret Garden that Marian slid over to daughter Jackie during Sean’s eulogy? Maybe I’m overthinking it, and it really was just a copy of the classic children’s book, but I doubt it.
• Narges rolling her eyes at Finn being described as “giving opportunities to the disadvantaged” — a perfect moment.
• Speaking of Narges: “I want my girls ready,” she says, after her man sees that the Afridi family still has access to the docks, despite the Wallaces insisting they were shutting everything down. So Narges now knows that something is going on between the Wallaces and the Afridis, the arrangement that we saw Alex mention in the last episode. And, also compelling: Is Narges using her laundered money to fund the female members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party?
• Also perfect: Sope Dirisu’s shrugging explanation of the number of men he beat up at The Horseshoe pub with the wonderfully droll “Eight, but I had a dart, so.”