The end of a TV episode is normally the thing that makes you want to keep watching, but sometimes, it’s the beginning. So it is with Maltese: The Mafia Detective, Walter Presents’ new Italian drama.
The streaming service launched a couple of years ago by Walter Iuzzolino, but the curator of the site has struggled to find a programme from his home country to bring to UK audiences, partly because some of the most notable, such as Sky’s Gomorrah and BBC Four’s Inspector Montalbano, have been snapped up by other broadcasters, and partly due to an apparent shortage in quality (Walter Presents sets its bar commendably high). Maltese, then, arrives with some anticipation after years of waiting – and, right from the off, it doesn’t disappoint.
The show follows Dario Maltese (Kim Rossi Stuart), a typical honest cop who escaped the corrupt society of Sicily years ago. But in 1976, he heads back to his old stomping ground for the wedding of his friend, only for things to take a bloody turn. It’s a fantastic staged opener, one that wastes no time in setting events in motion but still has enough room to allow for character to build and their bromance to convince. Director Gianluca Maria Tavarelli, meanwhile, deftly switches from personal conversations to pulsating action, his camera swinging down to a drive-by shooting with a gripping urgency.
Written by Leonardo Fasoli and Maddalena Ravagli – two of the people behind Gormorrah – the script then proceeds to set up a more familiar police procedural plot, as Maltese finds himself back in a web of corruption as he tried to solve the grisly murder. There’s intrigue to be found in the cast of untrustworthy colleagues, who boast fun nicknames such as The Nail (“once he’s stuck in, he’s hard to shake”), and the dusty police station halls suggest that layers of moral grime are begging to be wiped away. But it’s the emotional weight that comes from Kim Rossi Stuart’s performance that gives this a compelling pull, as the stern lines on his aged face still carry the charisma and vigour of a young, idealistic detective.
The plot promises twists and turns, as the investigation into the homicide lands upon a newspaper article that reveals unknown personal secrets, and suggests that Dario’s old friend may not be the man he remembers. But even as the closing cliffhanger unfolds, you’re still reeling from that shocking opening. Walter Presents’ first Italian series took its time coming, but the first minutes make it clear that Maltese means business.
Maltese: The Mafia Detective premieres at 10pm on Channel 4 on Sunday 4th February, with the full box set then available on Walter Presents.