Elsa

The Borgias...initial thoughts...

Sunday night was the big premiere...no not the 15 actually only 14 minutes 'cause we were ripped off preview of A Game of Thrones bu the actual 2 hour extravaganza that was The Borgias. I would have posted my thoughts yesterday but once again Livejournal was acting up and I was not able to access. Further, I have attempted to post this over a dozen times today with no luck. If this manages to get posted I will not be spell checking or previewing so I apologize if it looks odd or if there are errors within. Anyhow, my much-longer-than-initially-anticipated review of the first episode follows below. If you don't want to bother with the lengthy details just know one thing about this series: I recommend that you watch it...it's is a luscious feat of imagery and deserves your audience.

Let's just start forthright - I am not a scholar of the Italian Renaissance or the Borgias. I am simply a fan with vested interest. If I had a time machine there would be little hesitation on my part to turn the dial to the late 15th century to be a part of it. I must thank Showtime for giving me the opportunity to at least have a glimpse into what it may have been like. Since the Showtime series' The Tudors set the precedent for The Borgias I fully expect a plethora of historical inaccuracies that will no doubt piss off the historical purists to no end. But if Showtime is able to capture the spirit of the times and raise interest in the history of the Borgias then they will have done their job. There are certainly plenty of books and websites out there to satisfy the curiosity of the Borgia newbs but it should be noted that most accounts of the Borgias are provided by their rivals - in other words, they are not very flattering portrayals. People must remember to take the Borgias with a grain of salt. Yes, the family was involved in such licentious behaviour as bribery, theft, murder, adultery, rape, incest (?) and the buying and selling of ecclesiastical offices but honestly SO WAS EVERY OTHER MAJOR FAMILY IN ITALY at that time.

Things I liked about the series:

First and foremost...gorgeous, gorgeous to look at. The sets, the costumes, the filming itself. I just kept thinking 'wow, I want a screencap of that' mostly whenever Cesare was on...suffice to say the boy is rather 'aesthetically charming'. Even the opening credits are sumptuous not to mention the score. If there is a soundtrack I must have it.

I enjoyed that a good deal of focus was placed on the discrimination against the Borgia (or should I at this time refer to them as 'Borja') family simply because they were Spanish and not Roman/'Italian'. Truthfully most of the books I've read about the Borgias gloss this fact over and neglect to see the impact of that prejudice as a motivating factor spurring the family forward in their actions.

I liked that the series started off with a somewhat naive, ideal Lucrezia. There were hints of her initial ability and blossoming desire to take in as much as she can of what is going on around her and learn from it. I want to see her grow up, through better and worse, to become the infinitely wise and competent woman that she is destined to become. It will be both difficult and compelling to watch this girl mature, facing all that is thrown at her, with equal parts of vulnerability and rigidity. People often talk about a girl 'losing her virginity' but is more frequently considered only in the pure physical form. I have hope that this series will aptly portray Lucrezia's loss of virginity in every sense of the word.

Much like Lucrezia, I loved how they didn't show us the ruthless, cut-throat Cesare Borgia that we know of as Machiavelli's ideal prince. Chez was multi-faceted and that kept him human...and somewhat vulnerable. His love  for his family and his desire to see their safety and success above all else had already been implanted by the series as Cesare's motivating factor. I trust Cesare will carry that forward as his role within the family evolves. I sympathized with him for it seemed like he was honestly the only rationale member of the family. Poor stressed guy trying to hold it all together. Personal goals and morals vs family responsibility. And talk about pressure from daddy-dearest...um, Chez, "God will forgive us my son, but I will not forgive failure from you...". By the way Chez, you are going to be stuck in the priesthood, which you hate, but hey, it's 'for the good of the family'....*rolls eyes*. I wanted to weep for the boy. As for Francois Arnaud as Cesare Borgia....*RAWR* *insert naughty thoughts here* Interesting that the first time we see Ceseare Borgia, just four minutes into the series, he is having sex...'nuff said.

In addition to all of Cesare's 'good' traits (or perhaps, for some, they are really 'faults') it was gratifying to see his budding bromance with Micheletto who clearly has the advantageous ability to recognize the more basic and base facts of life as they go on in the cruel Roman underbelly that even the brilliant and effectual mind of Cesare Borgia fails to notice. (No wonder, too many things to deal with - I so wanted to give my baby some B vitamins and tell him to take a yoga break...or just get laid, again,...LOL) Yes, I like this bromance. It may not be Arthur + Merlin or even Titus Pullo + Lucius Vorenus but it's a good one and definitely slash-worthy if you like that sort of stuff (I'm recalling that whipping scene right now...*raises eyebrow*)

As for the other 'romance', unlike most people I loved the way they portrayed the 'borderline incestuous' relationship of Chez and Crezia. They loved each other...plain and simple. I saw no problem with it. It seemed completely justified...Chez doted on her..she was his sister and he loved her more than anything and she was happy for his love. She was the lightness in his dark world and it was only when he was with her that he was able to discard his gravitas and discover true happiness and serenity. The scenery even mirrored and amplified this fact - notice Chez' s scenes with Lucrezia = all sunny, bright, light and airy almost ethereal, whereas Chez's scenes with everyone else = darky, grimy and sinsister. And no wonder that Cesare wanted to protect her so much. He has seen the tainted world around him and doesn't want Lucrezia to be part of that. He needs to keep her pure...even if it is for his own sanity. Yes it's love...but just how far the series will push it is hard to say. Remember as I previously stated the history of the Borgias is written by their enemies so who knows what is and what isn't true about Chez and Crezia's relationship. If the series continues to keep it the way it was last night I'd be pleasantly surprised.

Jeremy Irons...perfect. PERIOD. He may not look like Rodrigo Borgia but he oozes devilish charm from every pore...you can't love but you can't hate him either. Pretty much sums up Rodrigo IMO. Plus he gets bonus points for his ecclesiastical Latin pronunciation...nice job by both him and Colm Feore in that department. Let's face it, the series has three important characters = Rodrigo, Cesare and Lucrezia. If these actors fail, the series will not work. As far as I'm concerned Showtime has done a wonderful job with this cast.

Things I disliked about the series:

Talk about 'in media res'...I hated that we were thrust into Rodrigo's imminent advent as Pope Alexander VI. There was something missing...a buildup of sorts. If I didn't know anything about the Borgias I'd be wondering if this Rodrigo guy was always this, ahem, nasty? If not, why now? Why did he need the papacy so badly? And, more importantly, who were the Borgias in the first place and just how did they fit into this world that we were so abruptly dropped into? Kind of makes it difficult for you to actually have any emotional connections with these characters....Then again, maybe that was the plan all along. But really...Pope Innocent keels over, some back hand deals are glossed over in the blink of an eye and suddenly there we are...habemus papus. Whoa...slow down a little...let us enjoy the rise of the Borgias first with all the accomplishments and stumbling blocks along the way.

LOL Pinturicchio - I thought it was rather humorous when Lucrezia said his painting wasn't that good. BTW, the actual Giulia Farnese painting "Portrait of a Young Woman with a Unicorn" was accredited to Raphael NOT Pinturicchio. I don't want to get nitpicky about facts but this one kind of irked me only because Rapha is my fav Renaissance painter and I have seen this actual portrait in Rome in the Borghese Gallery and it is one of my favs. However, Pinturicchio was in fact a Borgia artist and was responsible for the works in the Borgia apartments so it goes without saying that he would have painted Giulia on more than one occasion...just not THAT specific portrait.

Juan Borgia. OK, I can't possibly like this man...I have and always will despise Juan Borgia. No offence to the actor who is portraying him (and doing a decent job so far) but you will need to do one hell of a job to convince me to even like this man one iota. Once a douchebag, always a douchebag. Ugggh, I can't even.

Too much politic, too little family. I get it, and in this instance I'll let it slide. The first few episodes need to set the political climate of the Vatican and how the Borgia unit fits in but if this series is about THE BORGIAS I would really appreciate if the focus would be on the entire family (yes, even Juan...*gags*). I do expect that will happen more and more as the series progresses.

Overall I'd give it an 8.5 out of 10. Not as good as Rome. As good as, if not better than, The Tudors. Of course extra bonus points are warranted for the brilliant casting of Cesare Borgia (time for the Phoebe Buffay quote..."good job, he's just like I always imagined"). And on that note, some of my fav quotes from the first episode to close this post...

(after the Cesare sex scene...)
Woman: You're a cleric?
Cesare: Didn't you notice?
Woman: There was nothing ecclesiastical about you last night.

(re: the assembly of Cardinals)
Rodrigo: Let him without children cast the first stone.

(to Giulia Farnese)
Rodrigo: If you ever find yourself in need of 'spiritual comfort'
(I'm now referring to that as the official Borgia pick up line...LOL)
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I saw as much of it as possible since it was on late and I was sick...I must have fallen asleep after the halfway mark, though.

I loved it! Can't say much more than that...I agree with all the things you liked about it.

And sure, it's no Rome. I'd like to see the series that could beat Rome, but it is interesting and well made enough to keep me watching.

There is a chance it could become less political down the road. The writers, producers, etc. may just be trying to establish a political framework for the story about the family, which I also hope becomes more developed over time.

Now bring on GAME OF THRONES! :)
IKR...I can't wait for A Game of Thrones. AGoT and The Borgias will be on back to back on Sunday nights. It will be a dream come true and a night of perfect entertainment.
Sunday nights are definitely going to be my 'personal space' time, when absolutely no one will be allowed to bug me for anything. ;)