After hearing that incredibly snazzy 70’s theme tune again for the first time in months, I couldn’t help but get excited for series 2 of Romanzo Criminale. Series 1 was a brilliantly written rags to riches story of a gang from Rome, led by the stylish but undoubtedly deadly Libanese. The somewhat haphazard gang members found a home at Sky Arts and became one of the stand-out series that encouraged the influx in Italian dramas that we now see so regularly.
Just as a precaution, if you don’t want to read spoilers for this series then got check out the review of the first series I wrote last year.
Series 2 begins exactly where we left off last season – with the death of Libanese. We begin with a short flashback to 1963 were a young Libanese saves Freddo from a vicious bully in the outskirts of Rome. This is the first meeting between the two which serves to create empathy for the death of Libanese (although the series did spend the last few episodes making the audience hate him). The first scene back in the present shows his body being carted through a morgue, eyes open, waiting to be prepped for burial. The main narrative of the series is finding Libanese’s murderer, and it’s police detective Scialoja who wants to find out before the gang takes matters into their own hands. The main suspects? The Gemilo brothers. Seen arguing after a game of poker, the brothers have motive to kill Libanese and are not afraid to take revenge. Taking them both into custody before Bufalo could get to them, Scialoja orders a paraffin test to see if they have fired a gun in the last 24 hours. Before the test results arrive, they are released by police and immediately go into hiding. However, Freddo knows that killing the brothers is the only way to avenge Lib’s death. But is that the full story? Could their be other reasons Libano was murdered?
Romanzo Criminale introduces new characters into this series, such as Donatella – a blonde, short haired bruiser. She becomes a new member due in part to of her anonymity, meaning she can sell the gang’s drugs without having to worry about any officers. We’re also properly introduced the the secret service men from series 1, and begin to find out why they feed information to Libanese and Freddo. It’s intriguing to find out more about the power struggle between the mafia and the police force and how they can learn to work side-by-side. But it’s even more interesting when Scialoja finds out they have been working together for years.
Moustachioed Commissioner Scialoja’s mission to put the gang behind bars is still as important as ever in the series. Surveillance, wire-taps, confidential informants, and good old detective work all play a big role in gathering evidence to incriminate the gang. His constant pursuit isn’t in vain however, putting pressure on them by seizing weapons and following leads that cripple their finances.
Whilst trying to hold the gang together, outside competitors become a key issue in the series, with old rival Sardo looking to deal Heroin and Cocaine inside of Lib’s old territory – “Vultures always hover near corpses” exclaims Dandi. If series 1 is the rise of the gang, series 2 is the fall. The power vacuum left by Libanese sees Freddo and Dandi compete for the top position, ripping the gang apart in the process.
However, by episode 4, the decision by the group to assassinate Sardo brings Freddo and Dandi closer together. By taking the position of boss away from the gang they are able to make decisions together rather than blindly following one leader. But the execution of a ‘Commora’ member doesn’t go unnoticed. Don Mimmo, a boss from Napoli, forces Dandi to give up the killer of Sardo otherwise Freddo will “disappear” just like he did.
As the series progresses, the actions of Dandi become more unpredictable to the viewer – due in part to his visits from an otherworldly Libanese. We expect to see him as a proud and dangerous man, but over the series we find him backing away from the physical side and being influenced more by the title bestowed upon him – “King of Rome”. He begins to doubt whether betraying his friends is worth the end result, and so begins a decade of self-doubt and false pride.
Romanzo Criminale’s second series lacks the wild and commanding attitude of Libanese, but the inevitable fall is just as entertaining as the climb. Revenge, deception, stupidity: a cocktail that ensures the downfall of the greatest criminal gang in Rome.
Available now via the Arrow Films website.