THE Night Manager saw Tom Hiddleston set out his impressive stall in the battle to be the new James Bond. Now it’s James Norton’s turn: McMafia is a high stakes game of international wheeler dealer intrigue that gives the Grantchester vicar — and 007 contender — ample opportunity to look suave in expensive suits, charm the ladies in nightclubs, and prove handy in a scrap should the opportunity present itself.
All of which is to massively simplify the intricate and, at times, rather opaque web that McMafia spins around a network of Russian mafia gangsters, investment bankers and other nefarious types.
For a New Year’s Day brain still slightly swathed in a blur of artisan gin and hokey cokeys, it was a bit of a head-scratcher.
But then, as is the way with these high-end thrillers, you’re not supposed to know too much about what’s going on at the start. Cannily, episode two has been scheduled to follow tonight, while there’s still an outside chance of remembering who did what to whom the night before.
The ace in McMafia’s pack is undoubtedly Norton. It takes a lot to turn a caviar-necking banker son of a Russian crime dynasty into a likeable TV hero, but Norton somehow imbues his character Alex with a sense of fundamental decency. Not the first thing that springs to mind with the phrase ‘City fund manager’.
As Alex gets to grips with the ruthless schemers who are pulling the plug on his family business, Norton draws us on side, while finding time to splash in the Med in his swimmers.
And, in amongst the intrigue, McMafia’s real poser is the state of modern morality.
Is ethical capitalism possible, ponders Alex’s girlfriend.
Do try and keep up.