I first started to hear about Gangs of London from friends who recommended it as “the most violent TV” they’ve seen. That would typically be a turn off for me, but when you hear it was created by Gareth Evans and Matt Flannery of The Raid fame, suddenly that violence doesn’t sound so stupid.
When the head of London’s most powerful crime family is assassinated, control of the city and his organization is left in the hands of son Sean, who will stop at nothing to find his father’s killers, even if it means destroying his legacy.
The plot can at times be cumbersome, and there’s a lot of players in this game, but it is the outstanding set pieces in every episode that make Gangs of London stand out as a show of the summer. Over the nine episodes there are three that are unforgettable. The meat cleaver drug den fight in episode 1 left me having to take deep breaths due to the panic with every intense shot and hand movement. Sope Dirisu as Eddie is breathtaking in his movement, and the choreography of the fight is some of the best I’ve seen. Dirisu quickly became a favourite for me, and his fight scenes in particular make him the winner of the show. Episode 4 treats us to a claustrophobic dinner party sequence which as expected ends in bloodshed, but watching Wallace matriarch Marianne try to guide a young child’s eyes away from bleeding men, to walk in on drug taking, to turn back to find screaming shooters was a perfect use of the set and characters. For a family who have been so composed up until this episode, it’s where we start to see things truly fall apart.
Lastly, what most fans of the show will be talking about is the whole of episode 5. A standalone episode that focuses on Finn's killer, it is a masterclass of stunt choreography and direction. There is not a single hair out of place and each second is gripping. The use of extreme wide shot and crane work is calming in the chaos, and the strange angles used to show bombs coming through the ceiling are unlike anything seen in similar works. The episode itself could be taken away from the show to exist on its own and still be compulsive viewing, though it acts as a perfect mid-point for the whole season as we start to see the tables turn.
The only downside to Gangs of London for me was the intense cast list, and this is purely personal preference. I’ve never got on with big ensemble shows and it was this reason that stopped me from watching Game of Thrones. If that’s not a problem for you, there's little to fault; a brilliant cast on the top of their game with expert directors and stunt choreographers, they make sure this isn’t one to forget.
As the season draws to a close, the twists get bigger and more unbelievable. I live in London and can’t imagine half of this stuff really happening, but at the same time, I’d probably be surprised to learn how realistic some of it truly is.