McMafia episode 1 recap: James Norton’s not an “English gentleman” anymore

Is Alex Godman about to declare war on Vadim Kalyagin?

McMafia (BBC, EH)

Welcome to the world of McMafia, where hedonists bid £16,000 for dinner dates with supermodels and gangsters are no longer on the street – they’re corporate high-fliers.

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It was an explosive first episode for James Norton’s series, riddled with death, revenge and dodgy deals.

Here’s our run-down of the hour…

The failed assassination attempt on Vadim

McMafia (BBC, EH)

Before the opening credits had even rolled, we saw a car being blown to smithereens in an assassination attempt on Russian gangster Vadim Kalyagin.

Despite it being an explosion of epic proportions, Vadim (somehow) survived – and when he woke up he soon found out who’d ordered the hit on him: Boris Godman.

Not only is Boris Vadim’s “business competitor”, but he is also the uncle of series protagonist Alex Godman. 

Rumours threatened to soil Alex’s reputation 

McMafia (BBC, EH)

Throughout the episode we saw Alex – the successful young hedge fund manager who irritatingly calls his parents “mama” and “papa” – trying to make an honest living and not fall into the world of organised crime.

These plans were foiled when his fund came under fire from the press, following rumours that it had been trading in black-listed Russian stocks. As investors got spooked and began to withdraw their money en masse, Alex started looking for new clients to save his reputation.

Alas, this proved very difficult, given the prejudices that stem from his Russian background.

Boris introduced Alex to Israeli investor Semiyon

McMafia (BBC, EH)

The aforementioned rumours, it turned out, were all started by none other than Alex’s uncle Boris, who had his own game plan.

Boris wanted Alex to panic and accept investment from an Israeli friend of his, a shipping magnate named Semiyon Kleiman, who he had promised could use his nephew’s fund to launder money.

Alex was sceptical – as was his girlfriend Rebecca who ironically works in promoting ethical business practice – but as the episode went on he found himself more and more tempted to do business with Semiyon…

Vadim’s men went after Boris

McMafia (BBC, EH)

When Alex went to confront Boris about spreading the rumours, he walked in on a shifty-looking meeting between his uncle and some gangsters who, unbeknownst to Boris, were allies of Vadim.

As one of the heavies went to fetch the long-awaited caviar from Boris’s long-suffering housekeeper, Vadim’s men ambushed Boris and Alex.

In a scene of sudden brutality, the men slit Boris’s throat and wrists and let him bleed out on the floor. Alex managed to struggle free from a headlock, and ran to call his mother to warn her that she might be in danger.

Alex got through to “mama” just in time to save her from the gangsters knocking at her door, but it was too late for Boris. 

Will Alex cut a dodgy deal with Semiyon to avenge Vadim for his uncle’s death?

McMafia (BBC, EH)

Bowled over by Boris’s death and still without an investor to save his fund, Alex began to consider working with Semiyon.

The Israeli gangster told Alex about his plans to launder money through his fund, and about the Vadim-Boris feud that led to his uncle’s death.

Semiyon told Alex the best way to avenge Vadim was not through violence, but by working together to usurp and crush his business. The Israeli was also kicked out of Russia by Vadim, so is seeking revenge himself.

He sent Alex to Versailles to shake hands with Vadim and ask him not to hurt his father (who Vadim believed had been involved in the assassination attempt), a deception tactic to keep the enemy at bay.

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While there, touring the place where the Sun King greeted his diplomats, Vadim asked Alex the poignant question: “On the left is the hall of peace, on the right is the hall of war – so, which one would you like to see?”