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The Borgias: Time Well-Spent

April 3, 2011

Photo credit: Showtime

I am typically not a fan of historical dramas. Let me get that out of the way upfront. I typically avoid big-budget costume movies like Robin Hood, Braveheart, the whole Lord of the Rings series; they do absolutely nothing for me. That being said, the medium of television usually offers more structure, more development of both the characters and the setting, more… everything. With that, I am more open-minded to trying out a show such as The Borgias (tonight on Showtime). I do recall sometimes reticently watching The Tudors with my roommate. He loved it and, well, that was what was going on in our living room in that tiny-ass apartment we shared. It was either that or sit in my bedroom. The Tudors was.. okay, but definitely never reached must-watch status. If I missed a few episodes, it didn’t break my heart the way missing, say, 30 minutes of Parenthood would. Nevertheless, I have the pilot for The Borgias on DVR. Sliding it in now. More to come…


Okay, I watched it. Actually, I watched the first four episodes. It’s pretty good. You know, for me, it’s all about character – and story – development. They have achieved that well. The setting? Rome, 1492. Pope Innocent VIII lies dying and everyone wants his job. Rodrigo Borgias, one of the Cardinals of the church, muscles and buys his way into the Papacy, making enemies along the way. This sets the scene for the series, with murder, bribery, corruption all being central to the storytelling. The Borgias, which was a real family, have long held an infamous reputation in history books. According to rumor, Niccolò Machiavelli’s famous The Prince is based on Cesare Borgias. And yes, that is where the term “Machiavellian” comes from. Additionally, Mario Puzo’s The Godfather was widely influenced by The Prince, and hence, the Borgias family. No wonder Showtime’s marketing department chose “the original crime family” as their tagline.

The cast includes Oscar-winning actor Jeremy Irons in the lead role of Rodrigo Borgias/Pope Alexander VI. Playing the role with a sort of energetic ennui, he gives the character a certain lived-in nature that makes you forget that this is a new series. Twenty-three year old Holliday Grainger does an admirable job portraying the twelve year old Lucrezia with equal amounts of innocence and self-awareness. Joanne Whalley (well-known for portraying the titular role in Scarlett, the television sequel to the classic film Gone With the Wind) gives a solid performance of Rodrigo’s longtime mistress and mother to the Borgias children. But the real find here is François Arnaud, the Canadian-born actor who has found success in film, television and theatre. Playing Cesare Borgias (he who inspired Machiavelli), he allows the viewers to witness his world through his eyes. Blending his quest for power with small doses of morality, he gives us someone to root for; the classic bad boy with good intentions.

So am I won over? I won’t go that far, but I definitely will watch more episodes. I am intrigued with what’s going to happen next and plan to stick for the time being. The Borgias airs on Showtime, Sunday nights at 9PM EST. There is an interview with Jeremy Irons, discussing his character, embedded below. It provides great insight for the show.To learn more about The Borgias, feel free to check any of the sites below:


Official THE BORGIAS Facebook page
Official THE BORGIAS Twtter feed
Official THE BORGIAS Series Site


Oh! And I almost forgot! I have two The Borgias posters to give away. Hmmm… how do I work that? Send me a message telling me why you should get them. Yeah. That works. I have ’em. They can be yours.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 4, 2011 1:26 PM

    I knew you would like Cesare. I think he will steal this show from Irons who always seems pervy (yes my word) to me since seeing him in Lolita.
    You know this is my type of genre; the period piece and I hope it doesn’t disappoint.

  2. pat permalink
    April 4, 2011 6:07 PM

    Lovely review, but you forgot to mention the very lovely and very talented british actor David Oakes playing Juan Borgia. I know he wasn’t in the first two episodes much, but he is a force to be reckoned with. And he is also one of the members of the family. You will see what I mean next epsiode. Keep your eye out for him, he’s brilliant!

    • April 4, 2011 6:30 PM

      Hmmm…. actually, I didn’t forget Oakes as much as opt not to mention him. As you said, he’s not seen in the first two episodes, but to be honest, he didn’t really stand out to me too much in the third and fourth. I am making the assumption that his character will be fleshed out as the season progresses, but at the 4-episode mark (which is where I am), I chose to mention the characters who seem the most interesting to me. No offense to Mr. Oakes or you. I do appreciate you reading the review!

  3. April 24, 2011 10:13 PM

    Nice post. Historical drama—yes, can be disappointing in the big budget movie format. Love the Borgias for the reason you stated: time to develop character and structure. The Borgias had a powerful impact on England and the Stuart succession that had to give way to the Hanoverians and German influence in Great Britain, which is my area of interest.


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