Romanzo Criminale II

Romanzo Criminale by Lilly A


An exclusive Romanzo Criminale illustration for The Substantive by Lilly Allen. Details of The Substantive t-shirt with another original design by Lilly Allen is at the bottom of this piece.

Carrying on where Season One left off, the second-half of Romanzo Criminale completes the story of the rise and fall of a criminal gang in Rome with ten more episodes of sublime television. Now in decline, imploding within and struggling to manage external forces, the gang’s tale continues at a fast pace throughout the eighties with style, in both sound and vision.

Starting with the first shot and The Kinks ‘You Really Got Me’, the score is perfect throughout season two, with the music either capturing the mood or adding to the atmosphere; it is hard to think of a long running television drama where incidental music has been used more effectively, always complementing the action, never patronising the viewer and at times, as with the Joy Division wrap at the end of episode seven, elevating the experience of a montage of multiple threads.

The cinematography and set design are also of the highest quality; contrasting the dark basement where the gang operate, a parasite accountant lives in luxury while a grey office full of archive boxes and lever arch files, with a packed stationary pot, a TV set and two phones, is the control room of the conspiracy unfolding before us.

Alongside the painting of a broader canvas, the attention to detail is also careful as the action unfolds, from Italy’s exploits in the 1982 World Cup, an overseen death at Blackfriars Bridge and financial speculating with the knowledge of where FIFA votes are going before the 1990 hosts are chosen.

New characters are introduced with ease, with Donatella quickly becoming a big player who impresses Freddo while putting other noses out of joint. Freddo is of course in turmoil, embroiled in a life he thought was leaving behind. While he morphs into a look-a-like of the laid back Brazilian footballer Socrates, Dandi, via stages of cardigans and tweed, is gathering a cotton ball mouth like Brando in The Godfather, as the appearance of both suggest the respective lifestyles they would like to be leading.

Of the other established characters from the first season, Scialoja’s anger and frustration grow as he continues to chase both the gang and Patrizia, somehow stopping short of literally banging his head against his cluttered desk or the notice board pinned with surveillance photographs. As his efforts intensify his own morals loosen, his decision making becomes suspect and the collateral damage grows. And as her options becoming increasingly murky, Patrizia herself has to decide when to be pragmatic and when to be clinical.

With the development of strong characters there is also room for comedy in the writing amidst the noir; a honey trap in a gay bar with a couple of hesitant patsies followed in a consecutive scene by two of the gang with eyes bigger than their bellies making a sandwich while in the act of arson, is a particular highlight.

Throughout the story there is an emphasis on the notion of a binding commitment to ‘The Gang’ that overrides all else. The use of flashbacks give more back story to the friendship of Libanese, Freddo and Dandi, which runs alongside the parallel of a story where most characters have either committed, or will commit, some form of betrayal.

The ambition of Romanzo Criminale is vast. The dual viewpoints of cops and robbers, the different genres that include a return to prison life and the scope of a story that started in the seventies and lasts until the fall of the Berlin Wall, via flashbacks to the childhoods of key characters, are all elements of the transfer of a novel based on real life events to television. The execution is excellent, and if the message is ‘Power Corrupts’, it is the delivery that stands out.


The Substantive is a platform for new, independent writing on popular culture. You can buy the e-book and/or t-shirt. Details below with links to pictures and reviews.


The Substantive ‘The Boss’ t-shirt, with an original print by the artist Lilly Allen, is 100% ultracotton and made by an ethical and environmental partner. Pictures, more details and a link to order here.

Glory Nights: From Wankdorf to Wembley

New, independent writing, ‘Glory Nights from Wankdorf to Wembley’ documents the journey that captures the culture of travelling to Europe watching football while examining a sport where money is valued alongside glory. It is available to preview for free and download in full for less than a pint of beer at the Olympic Park from Amazon and Smashwords. More details, including photos and links to reviews, here.