MAMMA’S DIARY – DIARIO DI MAMMA
Season 2 of Gomorrah – Episodes 3 and 4
Criminal Catholicism refers to how mafia, such as the Camorra in Naples, defiles religion. In season 2 of Gomorrah the subject of how mob bosses and their loyalists relate to the Catholic Church is jaw dropping. Already in season 1, viewers observed Don Salvatore’s devotion. He would go to church, pray, and indulge his mamma’s religious pursuits. Yet, he was a vicious mob boss, who murdered anyone who crossed him, including a young boy. He often invoked Jesus, even when intimidating and threatening fellow mobsters.
The Boiling Point
In season 2, the writers of Gomorrah put Don Salvatore’s bizarre religious rituals into focus. At the start of a pivotal episode, he serves as the godfather to the son of a henchman. During this time viewers learn something that the other characters never find out. Don Salvatore is gay. Or at least he is attracted to a transgender woman. He seems to have a real affection for her. But criminal Catholicism and society make him hide his true feelings in public. At the baptism, for instance, he turns away when his transgender partner is performing a song at the party. Later, he brings the transgender partner’s sister to his own birthday party and introduces her as his girlfriend. He sometimes kisses her in the street to show others he’s with a woman.
Things Get Interesting
Don Salvatore’s mother gets word her son is seeing a woman in the “blue houses” and asks to meet his special someone. He tells her they will meet when he is sure it’s a serious relationship. We learn from the transgender woman that Don Salvatore does not drink alcohol, do drugs, or have sex when she jokes about it with her family. We also see a scene in which the transgender woman tries to entice him to make love by taking off her shirt. He says she’s driving him crazy, but he can’t. They sweetly part. But he takes her sister outside to make others believe that is her real girlfriend.
When the transgender partner shows up to sing at Don Salvatore’s birthday party, one of the henchman makes many loud, vulgar jokes about the transgender woman’s “pesce” or “fish.” The transgender woman and her sister posing as the girlfriend run out in tears. When the cake comes out, Don Salvatore takes the knife and coldly stabs the hand of the comedian henchman. Don Salvatore later explains he did it because the transgender woman was the sister of his girlfriend, and it was disrespectful. The henchman begs for forgiveness. But Don Salvatore takes away the henchman’s drug-selling piazza as a punishment.
Bringing on the Traitors
Despite a large transgender and gay population in Naples, homophobia is largely accepted. Part of the problem is the church’s criticism of the gay lifestyle. Don Salvatore prays and prays. He’s constantly making the sign of the cross. He has his henchmen hide drugs in religious statues that are his cover business. They smash Madonna statues numerous times in this episode. Indeed, the symbolism could not be more obvious.
But stabbing that guy over the homophobic barbs would prove Don Salvatore’s fatal mistake. Ciro and Don Salvatore don’t like to share and it becomes clear one of them is going to take the other out. Ciro moves in to talk to the stabbed henchman and his best friend to get them to turn on Don Salvatore.
The End Is Near for Someone
The criminal Catholicism is never more obvious as it is at the end of episode 3. Don Salvatore is present when the two henchmen declare to Ciro on the phone that they want to kill their boss. Don Salvatore restores the stabbed henchman’s drug selling post to thank him for his loyalty. Viewers are left to believe that Ciro is going to sleep with the fishes. The men had invited him to off Don Salvatore after a religious ceremony in his mother’s town in which he participates every year.
This is where stuff gets weird. The ceremony has Don Salvatore’s mother helping to dress him in white sheets (including a hood reminiscent of the KKK, which was meaningful to an American like me who related it to the maltreatment of gay and transgender people). He also carried a sponge with pricks in it that the men marching in the procession would use to slam their own chest. Don Salvatore kissed his mother, participated in the procession, cleaned himself of the blood from pricking and turned to his men.
Ciro and the two others watched him. Then, the men held Ciro down on his knees while Don Salvatore told him of his oncoming demise. Finally, Don Salvatore commands the stabbed henchman to slit Ciro’s throat. Just as he is about to do it, he refrains and moves the knife up to Don Salvatore’s throat and quickly slashes it. Ironically, Don Salvatore dies with a pool of blood around him on the altar of the church.
Dead or Alive?
Don Salvatore’s death revives other mobsters. Don Pietro of the Savastano clan sees this death as his moment to make a comeback. He returns to Naples with the help of his henchman Malamore. First, Don Pietro tells his son Genny of his plans. But he is still distrusting of his boy. The tension between them is more than palpable. We also see Don Pietro visit the grave of his wife, who Ciro had killed. He promises her he will never leave her again. This kept up the theme of mutated love that we’ve been witnessing in season 2.
Malamore brings his innocent niece, Patrizia, into the business by having her become an informant to Don Pietro, and they are holed up in an apartment of a retired couple, who were left with no choice but to take them in. What’s noteworthy about this is that the girl has a lion tattoo because her father, who was dead, had called her a lioness. Don Pietro tells her the tattoo would be unnecessary if she really was a lioness. So, she burns and mutilates her arm to remove the tattoo. This wins the trust of Don Pietro.
Viewers also get insight into Scianel, the only woman participating in Ciro’s newly formed family. She’s particularly cruel and heartless with her daughter-in-law. While Scianel’s son is in jail, his wife is servant to his mother, who treats her like garbage. The girl is having an affair with one of the other henchmen and calls her MIL a witch behind her back.
By episode’s end, Ciro has arranged to meet with the Savastano family to devise a peace accord and avoid total war again. Much to Don Pietro’s surprise, Patrizia informs him that Ciro has asked for Genny and not him.
Gomorrah is the No. 1 TV drama in Italy, and it airs with English subtitles on Sundance TV every Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET.
Di Meglio has written the Our Paesani column for ItaliansRus.com since 2003. You can follow the Italian Mamma on Facebook or Twitter @ItalianMamma10. For more handmade crafts and party gear, visit the Italian Mamma store on Etsy.
DIARIO DI MAMMA
Amen is, perhaps, the most comforting word in the English language, at least for me. I say it at least once a day if not more. It soothes me, almost as much as a warm hug.
Most of the time, I’m not sure how I feel about religion. It’s complicated. But I won’t bore you with the rationalizing that goes on in my head like a hamster on a wheel. Faith is a personal journey, and one I’ll be on until the day I die. Let’s leave it at that.
I consider myself Catholic, like most of the old-school Italians I know. Many of my relatives have pictures of the Pope on the wall. All of them have a Madonnina statue on the front lawn (as do I). Men and women alike wear crucifixes or saint medals around their necks. I wed a fellow Italian Catholic in a church, baptized our son and plan to have him attend Mass regularly and go to CCD and make Communion and Confirmation when the time comes. I’ve even written about my relationship with the Madonna (the mother of Jesus, not the pop singer) for Italian-American publications.
I’ve studied religion at length, both in school and on my own. I took a high school course and two college courses on religions of the world. I read the entire Bible (both Old and New Testaments), the Koran, and the Talmud for one class alone. And I have read writings on Hinduism and Buddhism. I have great respect for them all. I also understand and, in a way, even admire those strong enough to cast off religion all together. For me, faith is like my nephew’s security blanket in that it keeps me cozy and able to sleep at night. Mostly I feel this when I pray, and I pray hard everyday.
Once upon a time, prayer was my solitude. Now, I share it with my son. He’s slowly learning to repeat, “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.” It’s become our little ritual in the car when I’m driving him to school. I recite the “Our Father,” and he tries to follow along. Once in a while, I shout out a “Hail Mary.” We visit the cemetery and light candles. Don’t get me wrong. I have my problems with all organized religion, and there’s no doubt that human beings have manipulated and exploited the faithful since the beginning.
But life is so very hard. I selfishly need to have conversations with God, a being higher than I am. I selfishly need to believe that He exists and He is the guard of Paradise, the home I will win after leading a decent life here on Earth. My logical brain laughs behind my back about these beliefs. But I don’t think I could go on without prayer, these moments of reflection, moments to show gratitude for what I have, look at the positive, ask for help if I need it, and feel as though there’s something out there watching over me and lifting me up.
In times of great need, I pray all the more. I don’t limit my talks to God alone. I sometimes turn to the saints (most southern Italians do). When I had a miscarriage and could not get pregnant, a friend of mine brought me to the Shrine of St. Gerard at St. Lucy’s Church in Newark, N.J. I purchased a candle there, and my husband and I lit it and prayed for a baby on a regular basis. Our prayers were answered, and I took my son to the annual blessing of the newborns at that same church three weeks after he was born. When I was with my grandfather when he took his last breath last year, I prayed for his soul and mine. Seriously, what kind of Italian Catholic would I be if I didn’t pray to St. Anthony every single time something – such as my car keys – went missing? So, I pray.
And I pray for you, too. Prayer allows a moment to think about the people around you and what they need. Too often, we are the “me” nation. What’s in it for me? We’ve stopped worrying about our neighbors. We put each other down rather than lift each other up. We see it in headlines about bullies and violence. We don’t trust each other. We don’t love each other. We make this hard life even harder, not to mention rather lonely.
Yet, when I pray I give thought to how you’re doing. Recently, I seem to get bad news every time I scroll through my Facebook newsfeed. Old friends and some family are facing sadness, regret, disappointment, and all sorts of losses (jobs, loved ones, faith in humanity). And it has made me ponder what’s really happening in the hearts of the others on my feed. They seem happy and there have been joyous occasions celebrated (birthdays, weddings, births). The thing is, however, we never know what’s going on in someone’s life unless he or she chooses to share. A few of my friends have been reluctant to ask for prayers because of their lack of religion or atheism.
What they don’t realize is that prayer doesn’t work that way. I can pray for anyone regardless of whether they are of the same faith, regardless of whether they share my beliefs. For me, prayer is an expression of hope for someone’s well being, for someone’s presence in my life, for someone’s spirits and happiness, for this world to be a better place. So, from now on, I will include you in my daily prayer. You matter to me. More importantly, you matter.