As Series 3 of Italy’s globally successful Neapolitan gangster series opens, we’re on familiar and unfamiliar ground. In Rome, Genny Savastano (Salvatore Esposito) is still locking horns with his domineering but currently imprisoned father-in-law, Don Giuseppe Avitabile (Gianfranco Gallo), but is formulating a plan to circumvent his control. His one-time minder and loyal friend Ciro Di Marzio (Marco D’Amore), on the other hand, is in self-imposed exile in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, where he is being worked like a dog by his local boss, a vicious people trafficker. How, one wonders, will the writers get Genny and Ciro back together, and get us back on familiar ground: i.e. the impoverished Naples neighbourhood of Secondigliano.
Like all sequels, Gomorrah Series 3 wrestles with two problems: one, how to deliver more of what we are expecting, but not in a quite the way that we expect; two, how to cut Genny and Ciro down to size and cast them once more as underdogs. The answer, in Genny’s case, is simple. His plan to shaft his absent father-in-law by bringing in his own drugs consignment, using his old Honduran connections, results in his violent banishment from the Eternal City. Brutally beaten and dumped on the outskirts of Secondigliano, he is also forbidden to have any contact with his wife and young child, who remain under virtual house arrest in his father-in-law’s Roman home. Haunted anti-hero Ciro, who is now increasingly prey to his troubled conscience, leaves Sofia to return to the only place he can call home, the crime-ridden Neapolitan neighbourhood of Secondigliano. Through a contrived but just about forgivable piece of narrative contrivance, they – and we the audience - are back where it all started.
Given Genny and Ciro’s history, we know that they will settle their differences and try to claw their way back into the only game in town, drugs. Standing in their way, however, is another familiar face. Just released from prison, is the formidable Annalisa ‘Scianel’ Magliocca (Cristina Donaldo), a woman whose hard face and raspy voice speak volumes about her tough life and uncompromising attitudes. Standing tall beside ‘Scianel’, her shrewd mind hidden behind an inscrutable expression, is enigmatic survivor Patrizia (Cristiana Dell’Anna), sometime right-hand woman to, and confidant of, Genny’s father, Pietro (Fortunato Cerlino). But before they can ‘Scianel’, not to mention the all-controlling confederacy of The System, Genny and Ciro must create a power-base of their own. Their only potential ally is ambitious, hedonistic hipster Enzo, aka ‘Sangue Blu’ (Arturo Muselli), whose legendary father, The Saint, once controlled the Forcella neighbourhood. But are ‘Sangue Blu’ and his hedonistic, bearded pals the real deal, or just upstart amateurs?
What happens in the subsequent episodes has echoes of Series 2, in which Genny and Ciro joined forces with the flaky, volatile Alley Kids, but it also exemplifies the nihilistic tone of Gomorrah, a criminal underworld where alliances are inherently unstable and loyalty is cheaply bought. Nobody is safe, and everyone is grist to the criminal mill, which grinds them down, uses them up and brings out the very worst aspects of their degraded humanity. Even close familial bonds are not to be relied upon: as Genny tells his father’s timid accountant in one memorably tense scene: “If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you can’t trust family.” You can relish such moments, and enjoy series 3 as whole, without having seen the previous two series. That said, everything will resonate so much more, if you have invested in these characters’ lives, and been a party to the whispers, lies, betrayals and wholesale blood-letting which preceded this latest criminal carnage.