Do the Wallaces survive this? It seems increasingly unlikely after the events of “Episode 8,” doesn’t it? This is a messy episode that jumps around in time and ricochets around in character development, and so far it’s my least favorite of this first season of Gangs of London.
There are some strange structural choices here, like there was two episodes’ worth of plot that got smushed together into one hour. A ton of stuff happens offscreen that is only alluded to, so when we get the aftermath of those choices, they lack impact because we don’t have a full understanding of their origins. This episode feels both like it takes place immediately after the events of “Episode 7” (the frenzy of Sean, Marian, and Billy on the run; Alex encouraging his employees to track down the money Finn stole) and like there was a sizable gap in time, during which Elliot and Vicky came up with a really amateurish plan to pull out Anthony, and Mosi and his crew just hung out waiting for that meeting with Luan. The big moments related to these developments were all still wild, from Sean going full Tyler Durden to Luan shifting into beast mode, but I think Peter Berry’s script jumped over some plotting that probably was necessary to really drive home all of the various plot threads of this episode.
That’s not to say that TV has a responsibility to hold your hand or overexplain itself. But we’re reaching the end of the season, and how rushed “Episode 8” feels makes me slightly wary of how this all wraps. And as much as I like Joe Cole — which is a good amount! — I’m not sure Sean Wallace’s heel turn at the end of this episode entirely lands because it relies on an established relationship with Alex Dumani, and Gangs of London hasn’t exactly built that over time. Sean living in Finn’s shadow, yes; and Sean’s push-pull relationship with father figure Ed Dumani, yes; and Sean’s loyalty and love for older brother Billy, yes; and Sean’s slightly Oedipal bond with exacting mother Marian, yes.
But a tight-knit bond with Alex? This deep friendship that has been compromised by the actions of Finn, Jevan, and the investors? I don’t entirely buy that, and because it’s so needed to make Sean’s action against the Wallace organization and heir apparent Alex land, that final scene has legitimate shock value but not much depth. And the close-up shot of Sean’s face, with a single tear sliding down it, set to that operatic crescendo? Director Xavier Gens really went there with that choice, but I don’t mean that as a compliment.
“Episode 8” begins with Leif and his team just missing the Wallaces, who are on the run after they confronted the Dumanis about their alliance with Jevan. Sean and Marian hole up in an abandoned apartment building that is slated to be demolished and made into another one of those huge Wallace towers that Finn and Alex were using to launder their clients’ money, protected by that Irish army Marian bought with the Floriana yacht, while Billy is on his own. The Sean and Marian dynamic is no longer the united-front vibe of “Episode 7,” but more along the lines of “Episode 6,” in which Sean told Marian that neither he nor Billy needed her anymore. That same kind of resentment ripples through Sean’s treatment of his mother here, with the two of them sparring with each other and blaming each other for the Wallace organization’s failings.
The Wallaces don’t have any allies, and the feasibility of them winning back London seems increasingly out of reach; Marian is out of touch on that. But Sean’s obsession with Finn’s betrayal also feels slightly nonsensical, and the avalanche of his regret felt a little too convenient. Of course Finn was always a bad man! Of course their clients were always assholes! Of course Sean leading the murder of an entire community of travelers was always horrible, even if his father’s killer came from that group! Sean’s existential crisis felt a little too late to the party, that scene with him staring into the broken mirror under the Wallace-disparaging graffiti left by the evicted tenants was a little too on the nose, and his suicide ideation felt inconsistent with the character we’ve known until this point. But I cannot lie: I certainly appreciated that tilting shot upward that showed us Cole in a very well-fitted pair of jeans, that slightly too tight sweater, and that chunky gold watch, staring moodily out the window while pondering the Wallace organization’s fate. The fit! I liked it!
Of all the Wallaces, though, my heart belongs to Billy, who again fits my “He’s Theon Greyjoy!” description by going off to save his sister Jackie. He doesn’t care that Jackie and Marian don’t get along. She’s his sister, and he loves her, and they’re going to start new lives together as John and Arabella Seton-Cox. I hope they make it, and I hope Billy stays clean, and I hope Arabella’s daughter is healthy. The Wallace line needs to end, and it’s time for the Seton-Coxes to begin.
Who else has the ability to get out alive, though? Jevan is leaning hard on Ed and Alex, and there are still billions missing. The Dumanis’ survival isn’t guaranteed, which I think Shannon can sense since she wants to flee with Elliot. And speaking of Elliot, he would appear to be in significantly more danger after the seemingly very shoddy plan he put together with Vicky to pull Anthony out from undercover failed so spectacularly. The fates of Asif and Nasir Afridi and Lale are all tied up together, and I can’t see all three of them making it. But I do think Floriana and her daughter are safe after escaping from Leif, who we know now lied to Jevan about Floriana being dead, and who was trying to use her to get his hands on Finn’s money. Sorry that didn’t work out for you, my guy!
And against all odds, Luan seems to have slashed and stabbed his way to freedom out from under Mosi’s thumb. If you wondered at any point so far in this season, “Hey, how did this guy make it to the top of the Albanian mob?” that absolute bloodbath of a scene should be an answer! What a showcase for actor Orli Shuka: His switch from panic and fear to uncontrollable, explosive rage and then finally to dazed, almost embarrassed, shock at what he’d done was really fluid and impressive. There is some immigrant elitism at play when he screams at his wife Mirlinda (Eri Shuka), “We are not refugees!” but she’s not wrong when she says, “You’re leaving temporarily so that your enemies can kill each other!” If Luan can flee London and wait long enough until it’s available for the taking again, that doesn’t seem like the worst plan. But how much of London will really be left to rule if Sean goes around blowing up buildings? And if not Sean or Luan, who will take ownership over the rubble and the remnants?
As Long as You Comply
• This show is full of fathers selling their sons for their own business interests, and we can add another pair to the pile with Asif and Nasir. Yet again, Asif Raza Mir’s performance is powerful no matter how brief his run time is, and his line delivery of “Don’t scoff at money, or the people who have it. Ever!” is great.
• Leif taking an aggrieved bite of the half-sandwich that Billy and Jackie left behind made me laugh very much.
• Anthony’s death was horrendously gruesome, wasn’t it? If you want more David Avery, though, watch We Are Lady Parts! It is very good, and he is very good in it!
• Clever bit of blocking with Sean going into the elevator first and facing the wall, while Marian’s Irish army surrounded him on all sides and faced the front of the elevator. Those men were totally ineffectual outside of that moment, though, and were absolutely not worth a yacht. They all got killed immediately by Leif’s team! Why did Marian think that these randos could go up against a Danish death squad?
• Also good: the split diopter shot of Shannon and Ed, each of them in anguish, after Elliot is basically banished by Papa Dumani. I still don’t understand why the skeptical Ed hasn’t dug further into Elliot’s background — we saw that the Wallace organization has people within the police department. No one has a line on Elliot that they would be willing to sell for a hefty price?
• I have realized, because of his silky shirts and his very liberally applied hair product, that Jevan is very similar in styling to Ross Gellar. I cannot unsee this!
• Did Ed overestimate Sean with his warning to Jevan that Sean could assassinate him in broad daylight, or did the show deny us by suggesting that attack and then failing to deliver it? I’m going with the latter.
• “It’s us living like gypsies now,” Sean says to Marian, and I’ve been wondering this for a while: Why did Jevan hire Darren to kill Finn? He clearly had Leif, Tove, and their highly trained mercenaries in his employ. He used Leif to kidnap Floriana. Why not also send Tove to kill Finn? Or why not wait until Finn and Floriana were gone and kill them outside of London to avoid sparking this war? I know, I know, critique the show you’re given rather than the one you imagine. But as we get further from the subplot involving the travelers, I decreasingly understand the need for it.