For anyone as yet unfamiliar with Italian crime drama Gomorra (the ‘h’ is added in the English translation), we strongly recommend you seek it out before returning to this spoiler-filled review of Season 2. Otherwise, let us bring you up to speed.
Amidst the dark streets of Naples there exists a criminal underworld. Less showy than their more notorious Sicilian cousins, these Camorra clans, or Camorristas, operate more independently of each other than Mafia families, and as such are more feudal and violent. Don Pietro, head of the Savastano Clan, spent Season 1 fending off the advances of main rival Don Conte while clinging to the belief that his high-living son Gennaro could one day take over from him. The season ended with Don Pietro imprisoned, his wife murdered, Gennaro shot and presumed dead, while all the time trusted general Ciro plots to usurp power.
Season 2 picks up exactly where the first finished, before advancing one year as a resurgent Gennaro returns to Italy having established some new and powerful drug trafficking contacts. When Don Pietro escapes, and as Ciro attempts to barter an alliance with other clans, the three are set on a collision course.
What you really need to know is that Gomorra is an intensely engaging drama that retains its rough edges. From lowly street criminals through the assorted “soldiers” to the Dons at the top, the depiction of the characters and the violence they dispense is as uncompromising as it is shockingly real. Based loosely on the investigative exposé from writer Roberto Saviano, a man still under police protection in Italy, this is a tale balancing political manoeuvring with moments of blunt retribution. Gomorra carries none of the style of shows like The Sopranos - this is not a world of sharp-suited gangsters. Instead, this is bloody struggle to survive in a world that offers few second chances.
The performances needed to be excellent and without exception they are. Fortunato Cerlino stalks the screen with barely concealed malevolence as the under pressure Don Pietro. Salvatore Esposito is wholly convincing as his son Gennaro, whose right of passage perfectly bookends both seasons. It is Marco D’Amore as the ambitious Ciro who stands out, though, moodily scheming as he plots a path to the throne while struggling to maintain any semblance of normality in his private life; something that implodes surprisingly, and yet with horrific inevitability, early in Season 2.
Gomorra may not be for everyone. It is both wilfully slow and frenzied to a point of breathlessness. Sympathy for any of the characters is also hard to find; these are extremely violent people, the majority of which will, and often do, meet violent deaths. But give it time to breathe and develop and you will discover a series that is unlike anything else you will currently find. Gomorra is thoroughly unpleasant at times, but that unpleasantness is also so beautifully spell-binding.
GOMORRAH – SEASON 2 / CERT: 15 / CREATOR: ROBERTO SAVIANO / DIRECTOR: VARIOUS / STARRING: SALVATORE ESPOSITO, FORTUNATO CERLINO, MARCO D’AMORE, FABIO DE CARO, MARIA PIA CALZONE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW