Now that Showtime’s The Borgias is almost halfway through its second season, I finally finished watching the first season.  I know, I claim to be such a fan of the historical Borgias and yet I waited an entire year before I finally finished watching it.  Terrible.  Well, I don’t have Showtime, and I kept waiting for the DVD to become cheap enough for my limited budget before I finally just started getting it through Netflix.

The Borgias is like a bad acid trip where you know what you’re seeing is not reality but you just can’t get off it.  The historical accuracy is non-existent. In fact, the only thing this has to do with history is that these people actually existed.  More or less.  In some cases complete backstories were changed for no discernible reason, but more on that later.

We’ll focus on what there is to love, the things that keep me coming back to the show even though it makes me feel a little loopy afterwards.  The sets and costumes were lavish and exquisitely detailed.  In fact, those parts seem to be more accurate than the history it is trying to portray.  In particular, the rendition of Lucrezia’s dress in one of her more famous portraits is stunning.

Speaking of Lucrezia, Holliday Grainger is fantastic.  In fact, outside of Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, this is my favorite portrayal of Lucrezia to date.  Actually, the entire cast is fantastic, a perfect fit for most of them.  Except Jeremy Irons, who, while fantastic, looks absolutely nothing like Rodrigo Borgia.  But his voice is so delicious that we will forgive them that.

Onto Juan.  I absolutely loathe what they’ve been trying to do with him.  It seems like they can’t decide if I’m supposed to love him or hate him, and I’m having trouble liking the showrunners as a result.  On the one hand, they keep trying to make him be a complete and utter jackass.  On the other hand, he keeps trying to hard but he’s completely ineffectual and it makes him so loveable.

Micheletto, however, is creepy effective in almost everything he does.  Except for killing Della Rovere, because that would be twisting historical accuracy far too much.  Sean Harris plays the role to perfection, and I’m eager to see what he’s going to do with him in the rest of Season 2.  In the meantime, in the second episode, I was highly confused as to why they changed his backstory . Historically, Cesare and Micheletto went to school together in Pisa, but according to the new gospel of Neil Jordan, Cesare found Micheletto when he was hired to kill his father and Micheletto switched loyalties rather quickly.  I was going to say something coherent about the homoerotic undertones between Micheletto and Cesare, but then this happened in a preview for season 2.

And all coherency flew out the window.  I now have a burning desire to know who Micheletto’s new friend is.  I’m holding out for Ferrante, but I doubt it.  Seriously, if they decided historical accuracy was not allowed and they decided to make Micheletto gay, the least they could have done was hook him up with Ferrante.

As a fan of the historical Borgias, I cannot in good conscience recommend this show for someone who wants to know more about them.  However, if all you want is a romping good time during the Italian Renaissance, enjoy!


6 thoughts on “Review: The Borgias Season 1

  1. From one of the articles you cited: “In The Borgias’ second season, beginning April 8 on Bravo!, Cesare will become a kingmaker, murderer and Machiavellian schemer to rival Machiavelli himself.” Wait a second… If I remember correctly, Cesare inspired Machiavelli’s The Prince, not the other way around. In that respect I wish the show (which I haven’t watched yet) could convey a bit of real history to its audience. Show Machiavelli meeting Cesare, and falling under his spell, the moment when he begins telling himself, “This is the archetypal one-man political powerhouse, whose strategies and adaptive manipulations keep even those closest to him on their toes.” I find The Prince reads less like political theory, and more like a series of aphorisms based on the life of a charismatic warlord who had Leonardo Da Vinci as his military engineer at the height of his career, but couldn’t maintain his grasp on power for long.

    • I hadn’t actually read the article; wordpress just informed me that it was related. 🙂 Lesson learned!

      The show isn’t historically accurate, in any sense of the words. In fact, if they get something even close to historical, I have a tendency to give them a gold star.

  2. Far from historical accuracy, as we now know. Placing Juan’s murder anywhere in the vicinity of Savonarola’s execution or the fall of Forli should be evidence enough.

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