McMafia episode 01.01 recap: AMC brings global crime to the small screen


The BBC and AMC worked together to co-produce a new series surrounding life in the world of global organized crime with McMafia.

McMafia already started airing on the BBC in Britain and Amazon Prime is offering it across the world. This is a big deal because McMafia is about global organized crime and takes the characters all over the globe. For America, AMC is airing this show as a replacement for a similar BBC production — The Night Manager.

Whether or not McMafia can reach the levels of The Night Manager remains to be seen, but it is off to an interesting start.

More from AMC

The first episode, simply titled “Episode 1,” was a slow-burn and simply set up the pieces for the rest of the first season — which will end up at eight episodes. The “hero” of this series is Alex Goodman (James Norton), the son of a former mafia boss who is now living in London after fleeing Russia.

The series started out by showing that Alex is a good man — a banker who was born with a “silver spoon” who was educated at private universities and now works as an investment banker. Unlike many bankers (and the show hammers this home), he is not a dirty banker and has no desire to help launder money.

He also has a girlfriend, an American named Rebecca (Juliet Rylance), who works for “the only honest banker” in the world. However, things get bad for Alex in this first episode.

Watch your favorite shows on fuboTV: Watch over 67 live sports and entertainment channels with a 7-day FREE trial!

His father’s younger brother Boris is still angling to get revenge for his family being chased out of Russia. Alex has a close relationship with Boris and loves his uncle. That makes the fact that he was there when the Russian mafia showed up and brutally murdered Boris a turning point in Alex’s life.

Alex Godman (JAMES NORTON), Dimitri Godman (ALEKSEY SEREBRYAKOV) – McMafia _ Season 1, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Nick Wall/Cuba Pictures/CPL Godman/AMC

Earlier in the episode, a hit was attempted on the life of a Russian mobster named Vadim (Merab Nindze), the same man who chased Alex’s father out of Russia. It turns out Boris ordered the hit. Alex is further pulled in when rumors start up that his business is financing dirty Russians — rumors it turns out that Boris also started to try to force Alex to help a friend, and another former Russian exile Semiyon Kleiman (David Strathairn), launder money.

So, Boris — the uncle that Alex loves so much — betrays his beloved nephew, gets killed and puts his brother in danger as Vadim assumes everyone in the family had a hand in the failed assassination attempt.

Thie premiere episode does go a little overboard when hammering home the fact that there are evil and corrupt bankers and very few honest ones. This is juxtaposed when Rebecca is giving a speech about how good bankers need to prove to the public that the bad ones won’t hold them down. At the same time, her boyfriend Alex seems to be ready to make a deal with Semiyon to help launder money in an attempt to help him build a business that will bring down Vadim financially.

This is where the series gets the title. McMafia is a play on words. In the meeting with Semiyon, the Russian exile explains that the reason McDonald’s is more successful than Burger King is that there are more of them. He wants to put his shipping business everywhere there is a McDonald’s so he can take the customers that Vadim has and make people doubt their loyalty to the man who caused his exile.

As Semiyon tells Alex, you can do more damage behind a desk in an office than a gangster can on the streets. Alex wants to stay straight, but he also wants to protect his family. He takes the deal because he feels there is no other option.

Alex Godman (JAMES NORTON), Natasha Kalyagin (ANNA LEVANOVA), Vadim Kalyagin (MERAB NINIDZE) – McMafia _ Season 1, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Nick Wall/Cuba Pictures/CPL Godman/AMC

The episode ends with Alex and Vadim meeting face-to-face in Versailles and Alex trying to convince him that his father had nothing to do with the attack because he is merely an old man who wants to be left alone. Vadim then walks with Alex and shows him the location where the Sun King greeted diplomats. On one side is the hall of peace and the other is the hall of war. He then asks Alex which he would like to see.

Next: The Walking Dead mid-season premiere: 5 takeaways from ‘Honor’

McMafia airs on Monday nights on AMC at 9 p.m. CST.