First came Narcos, the Latin American drug trafficking drama that became a global addiction. Can Suburra, Netflix’s first Italian Original series, possibly match up?
Mixing the political machinations of House of Cards with the criminal underworld of The Godfather, Suburra is seedy, seductive and oh so Italian.
Political players rub shoulders with the Mafia underworld; however, because this is Rome, the Vatican wants a piece of the action too, and all three factions are falling over each other in a bid for power.
“Rome is at the hub of this,” says series exec producer Gina Gardini. “You have to imagine the political power of Washington DC, the largest criminal organisation in the world, and every Mega-church in the world, all co-existing within a 20-mile radius.”
The series lays its stall out from the very first scene: a car drives down the main avenue leading from the Vatican at night, a Catholic dignitary at the wheel.
It’s Rome in all its splendour – church, Colosseum, palace – but then the picture changes. We’re thrown in to possibly one of the most explicit orgy scenes on mainstream TV – the type of thing that could only come from the country of Berlusconi and ‘bunga bunga’.
Who’s thrusting away in the middle of it all?
The Vatican priest, naturally. Welcome to Italy.
It’s a potent setup – but where do we go from here? The first episode establishes a complex tale of crime and politics, with every character trying to twist their way to the top. Information comes slowly, and it takes a while to get your bearings in this war of church, crime and state.
Here’s everything you need to know.
What is Suburra series about?
The Mayor of Rome has resigned, but he can’t technically leave office for 20 days. In the meantime, a massive new building project on the coast to the south of the city must be negotiated – and everyone wants to profit from it.
The ten-part series covers the course of those 20 days, and explores how the state and Catholic Church are just a step away from Italy’s organised crime bosses.
The Vatican owns most of the land under negotiation, and are asking their financial advisor Sara Monaschi (below) to sell to the highest bidder and help solve their crippling financial problems.
However, the Mafia are sniffing round the venture too, with the aim of building a port through which they can ship drugs into the capital. The most feared crime boss in the city, known only as ‘Samurai’ (below), is trying to secure the deal.
To do so, he needs to convince Sara and a naive politician called Amedeo Cinaglia (below) to play ball, while also making sure that the local gangs who operate in the area don’t get in the way.
So, it’s all politics and dodgy deals?
Not exactly. While the property deal is the bigger picture, the early part of the series actually follow the fortunes of three small-time criminals who are trying to make some quick cash from a blackmail deal.
There’s blonde-haired, hot-headed young kid called Aureliano (above), heir to the Adami family’s criminal empire. He wants to set up a beach club on his family’s land in Ostia – which just so happens to be slap bang in the middle of the area that the Mafia want to buy. His father and sister know this, know they can make a small fortune in the drug trade if the deal comes off. But for the moment, they’re keeping this secret from Aureliano…
Aureliano has a burning hatred for the rival Sinti crime family – “gypsies” he calls them – but is forced to work with one of their young members, Spadino (below), when an opportunity to fleece a Vatican priest for €300,000 drops into their lap.
Completing the trio is Lele (below), the son of a local policeman who is trying to make some extra cash as a small-time drug dealer and fixer. However, he’s been dealing on crime boss ‘Samurai’s’ territory, and now has just 24 hours to pay his dues.
That’s the genius of Suburra: stirring these small-time players into the bigger deals that make or break the people of Rome. Everyone is on the make, but they’re also looking over their shoulder, trying to work out whether’s they’re stumbling into a trap.
As Samurai says, “This place hasn’t changed in 2000 years. Patricians, plebeians, politicians and criminals, whores and priests… Rome.”