Who better to investigate a murder than a murder victim, right? That’s the concept behind the Italian crime show The Red Door – La Porta Rossa – and it’s a good one. In the UK, Channel 4’s foreign crime show streaming service Walter Presents has already made season one of this series available, and from Friday 15 September 2023, you’ll be able to stream season two. It will be available in North America on MHz Choice from 25 October.
We’ll be honest – unlike some of the characters in the series – and say up front that this isn’t a programme for everyone. In fact, it’s highly unusual. However, if you’re an open-minded crime fiction lover who enjoys the variety the genre offers, The Red Door is a rare gem. Noir Italiano to savour.
The main character is Commissario Leonardo Cagliostro (Lino Guanciale), a detective in the Trieste police force. At the beginning of the first series, he was killed by an unknown person in a case involving drug trafficking. Instead of stepping through the red door to the afterlife, he decides to stick around. When season two opens, he is still watching over his estranged wife, Anna Mayer (Gabriella Pession) and unborn daughter and during the first episode she goes into labour. However, there are complications during baby Vanessa’s birth. In these moments, Cagliostro has visions of crimes occurring in a disused metal factory down at the old port. He believes his daughter will be kidnapped and taken there.
Cut to a gang of young adults – graffiti artists and musicians – riding their mopeds through the rain and breaking into said factory. They tag the place, crack open a few beers, get their instruments out and start playing New Age Folk tunes. Suddenly, a man arrives, insulting, castigating and threatening them. There’s a confrontation. A knife. A gun. The youngsters vanish, but one of them returns to the scene. There on the floor, Filip finds the body of Mauro Brezigar, a career criminal just released from police custody.
Because of what he saw during his daughter’s birth, the ghost of Cagliostro arrives to visit Vanessa Rosic (Valentina Romani). Not only is she Filip’s girlfriend, but she’s the only person who can see Cagliostro and she’s not happy with the way he abandoned her in season one. However, Vanessa needs his help because Filip could end up the chief suspect in Brezigar’s murder. Vanessa has already helped Filip by disposing of his blood-soaked clothing from the crime scene.
Several other subplots twist through this 12-episode second season. One is that of Jonas Sala (Andrea Bosca), who has woken up after 30 years in a coma. He was a criminal, who ended up that way after being shot in the head. Like Cagliostro, he’s on a quest for justice. In season one, Sala and Cagliostro worked together as ghosts but now that he’s in the world of the living, will he still be able to see and work with the dead policeman?
Then there’s the case of Rambelli, the former deputy police chief who is due to stand trial. His life in detention is becoming increasingly difficult, with both guards and fellow prisoners freezing him out. Something odd is still going on among Cagliostro’s old colleagues as well. They will now be investigating Brezigar’s murder – but is there a connection with the drug smuggling and killings in season one?
Viewing the first season is recommended but not obligatory if you want to pick up with season two. The plot and connections between the characters are perplexing at first, however it soon becomes quite engrossing. It’s usually fun when dead characters try to solve crimes, and that proves to be the case here. Although The Red Door season two does become dark and melancholy, it still feels like crime fiction rather than creepy or supernatural. There is also the beautiful architecture of old Trieste to admire.
Nominated for a Golden Globe, season two of La Porta Rossa aired in Italy in February and March 2019 and consists of 12 hour-long episodes. A third series, of eight episodes, aired in Italy earlier this year.