Working in law enforcement is dangerous all over the world, but especially in Italy where the mafia often targets police officers, prosecutors, and judges. In Palermo, members of the special units that go after organized crime are high profile and high risk. And sometimes the enemy is within, a mole being paid off by the mafia to work against the dedicated officers who put their lives on the line each day.
The Anti-Mafia Squad, with two seasons available for streaming on MHz Choice, stands out for placing two female characters at the center of the action. As a young police officer, Claudia Mares (Simona Cavallari) saved the life of a little girl, Rosy, whose parents died when their car was destroyed by a bomb. Claudia later learned that Rosy’s father belonged to a powerful mafia family.
Sixteen years later, Rosy Abate (Giulia Michelini) and her fiancé, Salvo, return from America to Palermo for their wedding. There’s a happy reunion with Rosy’s brothers, Nardo (Sergio Friscia), Carmine (Jacopo Francesco Cavallaro), and Vito (Luca Angeletti). After meeting the Abate brothers, Salvo asks Rosy, “What do your brothers do for a living?” Rosy responds: “Something like construction, I think. Like in New York.”
Mares, now a Deputy Superintendent of Police, is also back in Palermo from Rome where she plans to meet with Stephano Lauria (Massimo Poggio), a former colleague. A member of the anti-mafia squad investigating the Abate family, Lauria wants Claudia to attend Rosy’s wedding. Although Claudia has kept in touch with Rosy over the years, she’s reluctant to take advantage of her friendship with the young woman. That all changes when Lauria is shot and killed in front of her. Claudia not only stays in Palermo, but becomes part of its anti-mafia squad.
Claudia attends Rosy’s wedding and arranges for Nardo to be arrested during the festivities. Rosy, who managed to avoid the family business while in New York, now finds herself getting more involved. Salvo, however, wants out and convinces his new wife to go back to the United States. On the way to the airport, men on a motorcycle chase their car and kill Salvo. Believing that a rival family caused her fiancé’s death, Rosy is now on a mission for revenge.
The other members of the anti-mafia squad are trying to accept Mares’ leadership after the death of Lauria. For her part, Claudia doesn’t trust all the officers, particularly when the mafia stays one step ahead of the squad. Suspecting a mole, Mares reaches out to a deputy commissioner, Ivan Di Meo (Claudio Gioè), and the two soon become lovers. The search for the spy, however, will tear apart Mares’ team and threaten the investigation.
The Anti-Mafia Squad is a gritty series. While the bloodshed is less than one might view on the Italian series Gomorrah (HBO Max), there are several scenes of torture and murder that might lead some to use their remote to fast forward. And there’s less focus on Sicily’s scenery and food, so brilliantly displayed in the popular MHz offering, Inspector Montalbano. Moments of humor, when they occur, are between two of Mares’ officers, in the first season, Africa (Marco Leonardi) and Gigante (Raffaele Vannoli), and in the second season, Sandro (Giordano De Plano) and Luca (Francesco Mandelli). Alfiere (Antonino Bruschetta), who becomes one of Mares’ loyal lieutenants and confidantes, is in both seasons.
But the friendship and rivalry between Claudia and Rosy remains at the heart of the series. Their loyalties to each other and their families (for Mares, that means her fellow officers, for Rosy, her blood family) are tested again and again. For Rosy, the question becomes one of nature versus nurture. Raised in America, away from the beliefs and violence that might have surrounded her in Palermo, and influenced by Claudia’s heroic effort to save her life, can she turn her back on her brothers when they need her? One cannot help think of another fictional character faced with that decision, Michael Corleone. We all know how that turned out.
The Anti-Mafia Squad can be streamed on MHz Choice.
Photos courtesy of MHz Choice