HBO and RAI Fiction’s lush adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan novels reached new heights in its second season. Following taciturn Elena (Margherita Mazzucco) and magnetic Lila (Gaia Girace) as teenagers, “The Story of a New Name” is a bruising look at the everyday damage that being a girl at the mercy of careless men can incur. The entire season is a marvel, especially as Girace gets to sink her teeth into the increasingly complex role of Lila, the so-called “brilliant friend” now spending her days lashing out from within the confines of her abusive marriage to Stefano (Giovanni Amura).
In the premiere, Elena comes to understand the horrific situation her friend’s now in when Stefano comes home early while she’s visiting Lila, causing Lila to immediately freeze as Stefano boils over. As Elena leaves, Stefano turns on Lila, and all Elena can do is bang on the front door to get let back in while her friend disappears behind it in a fog of rage. The staging of this scene is remarkably effective and absolutely wrenching, setting up a toxic dynamic that’s only going to get worse.