Gangs of London season 2 review – a violent, ambitious continuation

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: October 20, 2022
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Gangs of London season 2 review - a violent, ambitious continuation


Gangs of London Season 2 delivers more of the same, but it also has the ambition to really shake up the status quo, leading to a season that’s undeniably different from the first.

This review of Gangs of London Season 2 is spoiler-free. 

Gangs of London was an extraordinary hit for Sky Atlantic. Combining the weirdly balletic insanity of Gareth Evans‘s action with an operatic scope, the first season was a kind of high-stakes, uber-violent Shakespearean saga, beloved by critics and audiences alike. The wait for a second season has been a long one, and the same question has been at the forefront of discussions ever since it was first considered: How could it possibly improve on what came before?

Gangs of London season 2 review

The clever answer is that it doesn’t need to. What it needs to do, essentially, is provide more of the same while being different enough to justify the effort. “Better” is a relative term anyway; people liked different things about the first season, after all, and you can’t please everyone. Out of the gate, Gangs of London Season 2 seems to be making a point that it’s very much how you remember it, but that it perhaps won’t remain so for very long.

It’s a year after the apparent death of Sean Wallace (I say apparent because you never know, but he was shot in the face, to be fair.) London is still being managed at the macro level by the Investors, a cabal of shadowy movers and shakers who have only tightened their grip on the capital after manipulating Elliot into deposing Wallace and installing Alex Dumani as his replacement. Ed, Luan, Asif, and the other bosses are continuing to do business, but under the watchful eye of their bosses and a new character named Koba, a flamboyant Georgian enforcer who is in town to ensure that things continue to operate above board. More on him in a moment.

In the meantime Elliot has spiraled into a pit of despair and addiction, trying to keep himself medicated to deal with what the Investors are forcing him to do as their pet assassin while waiting for the right moment to deploy the microchip full of damning evidence that Sean gave him in the first season’s finale. That’s easier said than done, since the Investors control the media and the authority, but he’s holding out hope that there’s a way and doing their dirty work in the meantime, being strongarmed by threats against his father.

Alex, too, is suffering. He has a coke habit and is seeing bleeding, screaming visions of Sean on the bathroom floor of the Dumani Finance penthouse. His sister, Shannon, is fresh out of jail on an evidence technicality, but she wants nothing to do with Alex or Ed since she perceives herself to have been abandoned. Everything is falling apart, and everyone who liked the old way of doing things is considering finding a way to restore the previous status quo. Hence the necessity of Koba.

Koba, played with extraordinary menace by Waleed Zuaiter, is the season’s true wildcard, a whirlwind of terrible fashion choices – we’re talking velour tracksuits and trilby hats here – and deeply unpleasant means of execution. He runs the risk of becoming a cartoon, but the performance is so sincere – and the reactions to his presence from other characters is so earnest – that the overall effect works extremely well. His mere presence alters and informs almost all of the existing dynamics immediately, and that’s before the end of the premiere makes some ballsy choices and turns things completely on their heads, but no spoilers here.

A lot of Gangs of London shouldn’t have worked in the first place and still shouldn’t here, but it remains as much of a joy as ever to witness its pivots into horror, its perverse gore, its wildly overblown sense of self-importance, and its melodramatic negotiations. Early on, the absence of Gareth Evans is felt, but his successor Corin Hardy, who directed several previous episodes, is nonetheless an assured hand. An early scene in particular is very well-done, using the perspective of innocent onlookers to frame the horrors of the show’s violence and action. That action doesn’t seem as virtuosic as it was, but Sky was cagey with pre-release screeners, so it’s still early days yet.

Either way, it’s good to see British television of this caliber and ambition back on our screens, and it’s good to see a second season make its presence felt with bold storytelling choices right out of the gate. Whether it’ll prove to be as much of a hit with critics and audiences remains anyone’s guess, but so far, at least, the signs are promising.

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