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TV review: McMafia Episode 3

Jenni Frazer on the etiquette of gift-giving in the BBC's Sunday night thriller

    Alex (James Norton) and girlfriend Rebecca (Juliet Rylance) meet the mysterious Antonio (Caio Blat)
    Alex (James Norton) and girlfriend Rebecca (Juliet Rylance) meet the mysterious Antonio (Caio Blat) Photo: BBC/Cuba Pictures

    Some people’s ideas of a gift are not yours or mine. I wouldn’t, for example, show you a badly beaten-up and chained individual and offer him as a present in exchange for a word in someone else’s shell-like.

    Nevertheless, that was the goodie  given to Alex Godman (James Norton) and his ever-flashing cheekbones. in episode three of the BBC’s fast-moving thriller, McMafia.

    The offer was made by a new element in the multi-stranded world of big crime, the Mexican Antonio Mendez, who has entered the feud between Godman’s improbable family of Russian Jewish gangsters and the deeply evil Vadim Klimov, who had ruthlessly dispatched Alex’s Uncle Boris last week.

    Well, I say Klimov had dispatched Boris — with a caviar knife, if people are paying attention. But actually, Klimov did what most gangsters who have made a ton of money usually do, and sent two of his choicest heavies to get rid of Boris.

    Nevertheless, we viewers need to understand quite how vile Klimov is, and thus we were treated to a nasty little vignette in which, while supposedly in Prague with his beloved daughter, he took time off from being a tourist, in order to systematically beat to death a Czech policeman.

    This is going to spell trouble for retired cop Karel Benes, who has taken over the dark side of gangsterhood in the wake of the death of Klimov’s man in the Czech capital. Three months after Klimov’s man gets thrown out of his apartment building, Klimov’s underworld business in Prague is going to pot `— almost literally.

    Meanwhile, Alex’s father Dmitri the Depressed, who flung himself out of his own apartment building in London, is making a croaking recovery and explaining, rather unconvincingly, to his mistress, that the reason he has no tattoos is because he is a Jew. Mrs Dmitri is thoroughly fed up with him and confronts the mistress, painting a charmless picture of their future life together, where she is destined to be his nursemaid and undercarriage wiper-upper, rather than living in romantic bliss.

    Despite Alex’s repeated attempt to tell Antonio (who claims to have attended Harvard with Alex, a lie so blatant only Alex’s dim girlfriend could have fallen for it) that he can’t do anything for him, Antonio offers him the “gift” of one of Boris’s killers in exchange for Alex having a swift word with the Israeli Mr Big, Semeyon Kleiman (the delicious David Strathairn).. Antonio wants a piece of Kleiman’s action. Alex says nothing, but flashes his cheekbones. No contest on the gift front.

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