By Stuart Mitchner
“O what an account I could give you of the Bay of Naples if I could once more feel myself a Citizen of this world — I feel a spirit in my Brain would lay it forth pleasantly.”
—John Keats, from one of his last letters
In virtually every episode of Gomorrah, the Italian series about organized crime in Naples, currently streaming on HBO Max, there are glimpses of the setting that Keats, dying at 25, longed to put into words.
I found some words that accord with my general impression of Gomorrah — “I dream of a darkness darker than black” — in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine (“The Capitol Police and the Scars of Jan. 6”). The quote comes from the journal of an officer who “felt himself spiraling downward in the days following the attack.”
Curious but Wary
For years my wife and I had been curious about but wary of Gomorrah, which debuted on Sundance in 2014. So we kept our distance, under a self-imposed form of protective custody. And now we’re paying HBO Max to be sucked into the vortex of a kill-or-be-killed, no-light-at-the-end-of-the tunnel, “darker-than-black” viewing experience.
We finished Season 2 on January 6. The images replayed on the first anniversary of the attack on the Capitol made it clear that no amount of simulated murder and mayhem, however brilliantly shot and graphically executed, could compare with the shocking spectacle of a real-life insurrection, and for all the staged shootings, beatings, throat-slashings and other innumerable acts of violence in Gomorrah nothing could match the glaring intensity of the moment a young cop is crushed by the roaring, pounding mob, pinned against a door frame, screaming in pain, crying out in agony. The real thing is very hard to watch. You have to look away even now, when you know the officer in question survived. more