It's the penultimate episode of Hotel Portofino

Hotel Portofino (ITV1, 9pm)
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Over the past four weeks, viewers have been gripped by the adventures of Bella Ainsworth (Natascha McElhone), her dysfunctional family and their wealthy guests in the beautiful Italian Riviera.

But every good drama needs a good central villain, and in Vincenzo Danioni (the perfectly cast Pasquale Esposito) Hotel Portofino has certainly ticked that box.

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The despicable local crime boss has been scheming his way into the lives of the Ainsworth family and their clients over the past few weeks.

Rose Drummond-Ward, Julia Drummond-Ward, Melissa De Vere, Lady Latchmere and Roberto AlbaniRose Drummond-Ward, Julia Drummond-Ward, Melissa De Vere, Lady Latchmere and Roberto Albani
Rose Drummond-Ward, Julia Drummond-Ward, Melissa De Vere, Lady Latchmere and Roberto Albani

However, Esposito, who previously played Eduardo Arenella in Gomorrah, thinks his character is more than just your average stereotypical baddie.

“I find him so interesting,” Esposito says. “He could be categorised in a very generic way as “bad”, but he is a lot more nuanced than that.

“In the microcosm of Hotel Portofino, Danioni is a sort of link between what happens inside and what happens outside, a door into what was happening in Italy in those years.

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“He connects viewers and characters around him with history, within the context of post war Italy.

“In reality, he is a bit lonely: he manages everyone, so he’s in contact with everyone a little, but not in the sense that he has relationships with people, for him it is more about favouritism, business, favours, and sometimes blackmail.

“Obviously, he doesn’t see himself as the ‘bad guy’ of the situation, and indeed he sees the Ainsworths as somewhat similar to himself in some respects.”

The penultimate episode of Hotel Portofino’s first season (a second is due for release later this year), begins with chaos – and it’s no surprise that Danioni is right in the middle of it.

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He arrives at the hotel unannounced with a civil servant authorised to inspect the premises and, inevitably, the finished report cites unhygienic conditions.

Bella is given 14 days to rectify the (bogus) issues or face closure of her establishment.

Meanwhile, upstairs, Cecil has finally read Bella’s intercepted letter given to him by – you guessed it – Danioni.

Angered by his wife’s feelings for another man, Cecil is just about to confront her when a commotion erupts from the stairwell.

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Jack Turner announces the Rubens painting has disappeared from his room and demands an investigation.

After Billy is summoned for the errand of fetching the police, Danioni accuses him of bicycle theft, while Billy has time to warn Nish that he hid the box of anti-fascist pamphlets under Lady Latchmere’s bed.

The Ainsworth’s driver Francesco is tasked with bringing back the police, but, as we all know, he is a spy and soon alerts his boss, Danioni.

Later, as the guests gather in the dining room for breakfast, Cecil makes an accusation over the missing painting, while Nish offers to accept responsibility for the pamphlets.

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While all this is going on, Constance goes about her usual duties unnoticed, and the Count comes to Bella’s aid, tracking down Danioni for what proves to be a battle of wills disguised as a friendly chat.

Finally, when Bella plucks up the courage to tell Cecil the truth, his anger from the incident with the painting has reached boiling point and he lashes out.

So who did steal the the painting? And what is Danioni planning next?

All will be revealed in next week’s series finale.