“Yes, I know what stock shorting is,” a CEO exclaims indignantly after a flunky explains its significance for the share price of his nanotechnology company. Blimey, after GameStop even I know what stock shorting is; not that I’m likely to retain the knowledge. In the opening moments a banker flails through the air to crunch messily on a marble atrium floor in the City of London, though we won’t find out who till the end of the episode, or why for a while longer.
Underlying the whirring electronic displays, the mesmerising monitors and the anxious faces of the trading floor is a metaphysical dimension which makes this a little different from the standard financial thriller. It’s 2011, and Italian expat Massimo Ruggero (Alessandro Borghi), head of trading at NYL Bank in London, is the “deadliest shark in the sea”. Dominic Morgan (Patrick Dempsey), his suave and wily boss, congratulates him after he generates £250m profit by betting against the Greek currency.
But why is it that every time Massimo contemplates Dominic, his thoughts turn to Satan? Is it his Catholic upbringing, or am I being just as reductive as stuffy, upper-class banker Edward Stuart (Ben Miles), who seems to think all Italians are in the mafia? Borghi, so thrillingly explosive as a mobster in Rome-set crime series Suburra, is transformed as Massimo, a much more inward and controlled character, setting out to uncover the infernal dealings of a supposedly respectable bank.
Massimo has a few traders whose loyalty he can count on, including oafish sybarite Paul (Harry Michell) and serious Kalim (Paul Chowdhry) who sports an asymmetric hair-do that looks just like a beret. Needing an ally on the outside, Massimo recruits flunking but brilliant economics student and hacker Oliver (Malachi Kirby, exuding stubborn integrity). Sofia (Laia Costa), a pert anarchist blogger, appeals to Massimo as another “foreigner trying to make it in the Anglo-Saxon world”. Sofia spends a ridiculous amount of time lurking in Massimo’s underground car-park, trying to catch him as he comes and goes. What, they just let anyone in, with all those supercars lying around?
Meanwhile the squashed banker’s wife isn’t taking it well. “She keeps bursting into tears,” explains a friend. The scene occasionally shifts to more exotic locations, such as a Bavarian castle and a yacht off Positano. Rome’s ruins prompt Duval, an Assange-like free information messiah and anti-capitalist, to muse: “This city once dominated the world . .. ” Fill in the moral for yourself. Duval castigates the financial sector as “the new gods . . . killing the future”; yet in its relish for the high life, Devils wants to deplore the Ferrari while still driving it.
On Sky Atlantic from February 17 at 9pm