As the opener begins, we’re transported to the Arabian Peninsula. We’re quickly introduced to drug dealer Vadim Kalyagin (Merab Ninidze). While Vadim meets with a business partner, a young girl enters a store and changes clothes. She exits and jumps onto the back of a motorbike with a man. Vadim learns that Benny Chopra (Atul Kale) is looking for alternative ways to transport heroin to the north. It seems that they strike up a deal. Vadim leaves. While his vehicle is in the tunnel, the girl on the bike pulls beside of it and places a bomb near the back. Next, we’re introduced to Alex Godman (James Norton), his family and his girlfriend, Rebecca (Juliet Rylance). Alex’s uncle, Boris (David Dencik), bids on a date with a model. Alex’s father, Dimitri (Aleksey Serebryakov) isn’t happy that his son doesn’t speak fluid Russian.
His mother, Oksana (Mariya Shukshina), calms him down. After Boris wins the date, Dimitri ridicules his daughter’s new boyfriend, who he calls Michael Jordan. Alex tries to convince his mother to sit with his father. In return, she encourages Alex to buy his girlfriend a new dress. Later, Alex and Rebecca spend time with Boris. They chat about Alex’s decision to leave Goldman to start his own fund. Boris tells Alex about his Israeli friend who may be interested in investing in the firm. Boris gets a call informing him that Vadim is still alive. He looks nervous. Vadim gets a visitor in the hospital, while Alex and Rebecca return home. Alex suspects something is up with his uncle. Alex gets a call from his mother. He is forced to rush to his parents’ house and talk his father down from the edge. Dimitri admits he is thinking about giving it all up and returning to Moscow. In the morning, Alex gets bad news.
Alex’s firm has been caught up in a Russian scandal. Alex isn’t sure why, since he is adamant that he never deals in Russian companies. He gets his colleague to speak with her friends at Bloomberg and find out who is spreading the rumor. Boris calls at that exact moment. He says little of interest, but believes someone in Moscow may be trying to hurt the family. Then, Rebecca and Alex meet with a rich investor. The man is interested in investing with the firm, but he wants to change the name and he wants a portion of the business. Vadim and his daughter get a visit from Ilya. Vadim gives the man the name of Boris and insists he is responsible for the attempt on his life. Alex visits Boris and chats with him about the Israeli investor. Boris explains that the man made his money in shipping and entertainment. Alex remains skeptical. Nevertheless, Alex speaks with Rebecca about Semiyon Kleiman (David Strathairn).
Alex admits that everything seems legitimate so far. Soon, Alex and Boris fly to Israel. They visit a club and spot Kleiman. After a little flirting from a local woman, a siren sounds and everyone is forced to leave. Eventually, Kleiman and Alex make their way to the rooftop. Joseph (Oshri Cohen) watches from a distance as Kleiman tells Alex about his business proposal. Alex insists his firm does not launder money. Nevertheless, he tells him how he would do it and keep his name out of it. The following day, Boris encourages Alex to think about the deal. Next, Alex spends time with his mother. She tells him about her father and his business. She admits that everyone is considered a gangster in Russia. She also encourages him to say yes to the Israeli. Later, Alex learns from his colleague that Boris was the one responsible for spreading the rumor. He visits Boris and finds him meeting with several men, who was supposedly Russian. The men explain that they need $20 million to go to war with Vadim.
Soon, the men attack and kill Boris. Alex makes a run for it. He manages to lock himself in the basement. He calls his mother and tells her how to set off the alarm. When the men hear it, they flee the house immediately. Vadim returns home and celebrates, while Boris is laid to rest. At the funeral, Alex runs into the flirty woman again. She tells him that Mr. Kleiman is sorry he couldn’t be there. The woman, Tanya, and Joseph speak with Alex later. Alex is given a card and a sim card. Later, his father expresses regret for not being there for his brother. Alex begins training, so he can fend off a potential attack. Eventually, he calls Kleiman and meets with the man. Kleiman and Alex talk about business strategies. Then, Kleiman admits he believes they can bring down Vadim. To do so, Alex will just need to use his fund. He encourages Alex to meet with Vadim in Versailles and make nice for the time being.
While Alex heads for Versailles, Rebecca attends a conference for her employer, Sydney Bloom. Alex makes nice with Vadim and his daughter, Natasha. It appears that Vadim is eating caviar with the knife that killed Boris. Once Natasha is dismissed, Alex admits he wants Vadim to know that his father is a harmless old man. He too promises that he is harmless. He explains that he is content with his life and wants nothing more. Vadim explains that the building was once used by the Sun God. He gives Alex a tour and shows him the room of war and the room of peace. He asks which one he wants to see, before the episode ends.
The opener of McMafia was excellent. The acting was spectacular. While watching, I couldn’t help but think of how good James Norton would be as James Bond. I prefer he stay in Britain, but it is always a pleasure to watch his work. The other actors and actresses were great as well. While the Russian hating was a little overdone, I enjoyed the episode tremendously. It was very enthralling and gripping. I am glad David Dencik didn’t make it any further. If you’ve seen one of his performances, you’ve pretty much seen them all. It is always loud and obnoxious all the time.
The opener was excellent and I am very eager to see where things go from here. It scores a solid 8 out of 10.