So, I've been watching The Borgias. And I have to say, I give it two thumbs up. It's got a great cast, wonderful costuming and set dressing, and it's full of murder, sex and intrigue. Exactly my kind of TV. Although, really, what's not to like about a show about a controversial Pope and his illegitimate children? (Especially one created by Neil Jordan. Yes, that Neil Jordan.)
|The Pope plotting with Cesare.|
The show also includes the infamous Lucrezia Borgia. Played by Holliday Grainger, she is first shown as young teenager, unspoilt and lovely. She befriends her father's new mistress, Guilia Farnese, and begins to learn what her role in life will be - someone with little power unless she uses her beauty and wit to her best advantage. Lucrezia's mother Vanozza makes up the third in this triangle of women. She portrays Rodrigo's former mistress and mother of his children, cast over by him once he became Pope.
|Guilia and Lucrezia.|
|The Pope, getting a headache from his Cardinals.|
Some of the marketing for this show described Rodrigo as the first Godfather, with Cesare as the first consigliere and Lucrezia as the first mob princess. While this is possibly appropriate for Cesare - he was already fairly unscrupulous, and his new BFF the assassin Micheletto merely enables him to branch out into murder - it seems like only a partially accurate description. There are power struggles in The Borgias, sure, but comparing this show to something like the Sopranos is setting up false expectations. Think less organised crime, more power politics. And family drama; Rodrigo craves power, and his whole family pays for it. I suppose they are like a mob family, in their loyalty towards each other and ruthlessness towards anyone standing in their way, but I'd compare them more closely to a political or business dynasty. (Or Game of Thrones, but without the dragons.)
|Cesare and Micheletto, negotiating their friendship.|
The politics of 15th century Italy are a primary driver for much of what happens, as the Vatican was a huge seat of power in an unintegrated land. Italy of the time was divided into many principalities, all with a variety of rulers, and the security of Borgia's reign depended greatly on his ability to secure allegiances with the great houses - the Medicis in Florence, the Sforzas in the north in Milan and east near Forli, the rulers of Naples, and so on. Rodrigo marries Lucrezia off to the Sforzas and opens communication with Florence, Milan and Naples, but someone else seeks alliances with the major houses - Cardinal della Rovere, played by Colm Feore, whom Borgia defeated in the competition for Pope. He has become determined to see Borgia deposed, and it becomes a race to determine whether Borgia (and Cesare, and Micholetto) can secure his Papacy before della Rovere returns.
I won't tell you how it ends, or give away the many and varied storylines and intrigues I haven't mentioned. You'll just have to get hold of a copy of season 1, and see for yourself. As for me, I can't wait to start watching season 2.
|Well? Do you think you could take them on?|