This McMafia review contains spoilers.
McMafia Episode 6
McMafia episode 6 is an excellent example of the subtle buildup of suspense. The series’ formula successfully sets up a perilous payoff, and then subtly subverts the outcome we know is coming. The latest entry is a casual chess game, the kind people gamble on in public parks, but the stakes are higher than cut-throat poker.
Alex (James Norton) spends the entire episode building up his defense for a violent attack, while Vadim begins it with an observation that he doesn’t need violence to hack away at the Godman family. He can attack business interests, financial maneuvers and political cronies. Who needs a henchman when you got the FCA? Of course McMafia mixes red herrings with caviar when it doles out the specific maneuverings of mobs from the former Soviet Union. Vadim Kalyagin (Merab Ninidze) is consistently ahead of Alex, by several moves, by the end of each installment of the criminal franchise.
Vadim doesn’t always appear to be. Alex appears to take every precaution, vet every operative, cross the Ts and dot the Is. But still the crime boss who spends most of his time proudly enjoying the company of his daughter outmaneuvers the economic speculator. Last week, Vadim even personally gloated that his set up of Semiyon Kleiman (David Strathairn) had a foregone conclusion long before the ex-patriot politician even knew he had a problem.
Alex begins defensive maneuvers early. Warned that Vadim will come after his family first, he puts distance between himself and his bride-to-be, Rebecca (Juliet Rylance). He is new to the business, and much newer to choosing his own path in it, and understands it’s so much easier to move up quickly if the climber has no attachments. It’s not that hard a transition. Rebecca is already not wearing the engagement ring. Alex says he doesn’t want to fight, but there is neither any way to avoid it, nor any inclination to slow it down.
Rebecca has her reasons to be upset. Alex’s gangster friend got off on a rape charge and two witnesses were killed. She’s really thinks this is something they should talk about, as a couple. Alex doesn’t expect her to understand, he is not her, his uncle was murdered and his entire family was almost killed, but if she’s ready for a quiet sit-down dinner with his family, he’s already dressed. This tears it for them, which is what Alex wants in the first place. But he doesn’t know everything in Rebecca’s world either. He doesn’t know she had a sexually charged dinner with his business partner, and no one knows she’s pregnant. This might be why she’s so easy to tear up at the missed family dinner.
The hidden condition may also be why she lets the neighbor with the baby get so close to her in her rented apartment. The assassin gets on the inside, but it is so masterfully masked we can’t help but anticipate it. That doesn’t take away from the suspense because the audience has been given so many clues to other potential victims. Alex is finding his ground in a world he didn’t ask for, and his father tried to shield him from. The Godman family has a lot of leaks that need to be filled. Old men say stupid things. Dmitri’s ex-mistress Masha is pregnant with his child and is bought off. Alex’s mother likes to dress her bodyguards in dresses that aren’t conducive to security, and his sister has a budding drug problem.
Alex is lucky he doesn’t have any kids, the opposition does indeed come after family first. He gets confirmation Benes, whose daughter Carolina’s drug dealer beat the shit out of her. When Benes goes to send a message, he gets one in return. The beating he gives to the drug dealer is the violent highlight in the film until the ultimate chess move almost takes out a queen. Benes sells his betrayal beautifully. Every gangster in the movies or on TV is an actor. Tommy wouldn’t have gone down to the basement to get his button in Goodfellas if his sponsors didn’t put that over. The only mistake Benes makes is letting on he knows Rebecca takes daily dips in the apartment complex’s swimming pool.
McMafia excels in its false leads. The most obviously wrong assumption the audience is being set up to believe is that Alex is out of his depth in his deadly competition with Vadim. Semiyon’s veteran gaze might be able to pick out the sentimentality in his operatives, but Alex is only beginning to treat his emotional wounds. The series passed its halfway point, and “Episode 6” is probably the lowest Alex Godman will sink before he rises to conquer.