The Borgias – Season 1 Review

The Borgias is the sordid saga of one of the most remarkable and legendary families in history. Set in 15th century Italy at the height of the Renaissance, The Borgias chronicles the corrupt rise of patriarch Rodrigo Borgia to the papacy, where he proceeds to commit every sin in the book to amass and retain power, influence and enormous wealth for himself and his family. The Borgia family changed the face of Italy and Catholicism, and inspired works like Machiavelli’s The Prince, and Mario Puzo’s The Godfather.

The Borgias

The Borgias was created for Showtime by writer/director Neil Jordan, a well-known figure in the film industry probably best known for films such as The Crying Game and Interview with the Vampire. He had spent nine years trying to get The Borgias going as a movie when Showtime approached him to make a series. The Canadian-Irish-Hungarian co-production was filmed at the Korda Film Studios in Hungary in five massive soundstages, and cost a whopping $40 million to film the 9 episode run. The series proved to be one of Showtime’s biggest hits this year averaging 3.3 million weekly viewers and outperforming the highest-rated season of The Tudors by 20% (season four, 2.7 million).

Being a historical drama, The Borgias is largely aimed at an older audience, slightly more skewed towards female viewers. But with their campaign to Continue reading

The Borgias – Nobody Review

Abandoned by even his cardinals, Alexander meets King Charles with humility and saves his throne, even eliciting a confession from the conqueror he crowns as the new “King of France and Naples;” Della Rovere despairs as Charles abandons him; Lucrezia safely gives birth to a son in a convent as the Borgias secure an annulment of her marriage and plot revenge on their enemies.

The Borgia Family


Unfortunately this episode felt like a real anti-climax. With all of the tension built up over the last couple of episodes, I was expecting things to take a little longer to play out, but we got the resolution to the French invasion almost immediately. I know that this is how it happened, that King Charles got the Pope to recognise his claim on Naples and invest him as King of both France and Naples, but there was no real tension when Continue reading

The Borgias – The Art of War Review

The invaders capture a fleeing and pregnant Lucrezia as they march on Rome, but she charms King Charles and is allowed to persuade her brother Juan to withdraw his hopelessly outmatched defensive troops; Pope Alexander VI awaits to learn of his fate as Charles enters the city and makes his way to the Vatican.

King Charles & Lucrezia in front of the French Army


While this episode was all leading up to a big conclusion, it thankfully didn’t suffer the problems of the previous episode. There was a lot of substance here, and it felt like the characters had all played their hands, and were just waiting to see what happened. The brutal battle scenes were all the more shocking for how brief and sudden they were, serving to highlight what’s at stake for everybody.

Rodrigo’s persistence in the face of certain defeat speaks very strongly Continue reading

The Borgias – Death on a Pale Horse Review

The invasion by King Charles of France and Della Rovere proceeds with victory seemingly inevitable as the French sack the city of Lucca and the Italian powers flee to their banner, with Lucrezia’s husband Giovanni Sforza poised to join them in the name of Milan.

Machiavelli invites King Charles to enter Florence


Everything is going wrong for the Borgias, the French have invaded, and Lucrezia’s husband is almost ready to hop back into the marital bed.

This was an episode that at first seemed like it was going to have a lot more action in it, but it settled down again pretty quickly as we saw the fallout of the brutal sacking of Lucca. The explosive advance of the French war machine is a real contrast Continue reading

The Borgias – The French King Review

Della Rovere reaches France and strikes a bargain with its ruler to invade Italy and install him on the Papal throne in exchange for control of Naples; Rodrigo attempts to thwart the invasion through an alliance by marrying his youngest son Joffre to Princess Sancia of Naples (guest star Emmannuelle Chriqui), but Juan nearly sabotages the plan by seducing his prospective sister-in-law.

Cardinal Della Rovere and the French King


Oh little Lucrezia, I can’t blame you for your indiscretions, but we both know that it’s not going to end well.  Holliday Grainger continues to shine in this role, playing up the innocence of Lucrezia while at the same kind showing small aspects of the manipulator that Lucrezia was often made out to be. Her little affair with the stable boy has a real tension to it as we wait Continue reading

The Borgias – The Borgias in Love Review

Alternately neglected and abused by her cruel husband, Lucrezia has an affair with Paolo, a handsome stable boy; Cesare strikes a bargain with Machiavelli: deny French troops passage across his masters’ lands in exchange for suppression of Savonarola, a fiery preacher of anti-Medici sermons; in love with baroness Ursula, Cesare takes drastic action to get rid of her husband.

Cesare and Ursula


Already, the relationship between the Borgias and the Sforzas is starting to strain. Alliances were very fickle in this day and age, and the show is doing a great job of setting up the storm that is coming for these characters. The interplay of the various alliances and counter-alliances is one of the things that makes this show so interesting.

The episode really opened with a bang, with a beautiful but surreal Continue reading

The Borgias – Lucrezia’s Wedding Review

Lucrezia is deeply disappointed to discover her real mother has been banned from her wedding to Giovanni Sforza, whom she’s never met. Meanwhile, Della Rovere goes to Florence to broker a deal with the powerful Medici family and meets with their adviser Machiavelli. At the wedding reception, the bride’s brothers Juan and Cesare create serious breaches of etiquette, with the latter causing a scene by dancing and flirting with an influential baron’s wife.

Rodrigo and Lucrezia


This episode follows on nicely from the tragic and violent climax to ‘The Moor‘ with Lucrezia (Holliday Grainger) sick and grieving over the death of her friend. And it doesn’t get much better from there for poor Lucrezia. This episode once again hammers home exactly how little power women had in those days; they were just cattle to be bought and sold to the highest bidder. This treatment is very much in evidence in this episode with the Borgia women being ordered around and married off to suit the political whims of the Pope.

Yet at the same time Jeremy Irons does a fantastic job of showing Continue reading