Rebecca Patton – Dec 4, 2018
Spoilers ahead for My Brilliant Friend Episodes 5 and 6. Elena (Margherita Mazzucco) and Lila (Gaia Girace) are growing up, and with that comes attention from men. And while it’s been obvious from the beginning that women don’t have much agency in the adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan novels, the sexual assault in My Brilliant Friend Episodes 6 is still difficult to stomach. The show’s realistic depiction of 1950s Naples — especially when it comes to what women can and cannot do — is impressively executed.
However, in these most recent episodes, My Brilliant Friend‘s heavy subject matterbecomes weightier still — subject matter like sexual assault, violence against women, and men’s inability to take no for an answer. With such heavy themes, it’s puzzling how anyone is watching the episodes back to back the way HBO is releasing them, rather than allow audiences to chew on each installment for longer.
Up until this point in the series, Lila and Elena have both been confined to their neighborhood; however, the Greco girl finally gets to see the world outside of their dusty, suffocating walls in Episode 6. Her former teacher, Maestra Oliviero, gives her the opportunity to stay with her cousin in Ischia, an island off the coast of Naples. There, Lenu passes a blissful summer on the beach, swimming, reading books, and writing unreturned letters to Lila. To make things even more exciting, Elena’s old crush, Nino Sarratore (Francesco Serpico), shows up with his family, and they begin spending time together. It soon becomes clear that Nino hates his father, Donato Sarratore, although he’s both charismatic and kind.