It seems that Norton has an excellent radar perma-scanning the current fear-zeitgeist. A few years ago it was free-running psychopaths that scared the living daylights out of us, and now it seems it's the Russians again. Are we entering the second age of the Russian antihero?
In this eight-part series, Norton is the son of a Russian gangster, trying to hold the reins of his legitimate investment firm and keep the violent tentacles of the Kremlin at bay. The show is based on the journalist Misha Glenny's bestselling nonfiction book about organised Russian crime.
Cold War fears came bubbling over into fictional fruition in James Bond. Today, McMafia reflects the confusion caused by the power international crime syndicates wield around the world, through their ability to move vast amounts of money wherever they like, and simultaneously disguise themselves in cyberspace.
The BBC's new drama is in no small part a reflection of the consternation caused by the 2016 Panama Papers – which showed us how money is seamlessly moved from Russia, to Panama, onto the British Virgin Islands before returning to Russia – and the estimated millions of dollars that have been moved into the West by mysterious Russian figures online.
Money laundering aside, the world is waking up to the influence Russia has wielded over both the outcomes of the American election and Brexit. As baleful Russian power moves out of cyberspace and into everyday lives, our neighbours to the East should expect to see themselves once again cast as the antihero.
The BBC offers a sophisticated, edge-of-your-seat thrill-ride that – like The Godfather – is at once about crime and family, making your own way in the world and being trapped by the sins of the father.
In tapping into our current concerns, and whilst also being reminiscent of the good old James Bond days (welcome back heavily scarred thugs and their sinister fistfuls of caviar) McMafia offers both a hit of nostalgia and something horrifyingly modern.
Welcome to the second age of the Russian antihero.
|James Norton stars in BBC's gangster drama: McMafia
|BBC One, BBC One | MAP
On 16 Dec 17, Air and date times TBD