Who is the Syndicate’s Boss? Is Lady Helen Gwinear an Actual Person?

The third episode of Apple TV+’s historical comedy series ‘The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin’ introduces the Syndicate, the criminal organization of the “Thief-Taker General” Jonathan Wilde. The Syndicate is headed by a merciless woman, who questions her subordinates about a carton full of gold bars stolen by Dick Turpin and his Essex gang. The boss asks Jonathan Wilde to capture Turpin and retrieve her gold since the carton was stolen from the “turf” of the former. Even though the episode introduces the Syndicate’s ruthless boss, it doesn’t even name the character, who is still shrouded in mystery! SPOILERS AHEAD.

The Syndicate’s Boss: The Fiction and the Truth

The Syndicate is headed by Tamsin Greig’s Lady Helen Gwinear, who is far superior to any men around her as far as violence and ruthlessness are concerned. Greig described her character as “wonderful.” “This particular villain, Lady Helen, is wonderful because she has so much money and power and she is at the top of the pyramid and so, just enjoys that view when you have got that amount of money and nobody challenging you. All the toys are yours and you can spread them out if you want to,” Greig told HeyUGuys about Helen.

Even though Dick Turpin is based on an actual highwayman, Helen is a character conceived by the writers of the series without any real-life counterparts. Like her, the Syndicate is fictitious as well. As far as the real histories of Turpin and Wilde/Wild are concerned, such a potent, merciless female figure is nowhere to be found. In the third episode, Wilde tells Turpin that the Syndicate is his criminal organization. In reality, the leader of Wild’s gang was himself. The gang was also not really an organized crime syndicate similar to the one in the period comedy.

During his lifetime, Wild allegedly took advantage of his thief-taking general position to control the thieves around him. He supposedly ran a group of robbers who stole goods and gave them to him. When the arrests of the thieves were announced, he would present the goods as recovered, only to garner a reward for transferring the same to the rightful owners. He also reportedly demanded a “cut” from the stolen goods from his thieves and threatened that he would simply arrest them for rewards from the government if they didn’t abide. Wild’s real-life gang doesn’t resemble the Syndicate and he didn’t really have a boss like Helen.

Furthermore, there are no reports that state that Turpin ever stole a hundred bars of gold. His areas of expertise were livestock robberies, raiding houses, and horse theft, which eventually led him to the gallows. As a highwayman, 100 gold bars might have been too unrealistic a fortune for him to rob in the 18th century. The episode also depicts Wilde trying to capture Turpin following the order of Helen, which never happened in reality. Turpin joined the Essex gang in the early 1930s, whereas Wild was executed in May 1725. Therefore, Helen and the Syndicate are “completely made up,” just like several storylines in the series.

One of the highlights of ‘The Completely Made-Up Adventures of Dick Turpin’ is the presence of modernity. In reality, the 1730s was a male-dominated period for someone like Helen to reach and remain at the top of the pyramid, especially with a group of vicious men beneath her. A highly prominent female mobster of Helen’s caliber and status didn’t exist in early 18th-century England. Series creators Claire Downes, Ian Jarvis, and Stuart Lane and the writers of the episode Richard Naylor and Jon Brittain find humor and innovation in a ruthless woman heading the Syndicate in such a period in history. Such contradictions extend to Turpin’s veganism as well.

The creative heads of the series wanted to explore a lovable Turpin around a group of frightening characters to bring out comedy. “We wanted to have this sort of modern character in this quite hard world with these sort of scary characters and people are getting killed around him and shot. He, somehow, in a childlike, weird way, manages to avoid danger and get them out of trouble every week,” Noel Fielding, who plays the highwayman, told The Independent. Lady Helen Gwinear might have been created as one such scary character.

Read More: Where is The Completely Made-up Adventures of Dick Turpin Filmed?