“Suburra: Blood on Rome” thoughts, Season One, Episode Two: “Plebes and Patricians”

When I reviewed the series premiere of Suburra: Blood on Rome the other day I made a big deal about how its complicated organized-crime narrative’s many moving parts would probably crowd out the show’s potential with the need to burn through as much plot per episode as possible. There’s a professional reason for that. When you review TV shows for a living you’re not just reviewing the show in question, no matter how hard you try to make that happen — you’re reviewing it against other shows of its kind, and other shows not of its kind, and your overall understanding of how shows work generally. The Netflix release model, which basically opens up a spigot and blasts “Because you watched…” algorithms directly into your piehole, makes dealing with this all the more difficult. If the network is shoving shows down your gullet based on what it thinks you think about other shows, how can you not think about them yourself?

Folks, I goofed. But hey, it happens! I’ll try not to beat myself up about it.

As far as I can tell from its second installment, “Plebes and Patricians,” Suburra rules. When Netflix crime shows from Ozark Season One to Narcos Season Two dutifully but unimaginatively hit genre notes in their first few episodes, keeping you wishing and hoping for a payoff down the line, this fuckin’ thing delivers straight out the gate.

And yeah, I see the contradiction here. After admitting that comparing Suburra to other shows clouded my judgment after the pilot, I’m changing my tune based on…comparing Suburra to other shows. Oh well! As a critic, I’m in the liking-things business — that’s honestly how I see it, which is what makes middling work such a bummer for me. (Though it can be fun to write about.) If I’m going to err, I’d rather err on the side of enthusiasm. Not the kind of enthusiasm that inflates everything into a masterpiece or a life-lesson dispenser — that’s a problem of its own — but the “wheeeeeee, this is fun!” kind. Suburra serves that up by the bucketload.

The thing about roller-coaster rides is that if everything feels weightless, there’s no ride worth taking. You need to feel the weight of the car as you take the plunge, and the sturdiness of the track as it shakes beneath you. I think that’s where Suburra is distinguishing itself most.

Enjoying the hell out of Suburra at the moment. Here’s my review of the second episode for Decider.

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