Gangs of London
In Andrew Dominik’s 2012 masterpiece Killing Them Softly, Brad Pitt’s assassin character Jackie Cogan gets the film’s final lines with a monologue about the history of the United States, the cynicism of capitalism, and his own derision toward the idea that anything could ever get better. “America’s not a country. It’s just a business,” Jackie says, demanding adequate payment for the two men he’s killed at the behest of the mob. He doesn’t care about the 2008 recession, or that business is down for his employers. He cares about his money, and what he was promised, and what he is owed. It always, always comes back to the money.
So it goes for the Wallaces in “Episode 6,” a slower episode of Gangs of London compared with the insane siege of last week’s “Episode 5.” All the crap that the Wallace crime organization is going through right now is because of the money. Finn’s murder — because he was planning to leave, which would interrupt the money. Kinney and Darren’s murders — tying up loose ends, to get the money flowing again. The friction between father Ed and son Alex Dumani — because Alex is Finn’s heir apparent in terms of cleaning dirty cash. You know that cash register sound effect in M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes”? I can’t unhear it!
I wouldn’t begrudge you if you read these two paragraphs and thought to yourself, “Yeah, of course the series about organized crime is about the spoils of that crime. Duh.” But that revelation hit so hard during “Episode 6” because it feels like a direct rejection of the idea that the Wallaces seem to be caught up on, which is that any of this was personal. Sean has made exacting revenge against Finn’s murderer his sole motivation. Marian is obsessed with tracking down more information about Floriana, the man Finn was planning to leave her for. Ed bears the weight of caring for Sean and Billy, a responsibility he’s taken over after the killing of his business partner and best friend. They’re all running around like chickens with their heads cut off, but the answer to who killed Finn now seems so obvious, like it was staring them in the face all along.
“Now fucking pay me,” Jackie Cogan said, and can’t you imagine Jevan Kapadia saying the same thing? Sure, he’s genteel, polite, and sophisticated, with his all-glass office, his perfectly coiffed hair, and his beautifully tailored silk shirts. But everyone in this world knows the importance of appearances, and so in those ways, Jevan isn’t particularly unique. What is more surprising is how he seems to materialize out of nowhere after Finn’s death, immediately wields authority and slyness, and by the end of “Episode 6” seems to have swayed Ed onto his side. Threatening someone’s child will tend to do that.
In show time, “Episode 6” begins a week after the events of “Episode 4,” in which Elliot took a bullet for a Sean during that sniper attack by Leif, and Alex — arriving at the Wallace home after attending a secret investors’ dinner with Ed and Jevan — shoots Tove, who was posing as a server and was aiming at Sean. When “Episode 4” ended, I thought Tove was dead, but whew, man, is she not. Sean, Marian, and Billy put out the word that Alex had killed her, but in reality, they’re holding her at a secret safe house in London. In a basement covered in plastic sheeting, with the song “Only You and You Alone” by the Platters blaring on loop, Marian is torturing Tove for information.
Who hired her and the sniper who attacked Sean? Who is targeting the Wallaces? Did they kill Finn? Why? Each question has an accompanying injury inflicted by Marian. She pulls out Tove’s teeth. She goes after her eyes. She raises and lowers her over a pile of broken wine bottles. And every so often she forces Sean to help: to hold Tove while she pries off her fingernails; to keep her steady while the blood goes everywhere. She lets Sean take a break to shower and change clothes, but can anyone blame Billy for obsessively baking cake after cake as a way to deal with the stress? Maybe Finn wasn’t the only monster in the Wallace family. Marian is certainly proving her quality, too.
The only person allowed (at first) into this terrible family vacation is Elliot, who seems to basically be living with Shannon and Danny at this point. (Danny playing with a bullet, à la the kid in Drive, feels foreboding in a way I do not like!) Although he hasn’t checked in with Vicky in a week, Elliot is still honoring his legal loyalties, collecting information about Tove and Leif once he and Sean scope out Tove’s house, and dissuading Sean from killing her son Felix. This relationship I understand. One the one hand, Elliot is doing a job, he’s been undercover for a couple years, and he potentially sees an end to this case in sight; on the other hand, he seems to like Sean as a person, and now he’s tied up with the Dumanis. The mixture of emotions he feels toward Sean — some combination of loyalty and resentment, distrust and friendliness — tracks for me as a result of the intense pressure he’s under, and the relationship he now has with Shannon.
But Alex and Sean? This relationship I don’t fully grasp yet. I think because of how close Finn and Ed were, we’re supposed to consider Alex and Sean as near-brothers, but also because of how close Finn and Alex were, we’re supposed to sense that Sean feels some angst toward him. (Remember that celebration scene in Finn’s study, when he seemed to clearly prefer Alex while lightly entertaining Sean.) Alex’s reactions, though, don’t exactly track. He’s fine keeping the investors’ meeting a secret from Sean, but is then shocked that Ed didn’t tell Sean that Jevan is behind all this killing. He pushes his way into the safe house by giving Billy heroin, but then is aghast by the torture inflicted upon Tove — so much so that he flees, and lies to Sean about what he had to tell him. Alex knows who the Wallaces are! He’s kept his hands clean all this time by staying away from the violence, but is this reveal that Marian and Sean are capable of doing truly awful things really so jarring? There isn’t a ton of consistency regarding Alex’s actions, and honestly, I’m sort of surprised that Ed and Alex seem to cave to Jevan’s demands. If Alex is really so useful to the investors, isn’t his very existence leverage? Why would they fold, and potentially betray Sean?
But people are impossible to understand, as evidenced by the final interaction Sean and Billy have with their mother this episode. Tove has taken Billy hostage, and she shoves a shard of glass into his neck in front of Sean’s face. There’s no hesitation from Sean, who slides his gun over to Tove so she’ll release Billy. Marian, though? Marian just got told off by Sean, who told her “We don’t need you anymore,” and now here her sons are, needing her. There was a coldly assessing quality to how Marian looked upon her children before shooting Tove, and that look didn’t change afterward. She watched Sean rush to Billy’s side, and then she walked away. “He didn’t choose his parents,” Sean said of Tove’s son while explaining to Marian why he and Elliot let the boy live. If Sean and Billy could choose differently from Marian and Finn, would they? Or, let me rephrase: Wouldn’t they?
As Long as You Comply
We never got Lady Stoneheart on Game of Thrones, but man, Michelle Fairley’s increasingly deranged performance here certainly gives us a glimpse into what could have been.
You made your sons kill the man with whom your wife had a one-night stand? Co-sign on that particular four-letter word that Elliot called Finn.
The Albanian family in those photographs, who Finn had killed with Luan’s help, were into oil and storage. Did they have something over Floriana? And speaking of Floriana, is she being held at a … science center? What kind of building has both an aquarium and a gigantic screen playing video footage of snakes on it? Or, is Leif just a really weird interior decorator?
Any theories as to who stole Luan’s money? Could Mosi have done it himself, as a sort of double-cross to get Luan into a bind? Don’t forget that very aggressive handshake when Luan visited him in Nigeria!
My theory about something else: Remember when Marian asked her investigator Serwa to keep an eye on some “other thing”? What if Serwa is the one tracking Alex and Ed’s comings and goings because Marian suspects something related to how they’re running the business?
When Alex listed the United Nations of international partners in the Wallace crime organization, it included “the Albanians, the Pakistanis, the Greeks, the Kurds, the Chinese.” We’ve met all those people except for the Greeks, and I’m sorry, but I immediately imagined Bill Raymond from The Wire, and if he showed up on this show, I would scream.
That Sean Wallace fit, with the aubergine sweater, skinny and cuffed dark jeans, and shiny black boots: good, stylish, casually expensive.
Tony, the thief who came to Elliot’s aid during Leif’s sniper attack, is now working security for the Wallaces and Dumanis. I am getting a real James Badge Dale in The Departed vibe from this guy.
Everything about Billy feels like a Trainspotting homage anyway, but I particularly liked how director Xavier Gens shot those bubbling spoons, with one full of sugar and one full of heroin, and that similarly head-on shot of the frying egg.
Baxter seems like a very good boy.