In this golden age of TV there are a lot of gangster dramas to sink your teeth into. Some are great (The Sopranos, Peaky Blinders), some are good (Gangs Of London, Boardwalk Empire) and some have simply not been seen by enough people. Gomorrah falls into that category.
Set in the criminal underworld of Naples, Italy, Gomorrah is perhaps the best – and definitely the most authentic – mafia show ever. It is written by Italians, stars Italians and is watched by a fuckload of Italians (it’s their most popular series ever). The local dialect, Neapolitan, is so distinctive that even Italians need subtitles to understand what’s going on.
Season one, which followed the 2008 film of the same name, focused on Genny – the son of Don Pietro Savastano – and Ciro, one of the family’s trustiest captains. Over the course of the next 48 episodes, they support, squabble and stab each other in the back. Their relationship, as star Salvatore Esposito (who plays Genny) puts it, is a compelling mixture of “hatred, brotherhood, love and a thirst for power”.
As the show prepares to air its fifth and final season in the UK on Sky Atlantic, we met the cast and crew in Rome to tell us why newbies really need to catch up.
It’s like Squid Game
If you inhaled all nine episodes of 2021’s biggest TV show, then you’ll love Gomorrah. It tackles similar themes to the bloody Korean horror, like wealth, morality and capitalism.
“It’s mostly about the dynamic of power,” says head writer Leonardo Fasoli. “What people are ready to do to obtain power or stay in power – and how that fight is in contrast with the characters’ domestic lives.
“It’s the same things that are in Squid Game. At the end of Squid Game, the show made a very bold statement about the dynamics of society. We think Gomorrah does the same. It’s just a question of how we put it together on-screen.”
David Bowie was a fan
That’s right, Starman himself enjoyed a bit of murder on the Med. Apparently, he even raved about it to his famous pals, like Lost In Translation director Sofia Coppola.
“Sofia Coppola told our producers that she has the DVDs of Gomorrah because David Bowie gave them to her,” says Esposito. “He was a big fan of the series and said she had to watch it. Some of our producers talked to her and she said: ‘I love the show because of this reason.’”
Esposito adds: “I’m a massive Bowie fan, of course. It’s great, because Ricky Gervais is a big fan of the show as well. He came on set when we were shooting in London.”
The Sopranos comparisons are fair – but there’s more to it
Ben Travers of IndieWire once called Gomorrah the “darker, grown-up version of The Sopranos”. And he’s not wrong: both shows are stuffed with all the crime, cursing and cannoli that you’d want from a mafia thriller. There’s a bit more to it, though…
“I can only learn from an actor such as James Gandolfini,” says Esposito of the late Sopranos legend. “Also, the two series talk about organised crime in very different ways. Though yes, the work done on the intimate level, in terms of the tragedies and frailties of gangsters, is similar. The Sopranos is really iconic, and we’re honoured to be compared to such a legendary series with such legendary actors.”
There’s no contest in the violence stakes, though. “Genny and Ciro would kill Tony,” argues Esposito.
It’s more ruthless than Game Of Thrones
If you thought the Red Wedding was traumatic, wait until you watch Gomorrah. Sometimes it feels like a key character is offed in every scene. “Reading the script is a bit like reading Game Of Thrones,” says Esposito. “Everybody dies!” It’s not a spoiler to say this, but don’t get too attached to anyone. They might not make it to the end…
For Marco D’Amore, who plays Ciro and has directed some episodes of the show, telling his fellow castmates their season five fates was difficult.
“I was the first [to know] because I worked on the script. Of course I’m not a screenwriter, but as a director I worked cheek-to-cheek with the screenwriters,” he explains. “The most difficult thing was telling the rest of the cast who dies and who doesn’t.”
‘Gomorrah’ season five debuts on Sky Atlantic tomorrow (December 18) at 9pm. It streams on NOW from the same date.