Gangs of London
Everyone involved in the Wallace crime organization speaks a common language: money. Their races, ethnicities, and nationalities are different, their loyalties are different, their schemes are different. But under Finn Wallace’s reign, it seemed like all of that was put aside for the common, coffer-filled good. Everyone ignored their personal vendettas, and everyone got rich.
In “Episode 3,” we see that Sean’s high-rise constructions are taking over the London skyline; a time-lapse shot shows us the methodical way the Wallaces launder their money with each support beam, each plate of glass, and each new apartment built in each new building, while the Dumanis launder theirs partially through Shannon’s interior-design services. Alex helps run the Finn Wallace Foundation, which takes some of their dirty money and offers it as scholarship funding to students from disenfranchised backgrounds — projecting a veneer of respectability and, perhaps, creating a legion of workers who consider themselves in the Wallaces’ debt. In preceding episodes, we saw that Asif’s son Nasir is using the funding from his father’s drug empire to run for mayor of London. Everyone has a use for the money, and it often goes back to helping themselves.
Does that make Lale, who is sending money back to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Kurdish militants fighting for a country of their own, more selfless than the people with whom she does business? This episode really gave Narges Rashidi a spotlight to shine (watch her in the Iranian horror film Under the Shadow), and her agonized scream is an otherworldly thing. Now we understand her mocking dismissal of Sean, who in his entire life has only suffered one profound loss. Lale, meanwhile, has seen so many of her friends, relatives, and countrymen killed in their fight for an independent Kurdish state. In that awful opening scene, she goes all John Wick on a Turkish building full of enemy combatants to get to her husband, who has been tortured and roasted alive; his skin peeling off his body when she tried to embrace him will haunt my dreams for a while.
Of course she would hate Asif for this — for betraying low-level drug dealers like herself and her family, and for giving up her husband to their Turkish enemies — and of course she would plan her revenge. What I don’t quite understand, though, is if Lale purposefully joined the Wallace organization because she knew Asif was a part of it, or if she was independently amassing power to be able to support the PKK and stumbled upon the realization that Asif was also doing business with the same people with whom she is partnered. How deep does her desire for vengeance go? What else will she be willing to do?
“Episode 3” begins in the aftermath of Sean’s brutal attack on the travelers’ compound, which has made headlines, raised the eyebrows of the Wallace organization’s partners, and thrust Sean into some kind of fugue state. But Sean, unsurprisingly, sees any kind of regret as weakness, so he pushes his memories of the chaos of the attack, all the flashing gunfire, and the torrents of blood way down. Instead, he remains intent on figuring out who killed Finn (“He made everyone rich. Why would anyone want to kill him?” he asks Alex) and trying to retain power by force. He needs Alex and Ed to stop whatever special arrangement they have with Asif, and he’ll take care of Lale. Peter Berry’s script does a good job building fear around the assassin Sean calls in, Cole (Gordon Alexander), with minimal dialogue; the reaction of Sean’s brother Billy says it all. “Sean’s lost his fucking mind” and “Nice knowing you, Elliot” are brief but efficient, and how quickly Billy hastens himself out of the car Elliot is driving when he learns Cole is his next pickup is equally telling.
While Sean and Cole are busying themselves with getting rid of Lale, Ed is once again left to clean up the mess. On the one hand, he has to smooth things over with Asif (Asif Raza Mir’s sly delivery of “Does Sean even know we are having this meeting?” was very good), whose drugs were stolen by Lale, and on the other hand, Ed is still trying to figure out the depths of Finn’s secrets. Were those pictures Luan handed over images of people Finn had killed — and if so, why was he killing children? Finn’s widow Marian is also curious about what her husband was up to and visits investigator Serwa (Pamela Nomvete) to get a grasp of what was going on. The answer is disappointingly predictable, and we learn pieces of it from Serwa and pieces from the Albanian woman Vicky interviews in the building where Finn died. He was having an affair with a younger Albanian woman named Floriana, he had spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a private island and a yacht named after her, and she was pregnant with his child — oh, and she’s since disappeared. Who, and where, is Floriana?
As Asif says, the Wallace organization runs on “mutual discipline between rival interests.” Will Elliot be the one to break it apart, though, when he’s already attracting so much attention from Ed? Hanging around inside the Wallaces’ house when he should be outside. Getting a little too close to Ed’s daughter Shannon and grandson Danny. Ed isn’t new to this, and he can clearly sense something is off. But I also think Ed is leaning on allies at this point: He had to kill Jack; Alex has to keep his hands clean to be able to run the legitimate side of the Wallace business, F. Wallace Property & Asset Ventures and the Finn Wallace Foundation; and Sean is, of course, a live wire. Elliot might not seem entirely trustworthy, but being sent to take care of Cole and save Lale’s sister Dilsa (Gem Carmella) and her daughters feels like an opportunity to prove himself. And I think that by fending off the viciously brutal Cole for as long as he does, through a shoot-out, a fistfight, and an axe attack, Elliot managed to impress Ed. How long that lasts — especially if Elliot and Shannon get together, despite his initial reservations — is anyone’s guess.
Which brings us back to Lale, whom Ed had wanted Elliot to kill before he learned of Cole’s kidnapping of her sister and nieces. Would Lale have let them die to keep the money earned from Asif’s stolen drugs on track to Turkish Kurdistan? I lean toward yes, which might be a little harsh on Lale, but also: She is committed to the cause. She showed no hesitancy in murdering the courier who tried to betray her and second-in-command Hekar (Aksel Ustun); her stabbing form was, I think it’s most accurate to say, impassioned. I truly believe she would have killed Sean if she were able to get her hands on his gun. The bitterness with which she said of Asif, “He won’t even remember our names,” is coursing through her entire body, and it has for six years.
Lale won’t stop until she has what she wants, and is that any different from what Sean is doing in trying to find out who killed Finn? He’s murdering citizens, he’s hiring assassins, he’s burning bridges with allies. Maybe Lale does see some value in his promise that she “could be as big as Asif, bigger” if she never goes against him again. Maybe she gets back in line so that she can send more money, more food, more medicine to the PKK, which has been fighting Turkey since the 1980s for an independent state and whose death tolls hover around 48,000, compared with 8,000 or so for the better-funded Turks, who are backed by the U.S., Israel, and Pakistan. Maybe Sean one day allows her to get revenge on Asif, if the latter no longer serves the Wallace organization’s interests. My gut instinct, though? Lale doesn’t seem like the bending-the-knee type. Money can buy a lot of things, but Lale’s submission to Sean in the long term — I’m not so sure about that.
As Long As You Comply
• That close-up profile shot of Lale and Sean in front of the burning money and cereal boxes was very beautiful and ominous; kudos to director Corin Hardy, who helms four episodes this season.
• Pretty sure giving Alex Finn’s old office isn’t going to be enough to keep him coming for Sean’s throne.
• Speaking of which: If Alex truly believes his speech to those students (“We do what the rich and powerful do. We grab, we steal, we push in … Start off thinking yourself equal, and then believe you can do better than them”), then yeah, there’s no way he’s settling for being anything but the top man. Is that why he’s meeting with Jevan Kapadia (Ray Panthaki) — to attract new investors who are aligned with Alex? Is Jevan basically Gangs of London’s version of Arian Moayed’s Stewy Hosseini on Succession?
• The steam coming off Lale’s husband’s body in that opening scene was a particularly gruesome touch.
• Between the towers, real estate being used to launder drug money, and little kids playing at being gangsters, this whole episode had a tangible “early seasons of The Wire” vibe.
• “Finn Wallace’s enemies used to disappear without a trace, as did all of the witnesses,” Vicky says to Elliot, and yeah, Sean is real messy comparatively. The travelers have to strike back against him, right?
• Speaking of Elliot: I too would doodle a screaming figure if I were in constant danger all the time. It would have been weird if he drew a giraffe or flower bouquet or something else innocuous.
• The Nigerians really flexed on Luan, didn’t they? Burying a guy in cement during their meeting was a pretty explicit threat, and Mosi (Richard Pepple) unexpectedly grabbing Luan and forcing a handshake was also pretty sneaky. Luan might be in over his head.
• What is the “other thing” Serwa is investigating for Marian?
• Elliot has gone up against a cleaver and an axe so far, and managed to survive; what else could possibly be next? Are there a lot of chainsaws in London?
• “His son is a fuckup. He’s not even Finn’s shadow,” Luan says. Everyone is so mean to Sean all the time, and yet … I get it.