Tim Tan Huynh

Gomorra La Serie, episode 101

12 Sep 2014 — The premier episode introduces the main characters and their world, where fighting between rival gangs has immediate and deadly consequences.

“The Clan Savastano”

Gomorra La Serie, episode 101
Ciro starts a fire outside the apartment of Conte’s mother.

The show begins with a page from the Pulp Fiction playbook: two gangsters get ready to ply their murderous trade while having a mundane conversation about a hypothetical scenario that could seriously endanger a person. Instead of foot massages, the topic is Facebook, and instead of briefcase recovery, the job is domestic arson. The trailer for Sky Atlantic hints their calculated violence.

The older, grey-haired Attilio and the younger, bald-headed Ciro are less Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega, and more Tony Soprano and Christopher Moltisanti. The generation gap is obvious. Attilio has never heard of Facebook and Ciro sings along to a pop song (“A’ Storia E Maria” by Ivan Granatino) that Atillio says is “too modern.” Most telling of all, Ciro complains about the decision of their boss, “Don” Pietro Savastano, to attack a rival boss, Salvatore Conte.

Attilio and Ciro reach the apartment building where Conte is having dinner with his mother. The would-be arsonists literally hide under the noses of Conte’s men who wait outside. One of these men drops a scrap of paper through metal grating. This man might or might not be a confederate of Attilio and Ciro, but in any case, the duo moves into action. They sneak to the apartment where Attilio stands guard and Ciro dumps gas and then starts the fire.

The sharp-thinking Conte recognizes the danger right away. He alerts his men, wraps his mother in a damp cloth, and hurries her to shelter under a running shower. Seeing the fire from their vehicle, Attilio makes an anonymous call to the authorities before Ciro drops the phone out the window. Their plan all along has been to threaten Conte without killing him, but the message is clear.

The duo stops at a cafe after-hours and meet a few members of their gang. They toast to the mission before one of the other gangsters convinces Atillio to place money on a horse race. Atillio and Ciro decide to change their clothes, which reek of gasoline, and go to their respective homes. For non-bosses like them, home is a cozy, if crowded, apartment in a rundown-looking area with their wives and kids.

Their homes pale in comparison to Pietro’s house, where business types are gathered the next day to fix a bid on a construction project. Attilio and Ciro pay a visit, and Pietro’s wife Imma greets them. As she leaves, Attilio scolds Ciro for leering. The duo privately debriefs Pietro and his son Gennaro aka Genny, who had been watching the business meeting. The boss is satisfied, but he’s determined to do more damage if needed.

Day turns to night, and Ciro seeks Pietro for permission to leave. He finds Imma instead, and she offers him a couch from her husband’s office; she’s ordered a new one. Imma calls upon Genny to help Ciro load the couch into Ciro’s car. The inexperienced Genny asks to be included in the next “barbecue,” and Ciro assures the heir apparent that more violence is coming.

On another day, Attilio and Ciro have a rooftop meal with their families. Ciro lets the stuffed Attilio rest and leaves to collect a payment alone. He goes to the cafe from the night of the arson job, where a man asks him for a favor. Suddenly, an attack begins. Ciro scrambles under tables while a masked gunman sprays automatic gunfire at him. The gunman tosses a pair of grenades before escaping with a getaway motorcycle driver.

Ciro, who’s also known as The Immortal, stumbles away from the scene amid stunned onlookers. He later meets Attilio and re-states that he had expected Conte to take revenge for their arson. Atillio warns Ciro to not reveal his dissent to Pietro. At a later meeting, the boss demands that Conte must be killed. Wary of the danger, the gang members insist that they must plan things first.

At night, Attilio and Ciro survey a heavily guarded factory that belongs to Conte, who is nowhere in sight. Inside, workers remove packages of cocaine that are hidden in appliances. Ciro declares that Don Pietro is old and Conte knows it. At the Savastano dining table, Pietro and Imma debate their issues with couches until he takes his dinner elsewhere. Genny follows his father’s lead with his mother’s urging.

The next day, Attilio and Ciro visit an elaborate cocaine-dealing operation inside an apartment complex. Helped by a series of lookouts, a stream of buyers exchange money for cocaine through literal holes in a wall. Attilio and Ciro briefly reminisce about their drug-selling days before they leave to meet their gang on a rooftop parking lot. One of them, Bookie, has tried to convince Pietro to cancel the assault.

To everyone’s disappointment, Bookie relays Pietro’s insistence that the assault will happen and happen soon. He also relays Pietro’s claim that Conte has been bad-mouthing the boss, to which Ciro says “I told you so” to Attilio. During the ride home, a furious Attilio scolds Ciro for disparaging the boss in front of the others. Later, Ciro hangs out with Genny at a gambling parlor. To the surprise of Genny, Ciro is candid about his fear.

Later still, Ciro and two others test pistols at a gun range. Ciro completes the legal paperwork for his pistol, although he tells the clerk to do the same for Atillio. Meanwhile, Atillio and Bookie take assault rifles and ammo from an in-ground stash. Genny begs Pietro to let him go with Ciro, but the boss tells his son to be patient. Attilio and Ciro go to their respective homes to be with their loved ones, possibly for the last time.

Genny rides his motorcycle to a nightclub in unfriendly territory and meets Michele, a friend, inside. Genny notices a young woman and approaches her. From her necklace, he learns that the woman’s name is Noemi. Noemi’s date takes exception to Genny, who is unapologetic. Genny is confronted by a few other men before Michele ushers him away.

Elsewhere, the gang meets along a road and don bullet-proof vests. They reach the factory in two cars. The first car rams a guard on foot to begin the assault. The driver is killed and his passengers storm out. The two sides exchange automatic gunfire and kills. During the commotion, Attilio, Ciro, and another gang member climb over the perimeter and move inside, sporting pistols and half masks, in search of Conte.

The rival boss is not there, though his electronic hookah sits on a desk. Ciro reaches an upstairs office where he immediately kills a man. He signals to Attilio below. Attilio soon finds a dead body, but he fails to notice an armed man looking at him and is shot. The assailant flees as Ciro rushes to Attilio in time to hear his friend and mentor’s last words, “It hurts.” Bookie appears and urges the sobbing Ciro to escape.

Genny leaves the nightclub and finds his motorcycle trashed. Ciro and another survivor burn their getaway car. Ciro goes to Pietro’s home to brief the boss: Atillio and three others are dead, and in any case, Conte is alive, but Conte’s men are dead. Unfazed, Pietro insists that the basis for the assault had been correct. The boss offers condolences to Ciro and promises to send wreaths and money for the wives and girlfriends of their dead.

The next morning, Ciro tries to visit Attilio’s family, but he can’t bring himself to see them. He opts to call instead. He later he watches from a distance as the authorities remove Attilio’s body from the factory. “Goodbye, Attilio,” he says. In a rare moment of levity, Pietro and Imma test their new couch. The Boss decides that it’s uncomfortable and Imma tacitly agrees. The couch is discarded because in truth, Pietro knows that it’s been bugged.

The couch ends up in a neighborhood where some kids play a lookout game, resembling the drug-selling operation that Attilio and Ciro had visited earlier.

Thoughts

The Good

  1. The show has believable acting and quality production. The apartment fire approaching Conte and his mother is especially tense and terrifying.
  2. I like the style of both the on-screen credits and the Gomorra title sequence.
  3. The bar attack is shocking and unique in how it unfolds: the gunman opens fire from off-screen and the first victim dies in mid-sentence. I wonder why other movies and shows haven’t used this cinema verité approach; I expect it be copied soon.
  4. My favorite shot of the episode is the gangsters heading to their vehicles after the rooftop meeting.
  5. The death of Attilio is really surprising. He features in the trailer and plays such an important role in the episode, I’m convinced that he is the Tony Soprano to the Christopher Moltisanti of Ciro. Attilio dies, though, and somewhat embarrassingly. I hadn’t seen any of the promo art focusing on Ciro beforehand.
  6. Doomed to Live” by Mokadelic plays at the end of the episode and is apparently the show’s theme song. It’s uplifting though arguably out of place.
  7. I like the Next Time on Gomorra preview shots that are cut into the end credits.

The Bad

  1. Ciro stumbling away from the cafe attack, bloodied though unbowed, is clichéd. I understand why he wants to leave, but something better would be Ciro getting ushered away from the scene by sympathizers and then being picked up by his gang. The cafe is presumably in Savastano territory.
  2. After the factory assault, Ciro goes into Brooding Comic-Book Hero Mode, complete with a hood and a rooftop farewell to his dead friend and mentor. I think it’s somewhat convenient for Ciro to recognize Attilio’s body shape and size through a white sheet.

Predictions

  1. Ciro and Imma will have an affair, I think. Ciro finds Imma attractive and though Imma seems loyal to Pietro, she also seems to feel under-appreciated like Carmela Soprano.