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Television review: McMafia Episode 8

What did Jenni Frazer make of the final episode of the BBC's thriller?

    James Norton as Alex Godman, the man with the flashing cheekbones
    James Norton as Alex Godman, the man with the flashing cheekbones

    It is perhaps worth reminding ourselves, as McMafia disappears into the collective hive memory, how we started out just two months ago: a Russian Jewish family living in London, with a criminal past back in Moscow, and an apparently squeaky clean heir who was stolidly making his way in life as a re-invented British banker.

    And then everything changed. The Godman family — patriarch, Dmitri the Drunk — was shattered after Dmitri’s brother, Boris the Unstable, was spectacularly murdered with a caviar knife by the family’s mortal enemy, Vadim Kaliagin, aka Evil Vadim.

    For eight episodes, some plodding, some thrilling, Mr Formerly Squeaky Clean, Dmitri’s son Alex, sought to take his revenge on Evil Vadim, stoically absorbing a hit on his fiancee Rebecca — which, sadly, did not end the life of the world’s dimmest girlfriend — but did, as shotgun wounds to the stomach will, see off her pregnancy by Alex.

    And last week all ended in horror as Evil Vadim’s beloved daughter Natasha was killed, only telly-moments after EV had changed his mind and averted a hit on Alex.

    So we were more than geared up for an all guns-blazing denouement in this last episode of McMafia, and I was hoping for a) some sort of reminder that the Godmans were Jewish; and b)a full-on Russian/Jewish chuppah between Israeli bodyguard Joseph — the wonderful Oshri Cohen — and Lyudmilla, the Russian beauty therapist he helped rescue from the sex trafficking ring run by his former boss, Semiyon Kleiman (David Strathairn, an improbable Israel MK).

    In the end neither of my hopes was fulfilled. The only indication that the Godmans were Jewish were when Dopey Dmitri, having realised that ordering a hit on Evil Vadim’s daughter while his own son was in Moscow was probably not the smartest move in the gangsters’ playbook, told Alex that he should make his way immediately to a Moscow synagogue for refuge, where the lovely Joseph would collect him.

    This advice from father to son was offered shortly after a horrible cat-and-mouse chase through the Moscow Metro, as Evil Vadim and his gang ran through the tunnels after a panting Alex, who had been held for an unspecified time at Moscow Airport on the orders of EV’s best friend, intelligence colonel Ilya Federov.

    We never got to see Alex in the shul but we did see an unconvincing cameo of Dopey Dmitri, wearing one of those kippot that non-Jewish men don at memorial services to blend in, squatting beside his brother Boris’s grave and — rather oddly — watering it. At least, I assume it was water. Could have been vodka.

    Meanwhile it was time for Rebecca to leave hospital, and who should show up to help her on her way, besides Katya Godman and boyfriend Femi, but the increasingly shifty Mexican gangster Antonio, still peddling the myth that he and Alex were at Harvard together. Come on, Ant, nobody believes that, not even you.

    Alex, having magically acquired a tie and a freshly pressed suit despite having been running around in Moscow Metro tunnels, was off for a Very Big Appointment with a new sort of Russian gangster, a clean one who operates in figures and not violence. Eventually a deal was done, Alex smoothly offering to “inherit” the apparatus previously run by Evil Vadim, but in a clean way, you understand.

    No sooner was the deal agreed — and Antonio, sulking mightily, was sidelined by his Mexican drug cartel boss Guillermo Alegre — than various forces combined to close down Evil Vadim altogether. These included Russian intelligence and — surprisingly, Alex himself, who finally confronted his enemy face-to-face after Vadim howled in emotional pain at his daughter’s funeral.

    The telling lines were Vadim’s — “If you get into this business, you have to give her [Rebecca] up, everybody you love, you will be alone every single day until someone comes to put you out of your misery”.

    And Alex, having obliged, makes one last sentimental journey, possibly, one suspects, the last he will ever manage. It’s a visit to a hideous and soul-less block of flats. Number 62, it turns out, is where he used to live until he was nine and the Godmans moved to London.

    Several viewers have suggested that there may be a second series of McMafia. I rather hope not. I prefer to leave Alex (James Norton) where he is, cheekbones flashing, stylishly displaying the best in Savile Row suits, pretending not to understand Russian, and becoming a Very British Sort of Gangster. But Jewish? Couldn’t be less.

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