DVD Review– The Palermo Connection
The Italian-language miniseries The Palermo Connection centers around twin themes: first, that it is impossible to escape your past, and second, that it is impossible to escape your conscience.
When Angelo Caronia (Riccardo Scamarcio), a talented but arrogant investigator for the Italian police, alienates his superiors and is too proud to apologize, he is exiled to his hometown of Palermo, on the island of Sicily. It’s a lovely area with beautiful countryside, elegant buildings… and hardly any running water. As Caronia discovers to his great frustration, the town’s plumbing only delivers potable water for a few hours a day, if at all.
As Caronia meets his new team, he’s initially disgusted by what he sees as a mixed bag of investigators—aside from one veteran who’s an effective administrator and Daniela (Valentina Lodovini), the sole female on the team, whom Caronia is interested in for far more personal reasons. The other members of the team include a soccer fanatic, a devoted son caring for his ailing father, and a young fan of techno who is only working for the police until he can make it in the music industry. These police officers are competent but uninspired in their work because they’re used to the deeply entrenched corruption that never changes. Caronia’s leadership gradually convinces them that perhaps they can make a difference with their job after all.
As the plot unfolds, Caronia’s backstory is gradually revealed through flashbacks and dialogue. Caronia is the illegitimate son of Santrocastro, one of Palermo’s most influential mobsters. The mobster’s recognized son, Biasco (Michele Riondino), is Caronia’s oldest friend, longtime rival, Daniela’s boyfriend… and completely unaware that Caronia is his half-brother. Biasco is making a precarious living running a floundering bicycle factory and is trying to avoid his father’s attempts to draw him back into the family’s organized crime business.
The relationship between the feuding half-brothers is at the heart of the narrative. As the story unfolds, it becomes obvious to the viewer (though not the characters) that Caronia is looking for an opportunity to bring down Biasco by destroying his half-brother’s business, reputation, and relationship with Daniela. The love triangle among the three tends to bring out the worst in all these characters, especially in the possessive resolution to the quandary. By the end I wasn’t rooting for any of them, aside from the one completely innocent individual ensnared in this twisted relationship of one-upmanship and undermining.
More satisfying than the romantic subplot is the murder investigation, as a series of bodies is discovered in various aquatic locations, from swimming pools to the gorgeous coast to country ponds. As the team and their allies investigate, the murders and assorted mysterious happenings seem to be connected to the mob and the water paucity, but the ”why” remains elusive until the end.
Though it takes some time for the six-part series to become engrossing, this tale of greed, violence, and sibling rivalry is definitely worth watching.
(Content advisory: some sex and violence.)
The Palermo Connection (Italian-language series)