A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the superb second series of ‘Peaky Blinders’. I said that I had a horrible feeling that it would ‘end in tears’. Well, the final episode seemed to be fulfilling my prophecy. Providing a master class in dramatic tension, ‘Blinders’ had me on the edge of my seat right up until the last few frames. I won’t insert a spoiler, but if you want to find out how to craft a story or simply watch it as a pure piece of brilliant entertainment, I can’t recommend this drama highly enough.
In the same vein, the last episode of Gomorrah held a few surprises. From a dramatic viewpoint, I was slightly bothered by the fact that every character has a ruthless and cruel streak, but I guess you could argue that these are based on real-life Naples gangsters – what else should I expect? Indeed, one of the sweet-baby-faced actors Vincenzo Esposito (who comes to a nasty end in the series) was partly chosen for his role because he has heavy links to organised crime. Since then, he’s been arrested in connection with a brutal stabbing. It’s the gripping realism of ‘Gomorrah’ that makes it so watchable. Yes, it’s ugly, it’s unfair, it lacks glamour and this is a good thing because it opens your eyes, without being preachy, to the fact that this kind of lifestyle can only end one way. I’ll definitely be watching the second series.
So what was next? The second series of Vikings and, my goodness, this has been ramped up in every way. Ragnar, not content with one woman in his life, fancies himself as a bit of a Scandi-Lothario, although wife number one is having none of it and heads off into the sunset in a real show of girl power. She returns later, having sorted out husband number two, to prove herself as a shield-maiden. Something that struck me more forcefully this time around is the importance of women in Viking society. They fight. They can divorce their husbands. They oversee marriage ceremonies. They also appear to have a bit more social mobility than their Christian counterparts.
As expected, there’s plenty of plotting as alliances are made and broken. Revenge is exacted and sometimes with a cruelty that is jaw dropping. I’ll leave you to work out what the punishment of the ‘blood eagle’ amounts to. Finishing where I started, in common with ‘Blinders’, the second series of Vikings builds on the first. It’s more character-driven and tightly plotted, and for that reason very much more satisfying.