A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that McMafia is a drama about international crime that follows the son of an exiled Russian mafia boss, Alex Godman (James Norton), as he reluctantly becomes involved in the family business. It's basically a retelling of The Godfather, but set in the world of British hedge funds. The show mostly focuses on the relationships between Alex and his business partners, his ailing father, and his girlfriend, who has no idea that he has gotten involved with crime, but there are also violent murders in each episode, as well as glimpses into mafia practices, such as human trafficking.
What's the story?
In MCMAFIA, Alex Godman (James Norton) comes from a family of Russian expatriates. His father was a notorious member of the Russian mafia before being exiled. Though Alex has painstakingly constructed his life to avoid any of his own involvement in organized crime, he finds himself in a position where he's forced to do business with an Israeli businessman named Semiyon Kleiman (David Strathairn), who wants to build the biggest crime syndicate in the world -- the mafia version of McDonald's, he says, which is where the show's title comes from. Alex tries to hide his involvement with Kleiman from his girlfriend, family, and business partners as he is pulled deeper and deeper into the underworld.
Is it any good?
Extremely methodical in its world-building, this series starts with a whole lot of exposition and not a lot of conflict. It begins with Godman's family before expanding to the competing crime syndicates he slowly becomes involved with -- this slow pace weighs down even the moments that are supposed to be shocking or thrilling. The incredible David Strathairn is shockingly underutilized in the villain role, while the most charismatic performer in the cast (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy's David Dencik) doesn't even make it all the way through the first episode.
It's undeniable that McMafia is a well-made and ambitious show -- it's filmed beautifully, travels across continents, and digs into some details of organized crime that most depictions ignore -- but is almost entirely absent of compelling characters and actual dramatic conflict. So while the show is nice to look at, it can't seem to nail the most basic things that crime shows need to thrive. For a show that takes it's name from a fast-food franchise, McMafia could use a lot more salt.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the main character's struggle in McMafia. What does it mean to come from a criminal family? How does Alex reconcile his love for his father with his desire to be a legitimate businessman? How does he succeed? How does he fail?
Families can talk about organized crime. Often the mafia is glorified or satirized in movies and television -- why do you think that is?
Families can talk about what it means to have connections to more than one culture. Alex Godman is Russian, but he's grown up in Britain and speaks English in his day-to-day life. How do these two aspects of his background define him? Do you know anyone with a multicultural background?
For kids who love dark dramas
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