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REVIEW: Gomorrah (Gomorra – La serie, Season 1, 2014) August 6, 2017

Posted by Dragan Antulov in Television Reviews.
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The Wire is among few shows that ares supposed to serve as a gold standards of television in early 21st Century. There are many other shows that might try to repeat its formula, success and accolades, but few such attempts are as authentic as Italian TV series Gomorrah. It is inspired by book by Roberto Saviano, journalist whose “street cred” would put David Simon to shame. Saviano’s 2006 bestseller, that would later serve as a basis for 2008 feature film, exposed the activities of Camorra, criminal organisation of Naples in such way that their leaders had Saviano sentenced to death and forced to live under police protection to this day. Success of film version led to creation of television series popular enough to warrant second season.

The first season, like the film, has plot inspired by real events, namely the bloody war between two rival Camorra gangs that raged on the streets of Naples between 2004 and 2005. The series, unlike the film, has much tighter narrative structure. It begins when Camorra clan led by don Pietro Savastano (played by Fortunato Cerlino) gets into conflict with rival clan led by Salvatore Conte (played by Marco Pavletti). Savastano’s clan is the most powerful in Naples and the killings seemingly end with Conte being forced to exile in Spain. Although victorious, Savastano’s clan is weakened by bloodshed and had brought unwanted attention of authorities on itself. The middle-aged patriarch plans to hand over control of the organisation to his son Gennaro (played by Salvatore Esposito). Young man is, however, spoiled and inexperienced and someone would have to be his guide and mentor. Ciro di Marzio (played by Marco D’Amore), experienced street soldier and one of clan’s most capable members, happens not only to fit this description but also happens to be Gennaro’s close friend. Unfortunately for Ciro, he is distrusted and despised by Gennaro’s mother Imma (played by Maria Pia Calzone), who takes over the organisation after her husband’s arrest.

Gomorrah has relatively simple general plot whose authors don’t try to reinvent the wheel and keep things simple and, to a degree, even predictable, right to the season finale that ends with bloody and spectacular cliffhanger. The audience cares less about what would happen and more how would it happen. Its authors show great skill in making all of those 12 episodes into coherent units, often with shifting perspectives and using opportunities to show various aspects of Camorra activities. That includes episodes dedicated to life in prison, every-day street drug trade that fuels Camorra’s coffers, the way people with “proper” backgrounds launder its money and, last but least, way it manipulates votes and keeps local and national politicians in its pockets.

Gomorrah, like The Wire, is also very good in captivating the audience despite almost complete lack of characters with positive moral alignment. The closest thing the season has for hero is Catholic priest who in one brief scene uses young man’s funeral for anti-Camorra sermon. All “normal” people have either learned not to have any business with Camorra or are too young, naive and inexperienced to know any better. And the characters who the audience is supposed to root for prove capable of some extremely vile acts. The series is full of scenes depicting killings, but some of the more disturbing are alluded off-screen. The most disturbing among them is portrayed indirectly – through the physical and moral transformation of a major character who was forced to witness it. Gomorrah, nevertheless, looks and sounds authentic. It might lack the epic scope and structural ambitions of The Wire, but it shows that, just like some unpleasant realities of modern urban crime, good talents in depicting them aren’t limited to US.

RATING: 7/10

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