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131 of 155 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Does power corrupt, or is corruption powerful?, 25 Aug. 2011
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This review is from: The Borgias - Season 1 [DVD] (DVD)
It is 1492 Columbus has just discovered the America's, Ferdinand and Isabella have kicked the moors out of Spain, and with the pope on his deathbed Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia (Jeremy Irons) makes a power play to ascend to the Holy See. The stage is set for another Showtime historical Drama.

Coming off the back of the very successful Tudors series (even Henry ran out of wives in the end), Showtime have stuck with their audience and lavished the Borgia's with the big budget treatment. The story will be less familiar here in the UK, but in Renaissance Italy the Borgia's were a dynastic family (from Spain), contemporaries of the Medici's and Machiavelli. The tag line for the series is `The original crime family' and with good reason - Rodrigo and his family will stop at nothing in their quest for temporal and spiritual power, even Tony Soprano could admire their black manoeuvres, indeed the family's reputation for ruthlessness inspired Mario Puzo's to mold the characters featured in "The Godfather" after the real life Borgia's, yet like Tony they have to grapple with the reality of their actions.

The first season runs to just nine episodes, setting the stage, inviting us into Renaissance Italy, and introducing the players. The premiere starts with the death of the reigning Pope, which leaves a vacancy that ambitious Cardinal Rodrigo (Irons) intends to claim at any price. Through back room deals and other nefarious deeds, Rodrigo ascends to power while making a firm enemy of Cardinal Della Rovere (a solid Colm Feore)--an act that will have long range repercussions as the exiled Cardinal aligns with outside forces to unseat the Pope. Appointing his eldest son Cesare (Francois Arnaud) as a Cardinal, second son Juan (David Oakes) to military leadership, and arranging an advantageous marriage for daughter Lucrezia (Holliday Grainger)--the Pope is moves to shore up his political position. In the game of great families each child is a chess piece moved for advantage, and must grapple with playing their part as they deal with personal drama, danger, romance, and intrigue.

As the duel plays out with Cardinal Della Rovere, each side reaches out for allies to crush the other, and this is a primary story arc as the season reaches its conclusion.

"The Borgias" is a terrific technical production, and I'm sure owes plenty to the experienced gained from producing the Tudors. The sets, costumes, and period details all look great - while I'm sure an historian would pick holes in the lack of dirt, grime and warts, this is entertainment so why make it ugly? The action sequences, especially when it comes to the battlefield, are tense and brutal--with superb effects. The screenplays are smart, like the Tudors the action is tweaked, condensed and emphasised to wrap it into accessible one hour episodes, but there's also the slow build up of events and actual character development that heightens the impending drama.
I wasn't that impressed with Irons portrayal of Rodrogo as so sure and uncompromising in everything, that I'm not sure that it gives much depth. Arnaud has a quiet intensity as, perhaps, the show's most intriguing and complex character. And Grainger has a subtlety that I loved, developing from a complete innocent to a power player that's great to watch.

In essence you should know what you're getting here - an historical drama with the full range of perspectives on the human condition in the 15th century. The explicit sinfulness of the Pope may raise a few eyebrows, but hey folks it's a well documented historical fact and does make the show what it is. If you're ok with that you should enjoy the show.
It's not a completely convincing historical re-enactment with 100% fidelity to the life of the times, it's not trying to be, but it's damn good entertainment, and we've really enjoyed the story so far, just leaving the question - does power corrupt, or is corruption powerful?
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Showing 11-14 of 14 posts in this discussion
In reply to an earlier post on 5 Aug 2012 14:49:17 BDT
A. Simmons says:
The TV licence is for the BBC only.

Posted on 11 May 2013 19:25:46 BDT
Daenerys says:
It is a good review but why does it show up on the review section of 'Borgia'. 'The Borgias', which you are reviewing, is an entire different series than 'Borgia'. That being said, I enjoy both shows, they are both good, Borgia being a bit slower than The Borgias. If I had to make a preference though it would be The Borgias, I just love Holliday Grainger as Lucrezia and the chemistry between Holliday and Francois (Lucrezia and Cesare) is THE best chemistry I've EVER seen on screen. It takes my breath away. And I like how in The Borgias their relationship starts out as a very close brother/sister relationship. I saw an interview with Francois where he said the director of The Borgias complained about him and Holly having too much sexy chemistry on screen cause he didn't want to go into the whole incest relationship, but Holly and Francois had such amazing chemistry it was inevitable in season 3 to explore their love for each other in sinful ways... I also love how Holly is a huge Lucrezia fan herself and she and the costume designer read diaries of the real Lucrezia Borgia and anything they can grab their hands on to design costumes that could like what Lucrezia really wore on that occassion/during that time of her life, like the colors and garments and style she fancied. Makes it so authentic!

Posted on 16 Jun 2013 19:20:29 BDT
Kevin says:
This is reviewing the wrong product. Everything the reviewer says about "The Borgias" is correct. The trouble is, this DVD is NOT "The Borgias" with Jeremy Irons. It is a completely different series made by a different company with a different cast. Whether the reviewer has made an error or Amazon has linked the review to the wrong product, I do not know. Buyer beware - you might not get the product you want!

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Jul 2013 11:43:48 BDT
Dancer says:
The review may have gotten linked to some random stuff, but I reviewed this The Borgias - Season 1 [DVD]
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