“The Borgias” Review: Blood, Scandal, and the Quest for Power

Written by Hana Elniwairi May 27, 2012

“Sometimes goodness needs the help of a little badness.”

What Is It?

“The Borgias” is a historical show about the family of Pope Alexander VI, aka Rodrigo Borgia, and their rise to power in the late 15th century. Yes, that may sound pretty boring to those who don’t care much for history, but some trivia might peek your interest. The Borgias were considered the ‘first crime family’ because, well, their ascension to power wasn’t exactly pure. They were part of Mario Puzo’s inspiration when writing his infamous book(s), The Godfather. The family is also part of the plot in popular video game, Assassin’s Creed.

Who’s In It?

“The Borgias” features Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons (Reversal of Fortune, Scar in The Lion King) as Rodrigo Borgia. His family is portrayed by Francois Arnaud as Cesare, the eldest son, David Oakes as Juan, another son, and Holliday Grainger as Lucrezia, the 14-years old daughter. These three are probably the characters that transform the most in the series. The show features Colm Feore as its main antagonist as Cardinal della Rovere, a man who despises the newly elected Borgia pope who he believes is a deceptive, blasphemous bastard . . . which, most of the time, is true.

So What’s the Big Deal?

Character development makes or breaks a show and “The Borgias” has plenty of it. By last week’s episode, the Cesare we see is quite different from the one in the pilot, but the differences are organic. Gradual changes, little bits and pieces, but the payoff is huge.

This family, by description alone, should be the villians of the show, but instead, they’re the protagonists, and you root for them, no matter how many horrible deeds they’ve committed. The show achieves this by developing the characters to show that their intentions aren’t always dark and malicious. The pope isn’t exactly what you might think of when picturing a pope; first off, he has four children, fathered by a woman whose reputation isn’t stellar. He also has another mistress, Giuilia Farnese. On top of all that, he bought his way to the papacy, and does not shy away from using any means necessary to get what he wants. Rodrigo’s love for his family, and constant effort to restore Rome and the Church’s glory are often the reason he takes such drastic measures to achieve his goals.

I was amazed by how many seemingly insignificant details from earlier on seemed to carry much more meaning as the show progressed. Small tidbits of information that you don’t think twice about are expanded upon, and everything is just always falling into place in some grand scheme. It’s great storytelling.

What Should I Do About It?

You should go watch “The Borgias”. Right now. I demand it. Well, not really. However, “The Borgias” is a highly enjoyable show, especially if you’re into period pieces. It has everything a non-historic show does, all the action, sex, drama, and blood, and it’s even better, because these people actually existed. Think “The Tudors”, only better. I suggest watching the show right from the start of season 1, but if not, the creators have done an excellent job with a mini-synopsis at the beginning of each episode.  Enjoy.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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About Hana Elniwairi

Hana is a student at UWO, studying Psychology and Creative Writing. She enjoys watching movies and TV, no matter how much she complains about them or claims otherwise.

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