McMafia: Series one episode one review

McMafia… he (Alex Godman played by the lovely James Norton from Happy Valley and War and Peace) is the son of a Russian Mafia Boss that was driven out of business and Moscow by a rival. Why the “Mc”? Some unknown Scottish link? Don’t be daft… I only just got it as I typed “McMafia” in the heading of this blog. It is because a character used McDonald’s and Burger king as examples in comparing the size of businesses… but fast food this ain’t! No clowns in this drama! (so far anyway). This BBC drama is 2018’s The Night Manager (which featured Tom Hiddleston auditioning for the role of James Bond, with James Bond reimagined as a hospitality night shift worker). Perhap’s now this drama has aired its first episode James Norton will be the next front runner.

So McMafia, what is it all about? Less burgers and fries and more caviar and er Mafia, Russian Mafia to be precise. So far so good and very current as apparently Russians are the bad guys, just ask Hilary Clinton. So… Alex Godman is the son of a Russian Mafia Boss but Alex is very much British after his familys forced exile. He has lived and studied in the UK most of his life and he now works as an emerging markets fund manager, which translates as ‘banker’ for us normal folk… definately with a B. He is an upstanding citizen and refuses to use any of his Russian connections or money. Unfortunately someone circulates a rumour that is using his Russian connections and then all of a sudden his investors desert. It turn’s out his own Uncle Boris is the one behind the rumours in an attempt to lure Alex back to the family business and it all kicks off from there. His uncle Boris (I recognised as David Dencik from Top of the Lake series 2) didn’t stick around for long as he was murdered (for attempting to murder the rival boss Vadim Kalyagin who had kicked them out of Moscow all those years ago). Boris has a Israeli friend, Semiyon Kleiman, who is keen to use Alex’s firm to launder £100 million in “shipping” proceeds. Alex asks Semiyon for advice on how to keep his family safe following Boris’s murder and he advises Alex to go and speak to the rival mafia boss man Vadim Kalyagin at the Palace of Versailles (but looked to me like Waddeston Manor) who ends the episode by asking Alex if he would like to go to see one of two rooms, the room of war or the room of peace? Which one was it? Ooooh gripping stuff. He should have said “Actually… I’ve already been in both War and Peace”.

This drama is based on a book titled “McMafia: Seriously Organised Crime” which is actually a factual book and not a work of fiction. So the fictional story and characters are a way of exploring a criminal world that is real. So far the script, characters, exotic locations and intriguing storyline make me think this series will be a winner. I don’t mind subtitles and like how international this series will be. There are a lot of crime dramas, some even loosely based around real events (Narcos, Snowfall etc) and lately I’ve gotten a little tired of some of these, but McMafia I’ll stick with, for the time being.

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