I am beginning to feel, after seven episodes of McMafia, that even I could manage a little Russian vocab — and thus can be forgiven for laughing when James Norton’s Alex earnestly tells a member of a Mexican cartel that his unique selling point in this Game of Thugs is that he is Russian.
Rebecca, his shot fiancee, reckons she’s got the lowdown on Alex, telling him bitterly that “they” — his parents Dmitri and Mrs Dmitri — sent him to London “to pretend to be civilised. But that’s not who you are.”
Mrs Dmitri has got the measure of her husband, too. After an unlovely drunken scene in which Dmitri learns for the first time that his erstwhile girlfriend, Masha, was pregnant, Mrs Dmitri whirls in from an art gallery visit, takes one look at Dmitri and snaps out, “What’s he done?”
This was an episode all about the power of words, what they mean and who will keep them. Evil Vadim — Alex’s mortal enemy — is revealed, stripped to the waist and splitting logs like a certain president I could name, but things are not going EV’s way. The Kremlin is less than happy with headlines in the British press about Rebecca’s shooting, and both Moscow intelligence and — surprisingly — dozy Dmitri make it clear that both EV and Alex need to kiss and make up before things get really out of hand.
Dmitri, who hovers between claiming he has no more friends in Russia and insisting that he still has mates there who can “do stuff”, tells Alex he will introduce him to Oleg at the Russian Embassy and Alex says carefully, “spasibo”, which is probably one of the 100 first words he brought with him to London aged nine.
A meeting is arranged in Istanbul and lo! Semiyon Kleiman, Alex’s former mentor, turns up from Israel to seal the deal with Evil Vadim. But EV’s parting words to Alex have a hidden meaning, as Alex queasily discovers from Dmitri. Oy, thinks Alex, I will have to get back into the game just when I thought it was all sorted.
Nobody — not his father, not his fiancee, not Semiyon, not the Mexican drug dealer in the terrible suit which he claims is Armani and if it is he ought to sue — reckons Alex is much cop at anything. But it is all about to get played out — probably bloodily — in Moscow.
And I can predict with absolute confidence that Evil Vadim will be incandescent and very much not in a forgiving mood.