The BBC’s latest TV drama, McMafia, has debuted with largely positive reviews from the critics.
James Norton – of Happy Valley and War and Peace fame – plays the son of a former Russian “Godfather”, who is trying to follow a straighter path.
Guardian critic Lucy Mangan described it as “beautifully put together” adding that “the script is a cut above average”.
“There is a sense of much more power and energy waiting to be unleashed.”
The Telegraph’s Gerard O’Donovan gave it four stars and wrote: “One episode in, of eight, it is difficult to tell whether McMafia will scale the lustrous heights of the John le Carre adaptation The Night Manager or take a plunge into glossy melodrama like Sky One’s Riviera.”
The Express critic Neela Debnath wrote that McMafia “came hurtling onto our screens” and made reference to rumours that Norton could be the next James Bond: “Episode one of McMafia served as the perfect audition for Norton, who’s probably just sealed the deal for playing 007 with that performance in the BBC drama.”
Metro’s Sarah Deen also referred to Bond: “McMafia is glossy weeknight escapism but has a lot more bubbling under the surface. However, with such a complicated storyline it’s hard to tell if it will come to a satisfactory conclusion. Still, James Bond producers should come knocking for Norton.”
But while the Mirror’s Ian Hyland acknowledged that McMafia “should also help the BBC get 2018 off to a flyer”, he also referenced the complex storyline: “It’s is a complicated story though, so some viewers may have found the opener hard to follow”.
Independent critic Daisy Wyatt wrote: “McMafia is certainly slick. But as an expose of international organised money laundering, I fear it’s too dense to be the sexy thriller of 2018 that everyone so wants it to be.”
The series is based on Misha Glenny’s non-fiction book McMafia: Seriously Organised Crime – none of the characters are real but the workings of modern organised crime portrayed in the drama are based on the book.
Some critics made comparisons to The Night Manager, the award-winning BBC series which starred Tom Hiddleston.
“The end result is something like The Night Manager with spreadsheets, combining the earlier US/UK co-production’s gloss and scale with the hard facts and journalistic vigour of Glenny’s research,” wrote Huw Fullerton in the Radio Times.
Jan Moir, writing in the Daily Mail, noted that “the first episode has a lot of murky finance plot points to get across, but happily we are never too far away from another exciting scene with troubled Alex (Norton), the undisputed star of the show”.
Meanwhile, a number of fans have taken issue with the subtitles used when the characters were speaking Russian.
Another asked if the problem could be fixed.
The BBC made no comment.