WARNING: this review contains spoilers for McMafia episodes 1 and 2
The third episode of McMafia picks up some months after Semiyon Kleiman (David Strathairn) and Alex Godman (James Norton) visited Prague. Kleiman had hoped finance Czech counterfeiter Jan Reznik’s operations and weaken his Russian rival Vadim Kalyagin (Merab Ninidze). The trip appeared fruitless until Alex’s intervention inspired former policeman Karel Benes, Reznik’s right-hand man, to have him thrown off a balcony. With Benes now in charge of the Czech operation, Kalyagin’s contraband is being seized, his street hawkers rousted, and his dealers deported.
Previous episodes exposed a grey zone where international finance intersects with criminal activity. The series has been raising questions over who stands to benefit more, the financiers or the gangsters? Is crime is becoming more corporate, or is business becoming more criminal?
From what we have seen so far, Kleiman is a businessman who is seeking to use his money to buy influence and control, facilitating the export and import of a variety of contraband via his shipping and transport infrastructure. However, he also uses the financial acumen of fund managers like Godman to insulate himself from the dirty work. Kleiman did not ask Benes to have his boss killed. He engineered a situation where an unwitting Alex did so.
Kalyagin visits Prague to investigate the sudden downturn in his returns from the Czech black market and ironically took the role of detective. The Russian is frighteningly familiar with how murder can be disguised as suicide. “We have done this many times,” he tells an associate as he combs the dead man’s flat looking for evidence the local police either missed or ignored.
As Kalyagin pieces together events in Prague, Alex’s girlfriend Rebecca meets a new character Antonio Mendez (Caio Blat) at an embassy party. Mendez claims to be a former university friend of Alex who is looking to invest money in his fund. However, when he shows her a picture of his Harvard class, Rebecca notes that the bespectacled and somewhat portly young man in the photo has changed a lot. We don’t know who this man is, but he isn’t Antonio Mendez.
Something seems to have awoken in Alex; his constant claim that all he does for Kleiman is look after his investments seems more and more like a lie he is telling himself. It rings particularly hollow when he says this to Mendez after accepting his invitation to the south of France where his glamorous and charming host reveals that he wants Alex to help him persuade Kleiman to allow him to use his infrastructure to transport drugs into Mumbai. Another market where he is competing against Kalyagin.
If previous episodes of McMafia introduced us to the slick corporate anonymity of Kleiman and his ilk, this episode was all about the dirty work and those unafraid to do it. Kalyagin and Mendez – whoever he really is – are men unafraid of getting bloody, although the Russian seems less willing to consequence in laundry bills, demanding an associate gives him the shirt off of his back because his own is now hopelessly stained.
Did you tune in for McMafia episode 3? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!