Today is the feast of Epifania, which is known in Italy simply as “Befana.” In fact, many people in Italy will greet each other on the street today with the words, “Buon Befana.” This salutation refers to La Befana, the Italian Christmas witch. She is still searching for Baby Jesus, whom she learned about from the Three Kings. Throughout her journey every Jan. 6, she offers gifts to other Italian children in the hopes she will one day find Gesu. Or at least that is how one of our story books tells the story. There are a few theories about how she came into this job.
Befana – From Whence She Came
Indeed, she made a stop at our house this morning. When my son awakes, he will be surprised. He went to bed early with visions of the Italian Christmas witch in his mind. Now, Befana is no Santa. She is a poor old lady. Before this gig, Befana was best known for sweeping inside and outside her home everyday. She mostly kept to herself. So, she offers up one or two small gifts to each child. When my father was a kid in Italy in the 1950s, he received tangerines, walnuts, a piece of chocolate, and pencils for school in his socks from Befana. Back then, she was the only gift giver of the season. Times have changed.
Even though Santa has since grown more popular than Befana even in Italy, she still makes her rounds on Jan. 6. This, in fact, marks the end of the holiday season and work and school breaks, which is different from the United States. Many families will gather again today for one more special meal. Children will recite poems for pennies — err euro. And Befana will leave a little something for them. Sometimes, adults even give each other little tokens of their love on Befana’s day. The Epiphany, after all, is about the arrival of the three kings, also known as three wise men. They had brought little gifts to baby Jesus and his family in Bethlehem.
One Last Hurrah
Throughout the holiday season, we keep a Befana doll hanging over our window. Some of our American friends think we’ve forgotten her there since Halloween. But Italians know better. You can read more about Befana in my previous stories:
Leonardo da Vinci was a true Renaissance man. He was an inventor, painter, sculptor, scientist, architect, and mathematician. Certainly, his work was complex. Life, during any era, is complicated. Perhaps, that’s why da Vinci recognized the importance of simplicity.
This image of a red touring bicycle leaning against the railings overlooking the sea in Ischia, Italy speaks to that message. In an era of hot cars and roaring trucks, a bicycle is simple. In a time when everyone is throwing themselves into the rat race, people wading in the sea or sunbathing on a rock are the picture of simplicity.
Truly, that’s what the sweet life, especially on an island, is all about. What has been devastating to me in recent days is how Mother Nature has attacked that simplicity. The earthquake that took down homes and a church in Casamicciola in Ischia is one example. But now I am watching the decimation of islands all across the Caribbean and Florida Keys, not to mention cities in Florida, all the victims of Hurricane Irma.
Still, there is beauty to be found in this tragedy. Neighbors helping neighbors, political leaders on different sides of the aisle coming together to support victims, the deer and birds roaming among the debris in the Keys are all reminders of peace. They are all part of that simplicity that island life usually brings to people. As a result, you can feel the hope in your being.
Granted, a storm that causes this much devastation causes stress. None of these islands are immune to stress, especially at this time. But Mother Nature giveth and Mother Nature taketh away. In this moment, she has taken away but the giving is just around the corner. A bit of sunshine and some elbow grease may go a long way to making a comeback. The islanders know their vulnerability. But they realize their strength more.
ITALIAN MEMES – POSTCARDS FROM ITALY / LE FESTE – HOLIDAYS AND CELEBRATIONS
The Italian holiday Ferragosto couldn’t be celebrated anywhere but Italy. In fact, it’s the only country I know that marks Aug. 15 as still having significance. The festivities date back to 18 BC and the reign of Roman Emperor Augustus for whom the whole month is named. He declared August to be for revelry. The high point in those days was Aug. 13 when women made offerings to the goddess Diana in hopes of having safe labor and delivery.
Italian Holiday Ferragosto – Sun, Sex, and Rock n’ Roll
In general, the celebrations were all about excesses – gorging, orgies, and imbibing. I’ve written about this before for ItaliansRus. Christianity comes around and makes Aug. 15 about the assumption of the Virgin Mary in an attempt to change the rituals. But we’re talking about Italians here. Do you really think you could take away their wine and sex and delicious food and still call it a holiday? C’mon now.
Obviously, the Church needs a reality check. Indeed, my friends and family will be indulging in food and wine and whatever else today. Some of them will say a little prayer or even head to church, too. Right at this moment, most of them are sleeping off the celebrations that began last night as they ushered in Aug. 15.
To be fair, here on the island of Ischia, most of my people were not getting to enjoy the holiday. They were making the holiday for the guests at hotels, bars, and restaurants throughout the island. And they’ll continue to do that today. Making sure others have a good time, after all, is their livelihood.
What will they be doing exactly? Well, carving watermelons into gorgeous flowers is one task. Another is setting tables for multi-course meals full of Italian hallmarks, such as fresh mozzarella, la parmigiana, shellfish fresh from the sea, and pounds of pasta. Chefs will be cooking all that. Someone will be on hand to make sure the wine is ever flowing, never an empty glass. Someone else will cue the music at the discoteca.
Glistening cabana boys will help beachgoers open their umbrellas and snag a drinks on the beach. Of course, there will be natives flirting with the tourists in the hopes of a little something something on Ferragosto. Wink. Wink. I guess you can say Ischia, with its slogan “where you eat, drink, and ‘whistle,'” tries to meet all your needs. Buon Ferragosto to all!
Fresh mozzarella, as Americans know it, is not even close to the real thing. For starters, it is sold in plastic wrap in the refrigerated section of your supermarket or deli. The real stuff comes in a double plastic bag and is filled with water that turns white from the milk leaking from the mozzarella. It’s nothing like the traditional mozzarella (think Pollyo string cheese and the like) used in the United States.
How to Tend to Your Fresh Mozzarella
You’re never supposed to refrigerate it. First, you open the bag and pour its entire contents into a bowl. It sits in the liquid. Then, the bowl remains on your table or counter until you finish eating it. Some Italians (myself included) own a special ceramic bowl. It is a regular bowl on the bottom, but the cover looks like a half moon. It sits on top of the bowl, so that you can see the drowning mozzarella underneath. The half moon cover has holes in it to drain the liquid when you lift the mozzarella on top to cut it. Many of these bowls are handmade and hand painted. Mine comes from Ischia, of course, and it features the island’s famous lemons.
Eat It Fast
Now, the mozzarella won’t taste fresh unless you eat it right away. You risk the mozzarella souring if it is left out too long. If it gets less than fresh, most Italians will put it in the fridge and then use it to cook. They’ll add it to baked pasta or la parmigiana (eggplant parmigiana). Frankly, any recipe that calls for melting mozzarella is going to include the fresh stuff. That other stuff we call mozzarella does not exist here. Indeed, the fresh mozzarella is a big difference between pizza in Italy and pizza in the United States, even New York.
Truthfully, however, most pieces of fresh mozzarella never make it to the point of souring. They’re just too irresistible. When you cut into one of those big balls of fresh mozzarella, the milkiest cream oozes out. The texture is soft and even somewhat creamy. And the taste is slightly sweet with a touch of tang. It is best served on its own with a hunk of bread. Or you can pair it with deli meats, such as prosciutto crudo. Of course, the most popular way to eat fresh mozzarella is in a Caprese salad. This is a salad of fresh mozzarella, sliced tomatoes, fresh basil, olive oil, and salt.
Where Does It Come From?
Also, in the United States, we classify mozzarella as cheese. In Italy, it is not considered cheese exactly. It’s in a class by itself. Many distinguish between mozzarella and cheese, in fact. The best fresh mozzarella is believed to come from the Campania region, specifically Naples. Artisans make the fresh mozzarella largely by hand, and it’s truly considered an art.
In the United States, at least in the Northeast, you can pick up some decent fresh mozzarella in Italian specialty stores. I hear it’s near authentic at Eataly. Also, local Italian American delis often make the real fresh stuff. Personally, I can attest to the authenticity of what you’ll pick up on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. Still, most of the time what you’re getting is a cow’s milk based fresh mozzarella. Occasionally, it’s the real deal with buffalo’s milk.
Another Story in Italy
See, mozzarella in Italy comes from buffalo’s milk, not cow’s milk. In fact, you’ll read “mozzarella di bufala” on the package. There are some variations worth sampling. You can get smoked fresh mozzarella, known as mozzarella fumigata. Or you can taste fior di latte (flower of milk) mozzarella, which offers the same creamy, milky deliciousness. But it comes from cow’s milk. Often, this version comes braided and is therefore known as treccia. Whichever version you choose, it’s all delicious.
The Italy vaccine controversy was gripping the country when I arrived in early summer. Now, the government has made vaccinating your children compulsory.
Parents must have their children vaccinated against 12 diseases, including measles, or face a hefty fine. Children who are not vaccinated up to 6 years old will not be accepted into state-run schools. Parents face fines up to $8,380 for children over 6 who are not vaccinated. And repeat offenders could lose custody of their kids all together, according to NPR.
What Motivated the Decision To Force Vaccinations
I wrote about the debate that was going on earlier in the summer for the Our Paesani column on ItaliansRus. Some of you chimed in with your comments on the Italian Mamma Facebook page. In June 2017, as a measles outbreak plagued the nation, the Italian government was wondering out loud about what to do. More than 3,000 measles cases have been reported in Italy in 2017. At least 35 people have died from the disease across Europe, according to a July 11 story in BBC. In fact, the United States’ Centers for Disease Control issued a travel advisory for Italy as a result of the numerous cases.
Much like Americans, Italians politicized vaccines in recent years. Specifically, the 5-Star Movement, led by comedian Beppe Grillo, suggested vaccines were a prop of the pharmaceutical industry. More recently, this populist political party has taken a page out of the U.S. It has spouted the idea that vaccines lead to autism, which has not been proven. Indeed, in 2014, the political party proposed legislation that linked vaccines to various illnesses, including autism and allergies, as reported by BBC.
The Current Situation
People started to believe the malarkey. Why shouldn’t they? The pharma companies have been pretty greedy. Certainly, vaccines have some side effects. With all the noise, it’s hard for parents to know what to believe. It definitely wouldn’t be the first time doctors were wrong. There was a time when these folks were pushing cigarettes and diet pills. So, the rate of vaccinations for measles dropped to 85 percent, which is well below the threshold of 95 percent. That threshold is what scientists say helps stop the disease from spreading among those in the general public. As long as 95 percent of the population is vaccinated, then the disease is pretty much finished.
Italy has reported more than 3,000 cases of measles in the country in 2017, so far. Making vaccines compulsory is an attempt to address the outbreak. Of course, it also could prevent other illnesses from spreading. The issue has become a cause for parents of children who have weak immune systems. They are pleading with officials to back off trying to appeal or weaken the new law. Still, parents on the other side of the debate continue to protest. They say this law takes away their freedom to choose.
Shellfish is popular in many Italian restaurants. In Italy and abroad, you will find popular dishes, such as linguine con le vongole (linguine with clams). Or you might prefer shrimp fra diavolo, which is a little spicy. When you order one of these beauties in Italy, be prepared for judgment. Everyone agrees that shellfish is divine there, especially in southern Italy. But there are rules for eating it. And many foreigners, especially Americans, are clueless about them. Discover what you need to know before sitting down at a restaurant:
Fresh Is the Best
What makes these dishes so delectable in Italy is the freshness. As Americans, we are often getting fish the restaurant manager bought at the Restaurant Depot. It’s fine and all. But when I’m in Ischia, a small island off the coast of Naples that is home of my ancestors and husband, I’m seeing my meal get plucked from the ocean moments before it is cooked and served. Italians prioritize fresh, seasonal food. You’re going to get fish that’s native to the area, and it will have been alive shortly before it was plated. You will notice the difference immediately. If there is a fishy smell or fishy taste, it is not fresh. This means you should not eat it. If the clams or mussels are still closed after their little friends have magically opened during cooking, you should toss them.
Spare the Salt
Whenever I’m watching a cooking show in the United States, I notice chefs are heavy handed with the salt. That’s not the case in Italy. Many seafood dishes – especially if the fish is coming from the already salty ocean – require little to no salt. If you dare use salt, keep it to a pinch. Shellfish usually doesn’t require any.
No Cheese Please
This is the one that really trips up Americans. We are quick to put Parmigiano cheese (or whatever is passing for Parmigiano at the supermarket) on any pasta. Italians believe it is sacrilege to put cheese on a shellfish dish. In fact, when my cousin ordered linguine con vongole in Italy, the waiter famously refused to give him cheese to top it. Oh yeah, he told him, “No way, mister!” If you want to avoid getting your hand slapped, you won’t even ask for it. However, a few intrepid chefs in Ischia have recently added a few Parmigiano shavings to a dish of pasta with mussels and zucchini. It’s not bad. For the most part, though, the cheese on shellfish is still off limits. The belief is that it destroys or hides the taste of the fresh shellfish. When it’s straight from the ocean, you won’t need the cheese. Promise.
Never Mess with Shrimp
Americans are all about cleanliness. We buy already cleaned shrimp, usually frozen in a bag. We never see the shrimp with their heads still attached. Ewwww! Right? But Italians are distinctly different. They don’t mind the mess of cleaning the shrimp at the table while eating. Indeed, cooking the shrimp with skin on and head attached makes for a tastier dish, they say. You’ll see the eyes and everything. But after you cut off the head and remove the skin, you’ll take a bite. And you won’t be disappointed. Many Italians suck the juice out of the head, in fact. I’m not a big fan of that practice. I’m too American, I guess. Still, I never complain about fully clothed shrimp anymore. It’s too delicious to argue.
Only Lemon for the Fried Stuff
While Americans only seem to eat calamari fried, they are at least indulging in one of southern Italy’s finest ingredients. But they serve the things with red tomato sauce and lemon. Sometimes, there are other dips and doodads surrounding the calamari. Often, there are far too many ingredients in the batter, too. Italians usually just cover the calamari in flour and some light seasoning, such as parsley, before frying. An Italian restaurant in Italy is never going to serve you red tomato sauce on the side of your calamari. The waiter will just bring out lemon to squirt on them. Again, when you are eating fresher food, you don’t need all that other stuff to cover up the natural flavors. Besides, the lemons of southern Italy are usually also exceptional, so you won’t miss getting saucy.
Throughout season 2 of Gomorrah, fans have seen Gennaro’s efforts to become a mob boss. He was willing to work with his father, Don Pietro, at first. Surely, father and son would have sought to avenge Imma’s death at the hands of Ciro. Right? Well, not exactly. Don Pietro repeatedly rejected Gennaro. He blamed him for Ciro’s ability to form the Alliance. Worse, he gave him no credit for creating criminal connections with those in Honduras, who provide them with the drugs to sell. Granted, this is not the kind of stuff that would make a normal parent proud. But Don Pietro is a mob boss. Gennaro wrote him off after numerous attempts to win him over.
Ciro and Gennaro Are Linked for Life
During the season, we saw the rivalry between Ciro and Gennaro play out. They both had the chance to kill the other in season 2, and neither went through with it. Then, they realized that they could make more money and keep the police away without stepping on one another. It worked for a short time. When Don Pietro starts messing with the Alliance to try win back his old life, Ciro and Gennaro are drawn together. We saw them meeting every once in a while. Each time, Ciro tried to convince Gennaro to work against his father. Ciro told Gennaro the poison of this situation is eating you alive. Those words were more important than you might have realized. The season finale reunited them in an unexpected way.
Death Is Still All Around
The season finale opens with Lelluccio, Scianel’s son, opining on how Ciro is a traitor. All the while, he’s snorting cocaine. Next thing you know, he and his henchmen take bullets through the window. They were all dead in a flash. Ciro and his young daughter Maria Rita are still in their house. But they are mostly locked in.
He has security guards and three cars taking her to school every day. Don Pietro starts earning more money now that he’s getting more people to join his squad. And he has eliminated everyone else. But one problem remains – Ciro. He tells Malamore to destroy him. Meanwhile, Patrizia is always present.
Instead of killing Ciro, Don Pietro has Malamore kill Maria Rita. It’s dramatic. They shoot up the cars as she heads to school. You think she might get away with her driver. But Malamore rams into the car with his vehicle, hops out, kisses the crucifix around his neck, and shoots the little girl in the backseat. At least he looked pained when doing it. I have to admit, so far, that was the hardest scene to watch.
Ciro attends Maria Rita’s burial alone with his security guards. Then, he heads to the roof. The guards come in and see his apartment in complete disarray. They run to the roof and find Ciro at the edge. He tells them he is setting them all free. He directs them to split the money in the safe between themselves and to go away. He stays on the roof.
Even if these mob bosses have lots of people around them doing whatever they say, they end up alone. On the other hand, Gennaro has family. When we last saw him he was getting married to Azzurra. Many wondered why he and his bride never showed up to the reception. They were off having dinner. Meanwhile, her father got arrested at the party sans couple. Gennaro was testing his new wife. It reminded me of how his father explained the recognition that Imma would always be loyal to him.
Turns out Gennaro’s antics at the wedding had greater significance. In this episode he visits his father-in-law in jail. Dad says the newlyweds offended him by not showing up to the reception. Gennaro responds, “I don’t want to share Azzurra with anyone.” The father then implies Gennaro was the snitch. Back at home Azzurra comes to the same conclusion. Indeed, Gennaro tells her, “Your father was making me a minority partner and that made me mad. You and I have to be in charge of our own destiny.” She agrees and reminds him that she’s betraying her own blood for him.
After Don Pietro has Maria Rita killed, Don Pietro has fireworks go off. Literally. It was sick. Gennaro tells him that no one will let him get away with killing a child. He seems to be angry about it. His father says that Ciro killed “my Imma, who was my whole life.” Patrizia is standing there to hear it. Don Pietro shuns Gennaro again when he insists on getting paid for the drugs he’s delivering to his dad’s men. Don Pietro tells him, “You are the son of Pietro Savastano and nothing more.” Gennaro leaves. The chances of reconciliation seem slim.
Patrizia tells Don Pietro that Gennaro has grown into a man, and he should treat him that way. She also reminds him that she betrayed her siblings. She became his soldier. She was willing to die for him. And now she has even tried to be a good wife. But she wouldn’t compete with a ghost. Then, she storms off.
Later, you see Patrizia in a towel drying her hair. Don Pietro walks in. He tells her he is old, she is young. And that he is offering her a bad deal. But as long as he’s still walking, he says, it is because of her. Then, he hands her a ring to offer marriage. She kisses him. End scene.
Next, Don Pietro calls Gennaro and says he needs to talk to him in person where the white roses grow.
The Perfect Ending
Everything was leading up to these final moments of season 2. Don Pietro has Malamore and a driver bring him to Imma’s grave. There, he expresses his sorrow at her absence. He asks forgiveness of her for turning to Patrizia. He says he can’t stand to be alone anymore.
Meanwhile, Gennaro finds Ciro in the corner of the roof like a sick dog. Gennaro has a gun in his hand. You wonder if his father has convinced him to kill. Ciro says, “I wanted to turn the world upside down, but I failed.” Gennaro hands the gun to Ciro and says, “Now, you have one more thing to do.”
At the same time, Azzurra goes into labor. Gennaro is in the delivery room with his wife. Ciro shows up at Imma’s gravesite. Don Pietro says hello to him. Ciro, gun in hand, returns the greeting. Don Pietro says, “In the end, this is all there is.” Ciro agrees and shoots him in the head. Ciro walks away. Malamore and the other guy run to a dead Don Pietro. Gennaro’s son is born. The nurse asks what to call the baby. Gennaro answers, “Pietro. Pietro Savastano.”
The latest episode of Gomorrah focused on family life. But it’s not what you’re thinking. Again, the writers had viewers pondering the personal lives of mobsters. Despite their callousness, they sometimes show glimmers of humanity. We’ve caught glimpses of that in the last few episodes. Also, some important pivotal happenings took place. All this is setting us up for a riveting season finale (to air June 21 on Sundance TV at 11 p.m. ET). Here’s what you need to know:
Gennaro and Ciro Have Another Meeting
These two are like magnets. Or the writers keep creating scenes with both of them because they know that’s what the audience wants. But they just give you a taste. The reunion is never more than a couple minutes. This time they meet in the streets, on the steps of some building. Gennaro wants Ciro to wish him well as he sets off to get married and anticipates the arrival of his baby. Gennaro adds that his father Don Pietro’s antics are only hurting Ciro. He says that he doesn’t care about what happens in Naples and that he is capable of selling his “stuff,” which refers to drugs, without the Alliance or his father.
Ciro tells him that this situation is eating him up inside and that Gennaro is the one with the most to lose. He explains that if Don Pietro ends up losing, everyone will say it’s Gennaro’s fault for screwing everything up while dad was in jail. If Don Pietro loses, Gennaro will be left with nothing. Ciro has a point. The last thing Ciro says to Gennaro, however, is what stings the most. “You’re just like me, Gennaro. You’re just like me.”
Gennaro Gets Married
A mob wedding always lives up to the hype. The bride is gorgeous in a stunning dress that perfectly shows off her baby bump. The groom is going full Napoletano with his suit. Anyone who has been to a Neapolitan wedding (or had one like me) knows what I mean. But the wedding was more for Gennaro’s father-in-law. In fact, the couple joked that they didn’t know anyone coming to their nuptials. So, they took off after the ceremony to have dinner just the two of them. While they were away from the reception, the police showed up. They arrested the father of the bride.
Uh oh! It seems Ciro had a point that things might not work out as Gennaro expected. The father had been linked to a murder, a slip up that Gennaro had offered to clean up earlier in the episode. The father-in-law didn’t think it was necessary. After talking to the lawyer, Gennaro walks into the room with all the wedding gifts. He’s alone. He opens a painting of him, his late mother, and his father, Don Pietro. He punches his own portrait in the face. You get the sense the self loathing is real. And Ciro is right that this situation is eating him inside out.
The Alliance Goes Down
The episode began with Mulatto, one of the members of his alliance getting killed by his own security guards. Scianel was sent to prison the episode before. And we learn there’s virtually no one left in Ciro’s Alliance. Don Pietro is systematically ridding of them. He’s using the Alley kids to help him. Ciro’s closest allies want him to leave his home and go into hiding. At first, he says no. The Gypsy changes sides. Don Pietro says he’ll accept him only if he brings Ciro to him. He fails because Ciro figures out what he’s up to. Don Pietro has Malamore kill the Gypsy. By episode’s end, the tables have turned. Ciro is in hiding, and Don Pietro is back in his old house.
Crazy Love Or Something Like That
I made a grave mistake in writing about last episode. I suggested that Don Pietro thought of Patrizia as a daughter. Not exactly. In this episode, she is helping him reorganize the house that has been closed up for some time now. He makes a remark that it feels as though nothing has changed. Indeed, she replies that she should probably stop working with him because he doesn’t need information from her anymore. Her siblings want her at home more. And they are angry with her for getting involved with these dangerous criminals. But Don Pietro responds that he’s wrong. Everything has changed, he says. He tells her he wants her to move in with him. When she does (as if she had a choice), he comes into her room and puts his hands on our shoulders in a way that says she’s replacing his late dutiful wife. Well, well.
Mob marriage has been a subject of analysis for years now. At first, viewers might not have noticed love as a subplot in Gomorrah. But episode 9 throws it in your face. Anyone who thought this was going to be about the other deadly sin, lust, should think again. Once you see the storyline in episode 9, you realize that this conversation about love and marriage has been going on all along.
A Look Back, A Look Forward
What has been fascinating to me is that the Sopranos showed how most of the mobsters had a wife and a girlfriend. People are always assuming Europeans and particularly Italians have affairs. But none of the mob bosses in Gomorrah are cheating on spouses or longtime girlfriends. I’m not sure if that’s the reality in the real-life Camorra. But that’s the depiction.
Our first encounter with mob marriage is Don Pietro and his wife Imma. They are clearly in love. She wholeheartedly supports her husband’s criminal lifestyle. She takes over when he goes to jail. She does everything to turn their son Gennaro into a hardened criminal. Then, she makes the ultimate sacrifice. She gives her life to the cause. She knows full well Ciro is going to have her killed. She lets it happen to protect her son and support her husband. When Don Pietro breaks out of jail, we see him visit her gravesite. He is moved. And he wants their son to have Ciro eliminated as revenge. There’s a rift between them when Gennaro refuses.
Gennaro and His Baby Mamma
Gennaro and his girlfriend, with whom he lives, seem to be mirroring Imma and Don Pietro. She too is a child of a mob boss, but they are in Rome. Her father approves of Gennaro; he considers him the future of the family business, in fact. Now, Gennaro and this woman are expecting a baby. Gennaro seems committed to her and the baby.
She is from a different culture, though. This was brought up in an episode in which she throws him a birthday party in Rome. His friends from Naples come and rob someone there. It doesn’t go over well. But it depicted the distinct division between those from the south and those from further north, beginning with Rome.
The most profound moment was when Gennaro needed to go home to Naples. His girlfriend did not want him to go. He held her close and said:
You are my life. But never come between my family and me.
Ciro Kills Love
One of the most profoundly disturbing parts of season 2 was when Ciro killed his wife Debora. We learn in later episodes that they were childhood sweethearts. He cries as he is strangling her on the beach, what should have been a romantic setting. He is emotional when he cares for their mourning daughter. And he tells Gennaro to kill him because he murdered the mother of his child.
The point of this was to show that no one is immune in this sick world. Death is all around these people. And ambition in this business could literally kill you or your loved ones. It drove Ciro to murder his only love, after all.
Marinela Sets the Record Straight on Love
Early in season 2 we get to know Marinela. She is female mob boss Scianel’s daughter-in-law. Her husband, Scianel’s son Lelluccio, is in jail. While he’s away Marinela is her mother-in-law’s slave. The relationship between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law in southern Italy has long been an issue. Men live at home for far longer than they do in the United States. Their mothers can be overbearing. They never think young women are good enough for their sons. They also always believe the women have ulterior motives. Some of this goes on in every culture. But it’s exaggerated because many extended families live together in southern Italy.
Often, MILs mistreat their daughter-in-law. They might slight them. They criticize their housework and cooking. They might suggest they are unattractive or don’t dress well. Well, Scianel takes this abuse to a whole new level. She literally keeps her daughter-in-law under lock and key. She also “teaches” her how to cook. She tells her to be more like Patrizia, Marinela’s friend who no one knows is Don Pietro’s informant. Those are little snubs. She is also threatening and makes Marinela serve her constantly. She rarely leaves her alone.
A Passionate Affair
Marinela only really gets to see one other person on a regular basis. Mario, Scianel’s driver, is also with them often. A few episodes ago, viewers saw Mario and Marinela making love in the backseat of the car. Scianel was off on one of her nefarious errands. They express their love for one another. End scene. Scianel doesn’t appear to suspect.
In episode 9, however, she catches on. She overhears Marinela on the phone with Mario and realizes her daughter-in-law is cheating. She starts to notice the way the two look at each other. Scianel purposely gets another driver to take her to see Ciro and tells Mario to take Marinela home. Then, she follows them and sees them making love in the car. Marinela tells Mario that it’s over because Lelluccio is getting out of jail. But it’s too late.
The Stench of Death Lingers
Scianel has Mario killed. She has the killer shoot him in the privates while Scianel looks on. She makes sure Marinela finds out. Lelluccio returns and is furious to learn about his cheating wife. He puts his hands on Marinela’s throat and threatens her. Meanwhile, Scianel and the others celebrate his return. Marinela tells him what seems to be true for everyone in this show:
You want to kill me? Kill me. Go ahead. I’m already dead.
In fact, she also tells him that making love to Mario was the only beautiful thing she did in her life. Lelluccio has sex with a stranger, whose legs viewers see as she gets dressed. He calls Marinela and tells her that sex with someone else wasn’t good. He wants to see her. Scianel wants to kill her. But Lelluccio tells her to mind her business.
Now that the prince is dead, everyone wants to take over the building where he was selling drugs. Scianel goes to Ciro and bids for her son. Ciro agrees Lelluccio will get the building. Trak and the “Alley kids” are angry. They beat up Lelluccio on the night he gets out of jail. The police stop them and take in Lelluccio for the night, which saves his life. It also enrages Scianel. She brutally murders Trak by having someone repeatedly dunk his head in a pool of his own blood and dirty water.
Marinela is trapped. Her mother-in-law wants her dead. Her husband wants her sex. She is in a cycle of abuse and sees no way of getting out. Patrizia is still working at the clothing store, where Scianel shops. She and Marinela remain friends. Patrizia sees an opportunity to get Marinela out of this life and help Don Pietro. He is still trying to make those in Ciro’s alliance turn against one another. So far, it’s working.
So, Patrizia tells Marinela to call this phone number to gain her freedom. Marinela eats dinner with Scianel. Scianel tells her,
Women can’t have freedom unless they never marry…Once I got used to the beating, I gave in. I became a good wife and a good mother.
Then, Lelluccio calls his mother. He tells her he is coming over. He wants to see Marinela. That’s when Marinela calls the number Patrizia slipped her. The men tell Marinela to bring Lelluccio downstairs. Just as she is taking him out for a walk, she says she forgot her purse and to meet her downstairs. She takes two steps and they hear gunshots. She runs down and sees someone else is dead. She flees for her own life. Scianel tells her son they have to lay low until they figure out what this “disgusting whore” is up to. Marinela walks into the police station.
The End Is the Beginning
The end of episode 9 brings viewers back to the start of the series. Back then, Ciro and Gennaro were not at war. Ciro was Gennaro’s mentor. They seemed to genuinely care for one another. Or at least as much as anyone in the mob could care for anyone else. Ciro shows up at the airport where Gennaro is arriving to see his family – the girlfriend and her father. Ciro tells Gennaro that he knows about his deal with the prince, who is now dead. He also reminds him that they were once friends. He says, “Together, we could have turned this world upside down.” He points out that if they get Gennaro’s father out of their way, they still can. He asks Gennaro to think about it. I think we’ll all be thinking about it until the next episode.