If you want to watch a gritty, violent mafia gang-mob series, by all means, go ahead and watch the Italian production Gomorrah. It makes the mafia of New York, The Sopranos, look like kindergartners.
What makes it so compelling to watch?
The characters of Pietro Savastano and his son, Gennaro, and their nemesis, Ciro, are all equally evil. There are no good guys in the series, no one that one particularly tries to root for, there is no redeemer who is going to save anyone from the damning consequences of their actions. It allows the viewer to peer into the abyss of a hell from which there is no escape.
This is especially true in the first season. There are glimmers here and there that Ciro wants to change things, to stop the incessant killing of adversaries. He attempts to form an alliance between his adversaries, but true loyalty depends on the strength of the leader of the pack. It’s a dog-eats-dog world, and all of them are hungry enough to destroy even close allies and friends.
Ciro, the right-hand man of old man Savastano, grooms the son, “Genny”, giving the hapless, too-soft, overweight young man breaks to protect him from the disparagement of his father who can see too clearly that his son is not quite cut from the same cloth as he is.
Gennaro undergoes a massive change in character and appearance after his mother sends him to Honduras; he becomes a ruthless, cold killer who shows no mercy to anyone who crosses him. He has finally become the man his father wants, but he lacks experience in leadership and draws close to him the seamy underbelly of Naples’ slum world. These young men are as faithful to him as they can be, but allegiances are made to be broken. There are no guarantees that they will remain loyal. They are dangerous, cruel and violent.
A word of warning: this series does not conform to cherished American values in television: good vs evil is but a shade of perpetual grey, there is no such thing as political correctness and the violence is graphic and ugly.
An interesting side note is that the filming occurred in the slums called the Sails of Scampia, now doomed apparently for demolition. This massive estate houses a teeming number of impoverished people whose only hope of economic survival is crime.
The series is based on a novel by Roberto Saviano, which became a movie a few years ago.
So, to answer the question: Why do we continue to watch this series?
In our heart of hearts, we hope that there will be a moment when some inner decency causes a character to change; a belief in happy endings, a disbelief that things cannot continue the way they are. But, life is not a fairy tale, is it?
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