Gomorrah Never Dies
So, finishing up our Italian week, there’s this.
For over two decades I watched no TV at all. I was running a company , working late, writing during every second of spare time. Working at home restored my TV habit a little, thanks to the relaxed structure and better writing of US streamer shows.
I lose interest in long series the second they start treading water. The kiss of death is character backstories, which always feel like padding. Hurrah, then, that a new season – the fourth – of ‘Gomorrah’ approaches. Why does it succeed so brilliantly in terms of longevity?
Authenticity is key, the Camorra being real, and the setting, Secondigliano, a real suburb of Naples. The author and creator, Roberto Saviano, co-developed the show and is famously a Neapolitan investigative journalist whose 2006 bestseller about the Camorra put him on in the mob’s sights, so that the government had to assign him a bodyguard.
The twists are entirely character-based and have emotional intelligence (as opposed to, say, ‘Lost’, where they depended on what the writers had eaten the night before). The overarching themes are Jacobean, lurid, writ large. And they come with one of the best roles ever for a woman, the character of Donna Imma, at least until the creators make their only mis-step.
The mix of traditional values like family honour and respect are slammed against the brutal reality of young people surviving in violent surroundings. Children are drawn in, the young stand against the old, and the family structure is gradually broken down. Scenes of pre-teens given guns and in one instance, getting a video game to replace a shot dog, establish the broader moral themes.
To me, Naples felt as if the concept of government protection had been rudely snatched away, leaving the populace to fend for itself via the twin hierarchies of religion and gangs, and it’s this freedom from any form of moral supervision that removes the safety net from unfolding events. You never know who might be accidentally damaged or betrayed.
On a lighter note the sheer intensity of the series (which feels not episodic but a single story) draws your attention to the brilliant asides; that for all their power the Savastano family have no taste (check out the portrait in their lounge), and their men spend an awful lot of time kissing each other or cradling each other’s necks while staring into their eyes.
Largely the series avoids ‘abandoned factory’ settings and enacts its dramas in full public view (at one point in a children’s choir). But it gets better whenever a woman is introduced into the cast.
An American studio is gearing up for a non-subtitled stateside remake, and we know how those turn out. Check out the original if you haven’t seen it.