In the midst of everyone – including myself – getting very rightfully excited over Game of Thrones, I feel I have a piece to say. Yes winter is indeed coming but it’s time to talk about the OTHER show about power, sex, corruption and incest. Based loosely on the history of the Borgias family, we have Jeremy freaking Irons as Pope Alexander VI, also known as Rodrigo Borgia, leading one of the most talented and chemistry-filled cast I’ve seen in a long time. Holliday Grainger (of the recent Great Expectations adaptation fame) is Lucrezia Borgia, the only daughter (so far) of His Holiness and has ungodly chemistry with Francois Arnaud, who plays the infamous elder Borgia sibling, Cesare. David Oakes also stars as Juan Borgia, everyone’s favourite ‘second favourite’ son.
So why bring the show up now? Well, the third series is premiering in the states on April 14, hopefully being brought to our shores by Sky soon after and it looks very, very good. The show doesn’t get enough love, so I’m worried about its future; what’s more is that it’s going to be airing around the same time as Game of Thrones and there’s a very real chance it’s going to eclipse every other television show in existence, let alone The Borgias.
What’s fascinating about the show is that none of the characters are very nice people. We know that from history, we know that from other Borgias adaptations or appearances (I’m looking at you Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood) and we know that from the show itself. They do horrible things and they do them for power but also for each other. The very foundation of the show is that they were ‘the original crime family’, but what keeps it going is how much we can see they genuinely care for each other. “Family” is repeated like a mantra throughout both seasons and we feel it. They’re murderers, liars and cheaters but above all, they’re a family. They fight, but they love – don’t we all?
The show also nails the individual characterisation, and each member of the family gets their turn for realistic development, each one of them a mix of light and dark. Despite the corruption, there are shades of grey and I suppose that might make it hard for some to watch it. After all, it’s easier to assume the bad guys are all inherently evil than to see that they’re also mothers, brothers, sisters and fathers.
The first few episodes, I admit, are fairly slow. But bare with it – it’s still finding its feet. The reviews for the first season are mixed, with the second bringing in much stronger, solid ones. The more it progresses, the more the show allows itself to integrate artist’s freedom against the supposed ‘history’ about the family. Here’s the thing: their enemies composed most of the things written about the Borgia family and we can never know what’s true and what was snide gossip. Did Lucrezia and Cesare really have an affair? Was Lucrezia a witch?
To say that the show is historically accurate would be inaccurate; there are only so many trustworthy historical sources the writers can draw from. As a result, it’s a blend of actual events and a twist on certain rumours and it works wonderfully.
If I were you, I’d keep a watch out for this one, because I promise it won’t disappoint.