Plebes and Politicians
Enjoy Your Meal
Garlic, Oil and Chili Pepper
A New Man
Call It Sleep
Split across 10 action-packed episodes, Suburra: Blood On Rome is a dramatic, slickly produced Italian show. While some of the story does fall into melodramatic tones and a couple of the subplots don’t always hit, for the most part the series does well to balance its intricate web of political deceit, gang wars and action to make up a surprisingly absorbing series.
Set in 2008, the story begins with a simple turf war in a sleepy seaside city. With the Mayor retiring and his successor left up for dispute, three separate gangs seize the opportunity to capitalize on the ensuing confusion. As the separate families begin preparing for the inevitable fights ahead, three key characters, Aureliano, Spadino and Gabriele, band together to blackmail a priest. In its most simplest form, the story plays out with two key narratives – one for the gangs and the other for the three main characters.
It’s ultimately these three protagonists and their complicated plot lines that make this as endearing to watch as it is. Spadino’s gypsy ties see him forced into marriage while grappling with the death of a loved one. A loved one who just happened to have been killed by Aureliano in a related gang incident. With these two characters inexplicably linked, wildcard Gabriele finds himself mixed up in a difficult issue of his own, owing money to high-profile individuals resulting in an impossible choice being made. This then ties him to the other two in more unpleasant ways than he may have wished.
As the story continues, these plot points all converge around the midway point and change the whole complexion of the game. It’s at this point where a somewhat shadowy figure in the background, Samurai, steps forward and becomes a much more prominent figure going forward as the series races toward its climactic finale.
In a clever play on an age old trope, Suburra begins every episode with a teasing glimpse of what’s to come – most of which ending on a dramatic cliffhanger before the opening credits. We then jump back 24 hours to see what happened preceding this with plenty of twists and turns along the way before catching up with ourselves at the end. This is then fleshed out further with more context, opening this moment up to a better understanding than before. It’s a clever idea and one that works surprisingly well here, instantly hooking you into the story.
With so many characters and subplots intricately woven together, Suburra inevitably feels a little too fast paced and dramatic for its own good at times. There’s a really enjoyable storyline at the heart of this one and the way the three protagonists are fleshed out and written help to sell their individual struggles. When the story slows down a little and explores the personal lives of these characters, it really helps balance out the more dramatic elements.
Despite its pacing issues and a bit of a melodramatic tone, Suburra is a highly enjoyable Italian drama. There’s enough twists and turns along the way to keep you coming back for more and the three main characters of the show are incredibly endearing, contributing greatly to why the show works as well as it does. With a second season already green-lit and coming out shortly, it’ll be interesting to see where this one goes in the future but based on this showing, it’s a show I’ll certainly be keeping a keen eye on going forward.