nervi guest star: Suburra

Suburra: Blood on Rome, Season 3, Episode 2.

This was a particularly momentous week, even aside from the election that saw the power behind Chicago’s greatest typographical crime go down to defeat, since we–finally–got the third season of the incomparable Italian crime drama Suburra on Netflix. Based on the truly great 2015 film of the same name, the series follows the enjoyably lurid battles between rival drug gangs in Rome and Ostia, and it’s been one of several that I’ve watched obsessively while convincing myself that they’re really the best way to practice my Italian skills…

Episode 2 of season 3 sees two upstart gangsters trying to corner the entire city’s market, which means they have to expand to northern Rome. To set the scene, their meetings with that region’s boss are set in front of a prominent landmark–Nervi’s Palazzetto dello Sport. While his larger arena in the EUR district had no shortage of love from film directors in the 1960s, the Palazzetto never got quite the star turn, despite gaining greater critical acclaim.

Suburra: Blood on Rome, Season 3, Episode 2.

So it was a happy surprise to see it as the scene-setter here–and to have it play a background role in a particularly bloody plot twist. Suburra has been a virtual tour of Rome and Ostia, with the city playing a supporting role–major scenes in the Vatican, the Campidoglio, and–especially–Calatrava’s derelict and incomplete Città dello Sport, which serves as the neutral and secret meeting site for the protagonists’ high-level meetings. That, in particular, is a nice commentary–no chance anyone (particularly construction workers) would be anywhere near its abandoned steel sails, which have become a monument to political dysfunction in the city as a whole.

No spoilers here, just a hearty recommendation. Season 3 has been announced as the last one in the series. It’s been a good ride, and seeing Nervi’s masterpiece get some screen time has been the icing on the cake. For the record, the bar that serves as the negotiating table really should have been the legendary Bar Maratona, a globally recognized monument to running and espresso consumption halfway between the arena and MAXXI, where archival researchers on lunch break can often be found giving their retinas a break between dives into the Nervi archives…but hey, close enough…

Suburra: Blood on Rome, Season 3, Episode 2.

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