poster of the main cast of Guy Ritchie's The GentlemenSee how the pilot of Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen hits the Save the Cat! story beats!

Created by: Guy Ritchie

S1 E1: “Refined Aggression”

The World: Amongst the Haves and Have-Nots of England, from the posh landowners to the Liverpudlian “Scouse” scrappers

Franchise Type: Dude with a Season-Long Problem

Pilot Episode Genre: Trapped Together

Platform: Netflix

TV Genre: Hour-long Action/Dramedy

Story DNA:
Heroes: Eddie Horniman, a refined and controlled British gentleman thrust into a world of hurt—and the sharp-tongued Susie Glass, temporary head of a criminal syndicate belonging to her father, Bobby Glass, while he’s in prison.
Goal: For Eddie, to be the new Duke of Halstead and not get himself killed. For Susie, to run the massive cannabis farm underneath the Halstead estate.
Obstacle: Blood-thirsty criminals, foolish family members, and their own reputations
Stakes: Their lives and the lives of their families

Opening Image: The Türkiye-Syria border, heavy clouds hanging over a small patch of road, the sounds of animals bleating and horns beeping. We see UN Peacekeeping Officer Edward “Eddie” Horniman (Theo James) in his thesis world, moving almost languidly amongst the stopped cars as he calms the tempers of his fellow officers, prudently handles expired passports, and quips about international incidents being caused by grumpy goat herders. It’s the “Before” picture of a refined British man in control of (limited) chaos.

Giancarlo Esposito as Stanley Johnston, sitting in an armchair
Giancarlo Esposito as Stanley Johnston, stating the theme

Theme Stated: The statement of theme comes later than usual, midway through the pilot, although it is implied in every jot and tittle/bibs and bobs of the setting, characters, and action. Billionaire investor Stanley Johnston (Giancarlo Esposito) talks about the philosophy of William Kent, the reconciliation of the feral with the refined. “People either survive in the jungle or exist in the zoo,” says Johnston, and it takes a rare individual to reconcile the two. Will Eddie be able to achieve the “refined aggression” of the episode’s title?

Set-Up: Eddie is not your average soldier; turns out he’s the son of Archibald Horniman (Edward Fox), the 12th Duke of Halstead, a 15,000-acre estate back in England. The Duke is at death’s door and Eddie is instructed to return home by the family solicitor Ahmed Iqbal (Ranjit Krishnamma), a mouthpiece for the eldest son, Lord Frederick “Freddy” Horniman (Daniel Ings).

Eddie seems reluctant to return and we soon discover why; his family is the epitome of things that need fixing. Particularly Eddie’s brother, Lord Freddy, whose erratic behavior and cocaine use don’t gibe well with becoming the 13th Duke of Halstead. Before he dies, Sir Archibald scolds Eddie for running away from the family and tells him to take care of Freddy, “He won’t survive without you.”

Catalyst: At the seemingly perfunctory reading of the will, solicitor Iqbal shocks the room with the news: Eddie, the younger son, is to be the next Duke of the estate, not Freddy.

Debate: Freddy throws a tantrum worthy of a bad-seed toddler while Eddie processes this turn of events and keeps his brother from breaking things. Once Freddy has (marginally) calmed down, he hands Eddie his first assignment as Duke of Halstead: repay the eight million pounds Freddy owes to Tommy Dixon (Peter Serafinowicz), head of a Scouse crime family, by the end of the week or they’ll chop off Freddy’s penis.

Problem is, the Hornimans are land- and title-rich but cash-poor, and 8 mill is far out of reach. A few cracks in Eddie’s rock-solid demeanor appear as we watch him contemplate: he ran away from his family once before, could he do it again?

Break into Two: Eddie the peacekeeper decides to stay and become Sir Edward Horniman, 13th Duke of Halstead. First order of business: save his brother’s life. And his willy.

Fun and Games: Eddie’s antithesis world is a doozy and he goes in hot, following his broken compass of thinking he’s in control. He gets an offer for Halstead Manor from billionaire Stanley Johnston, but while he’s contemplating selling the home that’s been in his family for 500 years, a mysterious woman named Susie Glass (Kaya Scodelario) shows Eddie a massive cannabis farm underneath the estate, a business that both their fathers participated in. Not only is this an upside-down world, it’s an underground one.

Susie is not thrilled about the idea of a new owner for Halstead, so she says she will help the flabbergasted Eddie get the cash to repay Freddy’s debt.

Susie Glass and Eddie Horniman in a garage
Kaya Scodelario as Susie and Theo James as Eddie, layering the B Story in tension

B Story: The tricky relationship between Eddie and Susie is full of sexual tension, class/status tension, and the tension that comes when you’re dealing with criminals who would just as soon torture and kill you as look at you. Susie will draw Eddie deeper into a violent orbit where more than a few layers of refinement will be scraped off his surface, revealing a much coarser center.

Midpoint: In a false victory, Susie manages to persuade Tommy Dixon to take four million in cash instead of eight. He agrees on one condition: that Freddy be filmed apologizing and debasing himself in whatever way Tommy chooses. Meanwhile, Eddie raises money, two million from Stanley Johnston for the very rare and expensive Domaine de la Romanee-Conti burgundy from his father’s wine cellar, plus a fair bit that Eddie found in Archibald’s secret safe.

Bad Guys Close In: Unfortunately, Freddy has nicked old dad’s secret stash and given it to the very shady Sticky Pete (Joshua McGuire) to place a bet on an underground boxing match. Eddie follows Susie to the fight and tries to confront Sticky Pete, but when he finds out that that Pete’s enterprise is a scam to swindle the posh, we hear the sound effect of a lion roaring as Eddie’s rage begins to show and grow.

Meanwhile, the terms of debasement have come in from Tommy Dixon: Freddy must wear a chicken suit and dance and sing his apology, with lyrics like “I’m a posh twat who fucked up, ee-i-ee-i-o.” Freddy is understandably resistant, but Eddie bears down hard, trying to keep this (unlimited) chaos under control.

All Is Lost: Tommy Dixon comes to the Halstead estate and brutally humiliates the coked-up and fowl suit-clad Freddy by forcing him to sing the song over and over again until he embodies a chicken, which is “the bottom of the food chain.” Eddie watches in growing horror as his brother frantically tries to satisfy Tommy’s sadistic requests.

Dark Night of the Soul: Freddy escapes to the toilet to sob (and snort a few more lines) while Eddie shouts at Tommy to stop.

*Break into Three/Break into Series: While Eddie struggles to get himself under control, Freddy re-emerges from the loo with a shotgun and shoots Tommy Dixon, killing him with a tremendous splatter of blood all over the elegant furnishings of Halstead Estate.

Daniel Ings as Freddy Horniman in a chicken suit, holding a rifle
Daniel Ings as Freddy Horniman, having dispatched the sadistic Tommy Dixon

*Occasionally a TV series’ Break into Three is actually a Break into the Rest of the Series, especially when a decision is made that draws the Hero into a larger conflict; such is the case with The Gentlemen. The Final Image of Eddie’s stunned face/Freddy’s primal scream after the murder is not only the polar opposite of the Opening Image, it sets up the promise of a Finale that will carry out over many episodes, with many gatherings of various teams, executing larger and crazier plans, and a whole bag of brilliant high-tower surprises, until a synthesis world is (hopefully) achieved. Will Eddie be able to maintain his dignity while roughing it up with the sleazy underworld of drug cartels and sexy heads of crime families? Only Guy Ritchie knows for sure.