Remember when everyone was talking about Game Of Thrones?
Well, there's a brutal, young upstart, created by the man who brought us the two Raid movies, Gareth Evans, called Gangs of London coming to steal its crown.
Initially, I'd seen the trailer (above) and dismissed it as "just another gangland show" that I didn't need to make time for in a very crowded TV landscape.
But that trailer does the show a great disservice, underselling its grand ambitions.
Luckily, Gangs of London was recommended to us by Rachel's boss and so we decided to watch it together.
And we quickly discovered it was so much more than the trailer.
This was Game of Thrones meets Reservoir Dogs.
A Shakespearean melodrama of epic proportions, set in a heightened contemporary London where the streets frequently run red with ultraviolence that would make Quentin Tarantino pee himself with excitement.
In the wake of the murder of London's "kingpin", Finn Wallace (Star Trek's Colm Meaney), his trigger-happy son, Sean (Peaky Blinders' Joe Cole), tries to keep things together, but to quote WB Yeats:
"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world"Various crime families are jostling for power, agitated by mysterious, unseen, "investors" who have a financial stake in the tower blocks that the Wallace family built to launder all their ill-gotten cash through.
|The murder of Finn Wallace (Colm Meaney)|
is the story's inciting incident
The presence of Michelle Fairley (aka Catelyn Stark) as the sadistic Wallace family matriarch Marian only strengthens the Game Of Thrones comparisons, although Finn is more an evil Robert Baratheon analogue than a Ned Stark.
Marian even gets a small-scale, kind of, re-enactment of the Red Wedding.
Caught up in all this is eager new member of the Wallace gang, Elliot Finch (Sope Dirisu, from Humans), who finds himself drawn to Shannon Dumani (Pippa Bennett-Warner), the daughter of Finn's devious consigliere, Ed Dumani (Lucian Msamati).
So, that brings in a powerful "star-crossed lovers" sub-plot as well, helping to kick things u a gear in drama where the stakes are constantly being raised until you can't see how they could go any higher.
But they do.
There are also hints of Frank Miller's legendary run on Daredevil in Gangs of London.
While there are no masked vigilantes here (although there is a seemingly superstrong character in the final episode!), I did pick up a certain vibe (a vague vibe, it must be said) of Matt Murdock/Daredevil in Elliot (possibly because both are sons of low-level boxers who were caught up in shady goings-on).
Every episode - there are nine in this first season - has, at least, one sequence of gruesomely choreographed splatterpunk Grand Guignol violence (heads are favoured targets for high powered rifles and shotguns, for instance), while several will also induce audience winces from extended moments of really nasty torture.
|Marian Wallace (Michelle Fairley)|
Over here it's shown on Sky Atlantic, with the whole season available to watch now... and once you start, you won't want to stop.
Gangs Of London is relentless in its brutality, but also rewarding, because the characters are so well-written, and the performances are wholly convincing, that you will get invested in their fates from the get-go.
As I've said before, it took me a couple of attempts to get "into" Game of Thrones back in the day, but Gangs of London had me hooked from the first episode.
This is compelling, binge-worthy, television of the highest order, that has clearly not scrimped on the budget as the set-pieces are phenomenal and frequent.
There's no news of a second season yet, but given the buzz this season is generating, it can only be a matter of time before such an announcement is made.
And I can't wait to see what new status quo arises from that unforgettable finale.