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.
I am angry with the world right now, and watching Gomorrah season 2 is not the best idea. Every character in the show relies on festering anger to culminate in a capacity for evil that is unthinkable among civilized people. Still, I can’t help myself, so I watch it like a train wreck. Or at least I watch it whenever my son is sleeping or at school. After all, this is not viewing material for kids. I’m not even sure I’m old enough to watch it.
What Is Gomorrah Season 2?
Gomorrah is a TV show that is based on the bestselling book of the same name by Roberto Saviano. While the story depicted in the series is fictional, it is based on real life events. The book and TV series allow the public a firsthand look at the ugly and vile life of those who join the Camorra, one of Italy’s most infamous gangs. Much like the Sopranos, which depicted the American version of this life, Gomorrah does nothing to glamorize the mafia. And Gomorrah season 2 takes the de-glamorization to the next level.
Catch Up On Season 1
For a full description of individual episodes, read the Gomorrah season 1 recap. By the end of season 1, you had already bid arriverderci to Imma Savastano, wife of Don Pietro, the head of the Savastano clan, which was in a war with the Conte clan. You saw Don Pietro break out of jail. His top clansman Ciro Di Marzio was the one who had Imma killed. Not surprisingly Ciro switched sides and works for the Conte clan now. Many of Don Pietro’s men, in fact, ended up dead as war broke out in their family and continued with Conte and Co. Season 1 ended quite dramatically with a shootout at Ciro’s daughter’s school. There, where the children were performing a play, Ciro shot Gennaro, Imma and Don Pietro’s son, who had inherited responsibility of the “family business.” He seemed dead, but we weren’t quite sure. What would happen next? That was anyone’s guess. But it sure wasn’t going to be pretty.
Gomorrah Season 2 Episodes 1 and 2
The beauty of Gomorrah is the in-depth characterization of each personality in the cast. This is not your typical TV show. And in season 2, you really get an up-close, emotional profile of the characters. More importantly, you could spend days analyzing their relationships with each other. I felt almost as though I was coming up with conversation for a book club meeting rather than a rundown of a TV drama.
A warning to those reading, the TV show is really, really, really violent and gruesome. I have to shut it off and take a break sometimes. I definitely closed my eyes more than once in these first two episodes, and some people will find it difficult to watch. But this is the reality that many people experience in Naples and actually other parts of Europe and the world as these gangs branch out.
What Happened Next?
Don Pietro is out of jail, learns of his son’s hospital stay, where he’s near death, and is forced to run away because so many of his men have been gunned down by the Conte clan. Ciro and his wife Debora and daughter Mariarita are also kind of on the run but still in the Naples area. They are mostly escaping the police, but there is always fear someone from the Savastano family will be back for revenge. Debora is terrified and angry with her husband for putting their daughter and her into this position. While many are treating them like royalty now that Ciro seems to be ruling the land, Debora is not having it.
She wants to run far, far away. She’s worried about someone trying to kill them, and she’s most concerned with their daughter’s safety. She argues with Ciro, who is positioning himself within the Conte family. The Conte clan is clearly taking over the drug dealing and everything else the Savastano clan previously controlled. By the end of episode 1, we see Genny open his eyes. He’s alive. And Ciro has killed his wife by choking her with his bare hands. He feared she was going to the police with his guilt about the school shooting. While Debora had considered it, she did not go through with talking to the police. But anyone who had watched the Sopranos will automatically make comparisons to when Adriana was killed. This was even harsher because Debora’s own husband was the murderer.
The second episode of Gomorrah Season 2 is more focused on Genny, who has been out of the hospital for a year but has a noticeable scar on his face. He is back in Honduras, where he had been sent by his mother and first killed a man on his own in season 1. This is important because this time around Genny forces a military captain, who is locked up by a drug cartel to hack up one of his own soldiers. It’s a horrific scene that will be burned into your mind. After Honduras, he returns to Italy, where he is trying to pick up the drug business and has a rendezvous with the daughter of a drug partner.
Next, he is reunited with his father. The two of them eventually have a falling out about who’s to blame for the state of affairs and Imma’s death. They can’t reach their money, they can’t go home, and they must work with people who are on the outs with their own gang. Indeed, Mico, one of the men who was getting arms to the them, gets shot and killed while they are all at dinner together.
Genny and Don Pietro have to flee. They steal one car and then have to run again when they encounter a road stop with more police. Don Pietro is taking medication (for what we don’t know), and he gets sick while they are fleeing. Genny carries him on his back and then car jacks someone at a gas station to get another car. He forces the guy to join them and help him bring his father to the car. Then, he kills the guy on the side of the road as though he was picking up Tylenol for dad. Really disturbing.
Foreshadowing of What’s to Come
In the end, the Genny and Don Pietro sleep on the floor of an abandoned shed like farm animals. Don Pietro seems a little healthier, however. He calls someone to come pick him up. Don Pietro tells Genny his own time will come but now they must part ways. Genny seems frustrated. Dad seems relieved. One can only guess what’s going on with Ciro at this point. We’ll probably find out next week. You can watch a new episode on the Sundance channel every Wednesday night at 10 p.m. ET.
For anyone just waking up to the phenomenon that is Gomorrah in Italy, here’s a quick rundown. The book Gomorrah, which was an investigative, first-hand look at Naples’ Camorra mafia, became a movie and the movie became a TV show. The book, movie, and TV show are hugely popular in Italy. People simply can’t get enough of this view of the intense, violent, and despicable life of those in the Italian mob. Now, SundanceTV is sharing the series with viewers in the United States every Wednesday night at 10 p.m. ET. The first season is well underway, and you can get recaps to catch up on what happened in the first six episodes right here on Italian Mamma. Without further ado, here’s what happened on the Sept. 14 showing:
Episodes 7 and 8
The real basket of deplorables are the characters in the TV series Gomorrah. First, Imma sent her son Gennaro to Honduras to kill or be killed and Ciro, her husband’s beloved henchman, to get lost in Spain. Both defied the odds and returned to Naples and Imma. Ciro, grateful to be alive, was keen on getting back his place in the top of the family, alongside Gennaro. But Imma had other ideas. She stepped on Ciro and had him running the new post for selling drugs, a job usually reserved for young boys. Gennaro, known as Genny to friends, returns a new man, more like a monster. This is a testament to the impeccable acting on this show. Sporting a new mohawk, the kid who vomited at the sight of someone else committing murder, walked in his mother’s house and killed her new dog, who had bitten him. When his mother got up to see what happened, he told her he should have killed her, too. Even his eyes were those of a murderer. It was terrifying.
Back at the shop, an apartment complex and park, replete with the Virgin Mary statue, the junkies are making too much noise and upsetting Ciro. His anxiety and disappointment is evident when he punches one of these guys and knocks him to the ground. The competition gets wind of this family taking over on their turf and begins to fight back. They burn a car. They chop off the head of the Virgin Mary statue. Imma replaces the statue and has it blessed by a priest in a ceremony that disrupts Ciro’s drug sales. This all began because Imma wanted a new cop-free zone to sell drugs. So, she scouts locations and finds a great spot but needs people to let her into their apartments, so she has a view of the park below. A lesbian, who dressed like a man most of the time and called herself Luca (a male name in Italian), approaches Imma and explains that her father’s bridal shop owed this guy $70,000, so her father had killed himself and now she was stuck with the debt. In exchange for Imma’s help with this guy (Imma kills him when he doesn’t rid of the debt), Luca lets Imma’s men sit on her porch. Then, the girl kills for Imma. She shoots two guys while they are watching a children’s soccer game. The people run away and leave the two men dead on the bleachers. Luca, while trying on a wedding dress in her father’s shop, is met by two men with rifles, who chase her into the butcher shop and murder her. The blood spills all over the white dress.
Now, the men – Ciro and company – want to retaliate and it’s looking more and more like a mafia war is coming. Many say that this would not be happening if Don Pietro wasn’t in jail. Imma silences them all. She tells Ciro he is going to do what she says, period. Then, she has them arrange a meeting with these competitors – anywhere they want to meet even on their turf – and she goes. Imma tells the men that her son, with his work in Honduras, is responsible for getting them good products at low costs and they are going to have to accept this family is in control now. And she tells them they are mistaken if they think because she’s a woman, she won’t kill. That’s the end of that problem.
In the meantime, Gennaro is a completely different person now. Why shouldn’t he be? He was holed up in a shack and forced to kill a person by chopping him up. He didn’t know if he’d live or die. Back in Napoli, he is downright cruel to Ciro, once his best friend and confidant. He has it out with his mother, who says she abandoned him in Honduras to make him stronger and turn him into the boss. He accepts and the two become partners in crime (literally) by the show’s end. The men have a meeting with Gennaro and without Imma at a restaurant. It was supposed to be his homecoming of sorts. The waiter knows Gennaro from school and is a little loud. He tells the story of how he used to call Genny the red pepper because he would turn red and was a little chubby. And he asked about getting another job because waiting tables since he’s been out of jail has been tough. Genny says they’ll talk later. After a few moments, Genny gets up and the men hear gunfire. He shot and killed the waiter. Then, he tells Ciro he has to clean up the mess and get rid of the body. At one point, he tells Ciro, it’s my turn now. My father is gone, and I’m the boss. Gennaro also gets his buddy who we’ve seen partying with him in the club and is a City Council member, to run agains the mayor. Note that Gennaro declines to snort cocaine, which is an indication that he is more serious about business Now, the current mayor is a friend of Gennaro’s father and has always been on the family’s side. But Gennaro wants to show who’s in charge now. He gets all the guys to help him rig the ballot box on Election Day. And he uses force to sway voters. He even goes so far as to break the glass table of the current mayor.
Most disturbingly, he starts a romantic relationship with the daughter of a doctor, who is on the city council and doesn’t want to give his votes to this new opposition to the mayor and wants no part of the mafia. He has sex with her on numerous occasions, and she seems to really be interested in him. He strong-arms the doctor and agrees to quit dating his daughter if he hands over the votes, which he does, of course. Gennaro holds his end of the bargain but not before sleeping with her and telling her father in great detail about it. Disgusting. Disgraceful. Deplorable.
There were a couple of things worth noting in the episode. When preparing the park for selling drugs, the men are polite to the tenants of the apartment complex and help the elderly and women with children to cross the street and get through the construction zone. At another point in the episode, one of the henchmen tells Gennaro that, yes, they have to make money but everyone in town has to eat. You get the sense that some of them think they are doing good for their community by being these kinds of criminals. That might be why Italy has had such a hard time getting rid of these gangsters.
Also, I took note of how the drug dealers often hid behind saints while running from the competition or cops. The symbolism of Italy hiding behind its religion, and the Virgin Mary getting beheaded was not lost on me. The whole insight into the corrupt political system combined with these other messages are difficult to watch. The truth really does hurt.
Gomorrah, the Italian television series based on the 2006 non-fiction book and 2008 movie of the same name, is captivating the United States. The most popular TV show in Italy since its debut in 2012 (and arguably ever), Gomorrah shows the seedy underbelly of Italy’s Napoli and the reality of mob life. The story is important because it shows the ugliness of greed and arrogance, the utter destruction and brutal violence, and the devastation crime syndicates like this can have on neighborhoods and even an entire nation. It is gripping because the characters are so fleshed out and human and flawed. Despite the fact that you find yourself despising their lack of empathy and ability to kill anyone who gets in the way of their dishonest money-making schemes, you want to know what’s going to happen to them.
While many in the United States are drawing comparisons to HBO’s wildly popular Sopranos, there is one major difference. The Sopranos were entirely fictional. Yes, there was research done, and it drew on a reality that still exists to some extent in New Jersey today. But Gomorrah is indeed truth. The book’s author, Roberto Saviano, infiltrated the Camorra (spelled Gomorrah in Neapolitan dialect), the ruling mafia in modern Italy, which has decimated Naples and Campania, its surrounding region. An investigative journalist, Saviano took jobs, such as waiting tables at a Camorra wedding, that brought him close to his subjects. “Gomorrah is a bold and important work of investigative writing that holds global significance, one heroic young man’s impassioned story of a place under the rule of a murderous organization,” according to the Amazon synopsis.
In fact, many of my relatives and friends in Ischia, which is a Neapolitan island, say the book and the show are all too real. Since the book’s release Saviano remains in hiding for obvious reasons. That’s why I feel like it’s an obligation to get to know this content – the book, the movie, the show – because we’re giving away bella, calda Napoli, which raised my family with generous, loving hearts and not this violent destruction decimating the city today. Saviano seems to want to save his beloved home, and so do the good people of Napoli, who still exist. Saviano indeed may have given up his life to save it, in fact. What I find reassuring about the Sopranos and Gomorrah is that both show how unglamorous, depressing, and heartbreaking choosing this criminal life is. There’s absolutely nothing nice about it, and these people are destroying their own home. If you’re familiar with the Italian culture, you will hear Pino Daniele’s “Napul e'” ringing in your head while you watch. You can’t help it. Naples is as much a character as the people.
Without further ado, here’s what’s happened in the first two showings on SundanceTV (which amount to four episodes in Italy):
Episodes 1 and 2: You are first introduced to Ciro (Marco D’Amore), a young up-and-coming gangster, who sees Attilio a veteran henchman, who follows all the rules and seems to be more old-school, as a father. Attilio gets killed by the end of the episode in a shootout with a rival gang and Ciro is visibly shaken. While the head of the mob family makes sure Attilio’s family gets taken care of financially, his widow is devastated to hear that her husband can’t be buried in the church because he was found dead with a gun in his hand. Ciro and Gennaro (Salvatore Esposito), the don’s son, watch the scene from a building across the street because the police are everywhere and they can’t be seen there.
In the meantime, you also meet Don Pietro Savastano (Fortunato Cerlino) and his wife Imma (Maria Pia Calzone). They are fretting about Gennaro’s immaturity and spoiled attitude, which was admittedly of their own making. But Pietro also has a sense that Gennaro is next in line to head the family, and does not have it in him to kill or make the kinds of decisions necessary to keep the crime syndicate going. This is particularly troublesome for Pietro who feels the police closing in on him. There’s a couch in the family’s posh villa, which stands in stark contrast to the dingy apartments that house the henchman, that we later learn Pietro thinks is bugged and so he gives it to Ciro. Imma replaces the couch and her husband and her go back and forth about whether it is comfortable until he finally decides this one is probably bugged, too. Imma consoles her husband and tries to convince him that he’s safe from jail, but he doesn’t think so. We learn that his father spent his senior years in hiding from the police, and Pietro fears such a life.
His paranoia is plastered on the episode. Pietro kills his loyal bookie, who failed to show up to a hit, because he thought the don was making poor decisions. Pietro mistakenly thought he was an informant to the police. On his way out of the bookie’s apartment, he cleans himself up, steps over the body, and puts on the henchman’s jacket. While leaving the scene he learns Gennaro was in a motorcycle crash. Don Pietro bought the motorcycle for his son after he had Ciro take him to make his first hit. Gennaro had fired the first shot, but he couldn’t go on, so Ciro finished the job. But the two agreed to tell Pietro that Gennaro did it himself. After Pietro gives the gift of the motorcycle, he learns of the deception. He makes Ciro drink a glass of champagne and his piss to prove that he can take over should he end up in jail or dead and that he must continue to take Gennaro under his wing. When Pietro learns of Gennaro’s accident, he starts speeding to the hospital. The police stop him and in the bookie’s jacket, they find drugs. They also find a bag full of money in his trunk. He’s going to jail. Imma, meanwhile, ponders whether Gennaro ran the red light on purpose because he wanted to die after his first encounter with murder. Before Gennaro gets on the motorcycle, he visits the scene of the crime, where friends of the deceased have placed a cross and some photos. He seems remorseful and sickened when he jumps on his motorcycle, so you’re wondering, too. Gennaro’s life hangs in the balance at the end of the episode.
Episodes 3 and 4: You quickly learn that Gennaro has survived and is recovering. Pietro is making his way through prison and the guards warn him there’s no special treatment for mobsters like there was in the old days. But the inmates greet him like he’s a god. They follow his every lead. He takes a liking to a young kid, Pasqualino, who I think reminds him of Gennaro but with greater gumption. Still, he’s a junkie, who botched a jewelry heist and faces sentencing. Pasqualino is down about it, and Pietro gives him his expensive button-down shirt to wear in court. He still gets 10 years. Pietro feels terrible for him and suggests that they pursue home incarceration and rehab. Pasqualino sees no way out and uses the shirt to hang himself despite Pietro’s efforts to save him.
Ciro starts to show Gennaro some of the pleasures of being on top of the crime family. He helps him organize a private concert for some of his friends and win the heart of a girl, Noemi, he had been admiring from afar. Pietro is relying on Rino, a corrupt cop on the inside, to continue to conduct business. He brings him a phone, and he sets up a meeting with a possible other network to carry out a drug route in his absence. Then, African immigrants, who have set up their own mob for selling drugs, tire of offering Pietro such a high percentage of their earnings. So, they send one of their best men into jail to cut a new deal. Pietro is angry they are doing this, and goes on a racist tirade, which leads to violence. People are getting stabbed, and the warden is often putting Pietro in solitary confinement. He has Rino transferred to another jail.
Pietro loses contact with the outside and starts relaying messages through his wife, who visits him. Pietro has the inmates cause lots of trouble to the warden’s chagrin. Meanwhile, Pietro decides to feign a deal with the African inmate, and together they start a prison riot, replete with burning mattresses. The warden allows him to believe he has won, and Rino returns. Ciro gives him a gift of money to thank him and a phone to smuggle into the jail. Pietro uses it to call Ciro and tell him to shoot up the African neighborhood to show them who’s boss. The scene was horrific. Gennaro is with Ciro and is supposed to stay in the car with the motor running. He leaves and looks at the carnage. Ciro is furious with him, but they get out alive and before the police arrive. They burn the car they used and take off. Gennaro gets home and can’t stop vomiting. His mother tells him he has to toughen up as word of the innocent Africans murdered in the street plays on the news in the background.
Turns out the new phone from Rino was bugged. The police hear Pietro telling Ciro about the hit on the Africans. All hope of getting transferred to an easier prison or getting out any time soon goes out the window. Pietro is headed to a maximum security prison and possibly solitary confinement, which Pietro says will be the end of him.
UPDATE ON 9/8/2016 – Episodes 5 and 6: We learn more about Pietro’s financial adviser, who is far away from Napoli in Milan. Last week Ciro told Gennaro that his family and him owned this guy and everything he had. Now, we really get to see this for ourselves. Pietro sends the word that Gennaro and Imma need access to cash. But in Pietro’s absence, the financial adviser, invests in a company believing he can make some cash for himself. He has nothing to give them, and he recognizes the anger on the part of Donna Imma. So, he tries to sell his share of the business quickly for cash. But the potential buyer finds a problem in the audit and the deal falls through. Next, he tracks down the auditor and tries to bribe him. He wants no part of it, so he threatens him and his family. That guy calls the police, and the financial adviser ends up in jail, too. Imma explains to Gennaro how awful this guy is because he took their money (which they, of course, had taken illegally from so many others) and now he got himself arrested besides. She would have to send Pietro’s lawyer to help him, too.
Once they get him out of jail, Imma breaks bread with him. It’s intense. She’s eating linguine con le vongole and he is blubbering. It is unclear what she has asked him to do exactly. But he says he’s done wrong and can try to fix it. She says he can’t and her way is better. Then, Imma tells him to puts all the accounts in his wife’s name, so the funds can be unblocked and she can get Pietro’s money back before the government sequesters it. He continues crying, and Imma tells him to pull himself together and do this for his family, which includes a baby on the way, because it’s the only way they can live in peace. She also promises that they will never be in want of anything; she’ll be sure of it. Do you believe her? Anyway, the financial adviser goes to this warehouse, where everyone is celebrating his step-daughter’s 18th birthday (which is like a sweet 16 in Italy but both males and females celebrate them). It’s a posh affair, and he apologizes to his wife and step-daughter for being late. They sing happy birthday and he slips away to a balcony, where he jumps off and commits suicide. I couldn’t watch.
In the meantime, Ciro and Imma are fighting for Gennaro’s ear. Gennaro doesn’t really notice at first because he’s head over heels in love with Noemi, the girl he had Ciro help him win over. He puts her up in a small apartment he calls their love shack. They spend a lot of time together, and in one scene it appears they are doing cocaine. There are many scenes showing how Gennaro is a bit spoiled and immature. He’s fully clothed and jumping into pools with his friends. He is singing Italian rap songs with them. And he’s trying to live large, but he’s not really interested in doing anything being asked of him. Gennaro does, however, blow up at Ciro saying that both him and his mother keep telling him he’s the boss now that his father is in jail, but then they try to tell him what to do. It’s an a-ha moment for Ciro, who is beginning to realize he’s in a power struggle with Donna Imma even though Pietro asked him to call the shots in his absence. Imma does not like Noemi and thinks her son lacks the maturity and strength to run a business, even if it’s criminal activity.
Things just get crazy after this. Gennaro in his anger and delusion sends Ciro to drive his mother to the prison to see Pietro, who can only have one visitor at a time in the maximum security prison. This was a big deal. Gennaro refusing to go was his way of saying, “I want the glory, but I don’t really want to be involved with this work.” It angered Ciro, who recognized that Gennaro was giving his mother the power. In the meeting at jail, Ciro reminds Imma that Gennaro and Ciro are in charge and to keep it that way. They have to be subtle and mysterious in how they discuss this because there’s a guard with them the whole time. Imma’s response to this is outrageous and unexpected. She divides Ciro and Gennaro, who seem to have made peace.
Imma sends Ciro to Spain to make peace with a dealer of hashish, whose mother’s house Ciro had burned in Episode 1. Then, she sends her own son, Gennaro, to Honduras to basically take over another drug business. Without actually saying it, both men think they are being sent to their deaths. As a viewer, you’re kind of wondering, too. Just like that, there’s a Godmother in town. Gennaro doesn’t leave for Honduras until the end of the episode, and he is unable to explain where he is going or what he is doing to anyone. Noemi is devastated, and the two have a terrible argument. Gennaro tries to make up without telling her the truth, but she is disappointed that his mother seems to rule his every move. As they are about to kiss and make-up, Noemi suggests he leave her something – his seed – to keep her waiting for him while he’s gone. Just like that Gennaro proves he is not as stupid as we think. That’s it, he’s done with Noemi. Buh-bye, I’m not going to be your baby daddy. After squeezing his mother and admitting he will miss her terribly, he heads off to the airport with his friends, who drop him off. His mother seems less sad or concerned about his departure. Strange for an Italian mamma.
For now, Ciro is facing much more serious danger. From the moment he arrives in Spain, it is clear that he is in enemy territory. The dealer puts him up in a hotel that he owns. He asks for a different room, but it doesn’t change the fact that they lock him in and cut off the phone lines. He sleeps on the floor by the door with a gun in his hand. He strong arms the driver, who finally picks him up, into bringing him directly to the dealer, Don Salvatore. He brings him on a boat and takes him into the middle of the ocean. He puts a knife to Ciro’s throat and threatens him for what he did to his mamma. Instead of slashing his throat, he throws Ciro overboard and leaves him there. You’re convinced Ciro is gonna die. Instead, others come to save him and hand him a phone with Don Salvatore on the other side saying he’s ready to talk now. You think the worst is behind him. But oh no. At the nightclub, also owned by Salvatore, Ciro suggests making peace and getting back in business together again. Salvatore gets up to go to the bathroom, and another mobster follows him in. Ciro, who misses nothing, alerts Salvatore’s people of what’s happening. They all go to the bathroom and find the unknown mobster trying to rough up Salvatore on behalf of a Russian mob family, who wants in on the business, too. Salvatore pees on this Russian henchmen. Back at the house, gunfire rains on Salvatore, one of his guys, and Ciro. Ciro and Salvatore are shot but not fatally.
You’re wondering when Ciro’s nine lives are going to run out. He is, too. Salvatore agrees to a deal if Ciro cuts a deal with the Russians, even though he’s never met with him and he has nothing to do with them. Salvatore tells Ciro straight out that he’s sending him because he can’t risk losing one of his own men. Again, Ciro is not sure if he’s going to survive. Sure enough, at the meeting with the Russian, the head of this family makes Ciro play Russian roulette. Literally, he had to put a gun to his head and fire and see if he lived. If he survived, the deal would go through. If not, oh well. Lucky for him (and viewers), the show goes on because Ciro is alive. He jumps into the ocean with all his clothes before returning to Naples. Salvatore asks him if he wants to change families and work for him instead of Pietro, but Ciro declined and added he was “happy in his house.” Salvatore says I hope it stays that way for you. When Ciro gets home, he learns Gennaro is in Honduras and he asks to be brought directly to Pietro’s house. We’ll have to wait to find out what happens next.
Some Italians have a Christmas tree, but all Italians have a presepio or nativity scene. Here on the island of Ischia, which is a province of Naples, the nativity scene is elevated to art. Naples’ sculptors create pieces for the presepio that truly are magnificent and unique. And people don’t just put the traditional scene of Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus in their presepio. Their presepio features intricate towns, fantasy lands, their favorite soccer players, historical figures, lights, music, live plants, anything you can imagine. My own father creates one every year that features fountains, live plants, grass, hundreds of figurines and ceramic houses, lights, and music and takes up an entire room in his house. (You can check out his 2009 version in a YouTube video.) Each presepio is different and features the signature of the artist who created it.
Well, my presepio this year says that I care about the environment and want to be playful. I also really wanted to create something that was appropriate for my kid (read: not breakable). Those hand-carved Neapolitan statues are gorgeous, but my son would throw them around like they were G.I. Joe figures. So, I settled on using toilet paper tubes, construction paper, the remnants of a bomboniere (a party favor that consisted of a cloth pouch tied with silk ribbons and filled with Jordan almonds), and a gold tray from the local pastry shop (leftover from one of my husband’s macaron runs). Here is the final product:
If I was home in the States, I would have included hay or grass. Here, I had to settle for a green, plastic tablecloth featuring leaves. But I did pick up some gorgeous pine cones in Ischia’s pine tree forests.
All the figures are made of toilet paper tubes that I covered in paper. Jesus is an exception. He’s covered in pieces of one of my son’s old onesies (and his body is half a toilet paper tube, in case you were wondering). His manger is made of part of that pastry shop tray and is sitting atop a plastic ring that once held Scotch tape. That ribbon around Jesus’ blanket is from a gift we received. And Joseph’s head covering is part of that bomboniere, while Mary’s is another piece of onesie.
These three really steal the spotlight because of their bright colors and details. Their sashes are part of that bomboniere again, and their crowns are the rest of the pastry shop tray.
The shepherd’s sash is another ribbon from a gift. The lamb is covered in cotton stuffing that also came in that bomboniere. And I had pipe cleaners leftover from those Halloween spiders I made, which came in handy for that thing the shepherd holds and the legs.
My mom had sent my son craft kits to make foam tree ornaments in the shape of Santa and a reindeer. She also sent that snowflake star, which is supposed to have a picture in it. I opted for some yellow paper because we didn’t have any stars (which many Italian presepio feature) or lights. I put these foam crafts together – with Baby Boy, of course – and attached them either to toilet paper tubes (in the case of Santa and the reindeer) or directly to the kitchen towels covering the top of the presepio (in the case of the snowflake star). That angel, by the way, is made of paper scraps, more ribbon from a box of chocolate we received as a gift, and an old doll’s braided hair. I’m pretty proud of myself, and I’ve been enjoying taking in my work every morning as I get my clothes out of that dresser. Baby Boy is constantly trying to rearrange the pieces. No worries, the worst that can happen is he’ll get a paper cut.
On clear days when I’m strolling the beach near my in-laws’ home in Ischia, Italy, I can see Mount Vesuvio (Mount Vesuvius) towering above the homes and touching the clouds. Around here, Vesuvio is looked at with both awe and fear. While the image of the only active volcano on Europe’s mainland makes for a great picture and an interesting skyline for Naples, this volcano is considered one of the world’s most dangerous. It is the one famously responsible for the annihilation of Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 AD. The last time it erupted was in 1944, when it killed 26 people. And it is eventually going to blow again. It’s only a matter of time. Geologists warn that it won’t be as kind this time around. This fact has turned guessing when Vesuvio will erupt into constant dinner debate around here. “Povera gente,” or “Poor people,” ends every one of these discussions because there are 18 towns at the base of the volcano and those folks will be in grave danger of losing everything, including their lives. After reading an article on HowStuffWorks about what will happen when Vesuvio erupts, I learned that the Italian government keeps vigil in the hopes that it will be able to evacuate people at least 72 hours before an eruption. Apparently, the government also offered money for people to move away from the volcano, but few people accepted. They live in the shadows of one of the most dangerous volcanoes, and they still can’t be bought – at least not at that price ($46,000). Figures, Neapolitans are so badass they think they can take on a volcano!
The American Top 40 list features the song “We No Speak Americano” by the Australian duo Yolanda Be Cool & Dcup, which includes a sample and remix of the Italian classic “Tu Vuo Fa’ l’Americano” by Renato Carosone. My husband Antonio, above, still no speak Americano and neither do most of my relatives, who live in the United States. Ok, maybe they speak it, but it’s their own version that is, let’s just say, very Italiano influenced. That’s what drew me to this song.
When I heard about it – thanks to my 12-year-old cousin Antonio and his mom, who are way hipper than I am, I realized that my family is ahead of its time. My nonni and parents were singing this tune – and dancing to the original – way back in the 1950s before they even left Italy. My father has been known to fist pump to this tune while driving. Yeah, he was fist pumping long before Pauly D. Carosone is my family’s Jay Z. He sang the songs that spoke to the paesani and in their language, the Neapolitan dialect. No shidizzle. On “We No Speak Americano,” that’s not real Italian you’re hearing, people. That’s our street speak. And now folks from Australia to the Jersey Shore are joining my people on the dance floor and speaking our language. Who would have thought my papa’ and nonni were so very cool? First Tony Soprano makes their body type sexy and now this!