Wednesday, November 11, 2020

This Week in Apocalypse Video--Gomorrah

You have to credit the chutzpah of guys who run around killing everybody and then cross themselves, hoping that no one returns the favor. Of course, kiss your crucifix before you murder a little girl. That's the only way, of course.

You don't expect these things. That doesn't necessarily mean you'll be entirely on board for Gomorrah, streaming on HBO Max in either Italian or English--your choice. Highly sensitive types need not apply.

A friend of mine from Italy tells me he's never seen this show, but that it's the offspring of a film of a book describing the crime scene in Naples. Evidently the book was so offensive to some that the author is now living under protection somewhere. I haven't seen the film yet, so this is about the show.  I've watched the first season.

Imagine The Sopranos, but largely devoid of humor. Imagine a boss who has none of Tony's endearing idiosyncrasies.  Imagine his cruelty as a constant, rather than something that pops out when he loses his composure, or when he's stricken by an inexplicable whim. Imagine the corners in The Wire, set in Naples, rather than Baltimore. There you've got a snapshot of Gomorrah.

This show revels in violence. Someone I'd anticipated as a key character was dead by episode 2. And death is just an everyday occurence. There are no apologies, no Godfather-style rationalizations of only business, not personal. There's little romanticism or noble gestures. In fact, there is no particular wisdom attached to Don Pietro, or any of the crime bosses. For them, it's just hang tough, be tougher than the next guy, and their word of honor is no more reliable than the support NYC teachers get from Richard Carranza's DOE.

I'd originally compared his son Gennaro to AJ, Tony Soprano's son, but older, and in a position to take over. Of course, Gennaro, like AJ, has led a privileged life, and starts out in no way prepared to handle Don Pietro's brutal business. Unlike Tony Soprano, Don Pietro couldn't care less how unqualified his son is, and sees him as eventual boss no matter what. Don Pietro is king, his offspring will rule, and that's it thank you very much. Gennaro's character develops, but I don't find myself liking him very much.

Gennaro's character lacks charm. He has little capacity for introspection beyond reptilian desire.  In these respects, he's a lot more like Donald Trump than AJ. Who cares what my advancement costs, or who I step over to get there? Who cares how many hundreds of thousands drop dead from a pandemic? I'm okay, that should be good enough for anyone, and let's keep working on Making My Crime Syndicate Great Again. 

For part of the series, Don Pietro is out of commission, and Ciro, "The Immortal," is actually running the day to day affairs of the gang. T.  I'm not clear where he originally got the name, but he survives various improbable situations, and earns the title. He's not quite Omar in The Wire, but close to it. For reasons that elude me, he's fond of Genaro. He props him up in the eyes of his father, and pays for it in one of the most stomach-turning scenes of the series, and the competition for that title is pretty stiff. 

Ciro is ambitious, but faces  competition everywhere he turns. Lady Imma, Gennaro's mom, appears to be a doting housewife at first. But in the absence of husband Don Pietro, she looks at everything and makes her own decisions. It's a man's world in Gomorrah, and it's not easy for a woman to take charge. But as usual, brain triumphs over brawn, and Ciro's path is not clear at all. Lady Imma manages to look evil while walking with a priest to introduce a statue of the Madonna.

Much of Gomorrah seems to take place in the darkness. If Ciro's out during daylight, he's wearing sunglasses, and if it isn't night yet, most scenes seem to be indoors. Daylight is for riding around on motorbikes and murdering your enemies with machine guns. It's easier to pick them out that way. Darkness is almost a character here. You feel it in every scene and situation. No one seems to have any fun except for Gennaro's idiot friends when they him how wonderful they think he is. 

This show isn't for everyone. You won't find yourself identifying with these characters, and you won't find any lovable villains. I'm hooked on it nonetheless. European video doesn't seem to have the need to be as optimistic as what we see in the USA. Maybe they weren't raised on Disney, and maybe that's ultimately for the better. There are two more seasons available in Europe, and I understand they're coming to HBO Max sooner or later.

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