THE BORGIAS is back on screen and Season 2 is a welcome return. As last season progressed the series became a bit fragmented, but those seeds of subplots are now coming to be fleshed out. The cast remains the same (except some of last season's actors have already been knocked off, like poor Paolo). Neil Jordan still is the major influence and he is ably served by Jeremy Irons, (Rodrigo Borgia) the wonderful François Arnaud (Cesare Borgia), Holliday Grainger (Lucrezia Borgia), Lotte Verbeek (Giulia Farnese), David Oakes (Juan Borgia), Colm Feore (Giuliano Della Rovere), et al. One major change that is very positive - the art of the opening credits are truly creative and historically informed and simply fine graphics. Here is to another season with the cruelest family that ever lived! Grady Harp, April 12
on January 16, 2013
The Borgias' second season builds on the strengths of its first: plotting, acting and characterisation on the artistic side, costumes, sets and spectacle on the technical; this is a season in which everyone involved seems to have hit their stride, and whilst a production of this scope and ambition could always be better, consider me satisfied.
Here in Australia it's been out since late 2012, so I've watched every episode and some of the Special Features. With this sort of historical drama I'd happily watch a ten hour documentary of the times. It certainly wouldn't hurt the producers credentials if, in these behind-the-scenes docos, they highlighted more those events in history faithfully dramatised by the show (naturally glossing over the inaccuracies).
Overall this show has turned out better than I thought it would and is at least one star better than its closest rival, The Tudors, thanks in large part to a more charismatic lead in Jeremy Irons and a wonderful supporting cast. It may help that I'm less familiar with Rodrigo and Cesare Borgia than I am with Henry VIII, but even so, The Borgias has a natural energy and emotion The Tudors often struggled to achieve. It looks like a show made by people who wanted to tell its story rather than cynically cash in on its forerunner's success.
on April 3, 2013
I have watched the first season and was looking forward to the second...Preordered. Have had to return the set TWICE because,
as others have commented, there are Flashing White Lines on the disc and I am disappointed that I have not been able to watch
this wonderfully photographed movie. No guarantee that I won't be sent a THIRD DEFECTIVE DISK. What has happened to Customer "Service"? Amazon's communication system is lacking and I am sent to the UPS facility to return yet another one.
on April 4, 2013
I have already received two sets and all are defective. There is a white line running on the top of the screen and it is on all the disk's. . I email and get no results. Who wants to keep sending DVD's back that are defective and no one will even check there stock. I have already received two sets and all are defective.
I wish someone at Amazon would take the time and view these DVD's, then they would see what the problem is.
on April 27, 2013
The second season is amazing. Amazing beyond words.
However, there is a huge problem. Showtime screwed up. DVD's are defective. Not just from Amazon, and I've gone through 8 sets of the show. From retail, to online.
If watching on Widescreen, there are flashing lines that show up and will continue to keep flashing and are very easy to notice. It's horrible.
Amazon has stopped selling the product, so hopefully it will be fixed.
The Borgias is a Showtime drama set in late 15th century Rome. The specific focus of the show concerns Rodrigo Borgias' ascent to the papacy and his efforts to stay in power through the turbulent events of the period.
The show commences in 1492, the year that Alexander VI became Pope. Of course, most people will also recognize that year as the same in which Columbus discovered the New World. This date therefore provides an easy connection to the historical timeline that most people can easily relate to. Once Borgia becomes Alexander VI, the saga begins, and the show describes the machinations made to maintain Alexander six on the throne. This is a difficult and sometimes brutal history, and those that are familiar with this history will not be surprised at the events that unfold in the subsequent episodes. The show is largely historically accurate, both in the broad brush strokes and also in some of the minute details.
There is little reason to repeat the expensive information that has already been written about this series including the specific detail covered in each episode. We can easily echo, however, the extremely high-quality production values of the show. We can also echo the view that the acting in the show is extremely well done. As companies like Showtime and HBO and Netflix continue to make extremely lush, well-developed dramas, we see that this move has now become the pinnacle of television production at this current time, one that is now rivaling, and sometimes, surpassing full screen movies. This is also the case with The Borgias. This is a show that is supremely well done, and it shows in every scene. The art sets, the costumes, the colors, the settings, and on and on are superbly well done. In fact, it seems we are watching here something of a quality level that would not even normally be seen in a full screen movie.
The acting, of course, is of greatest importance, and we see with an outstanding cast including Jeremy Irons that the cast are up to every bit of the task and make the story come alive on the screen. It has been rumored that the show cost Showtime approximately $2.5 million per episode to make. That runs out to roughly $25 million per season. When you watch the show on a high definition television BluRay player, you can see where some of that money was spent. The show is lush, lavish, and it makes one marvel at how such shows are being made today. Filming was carried out primarily in Hungary, and there is some use of CGI and certain scenes, but these are barely noticeable, and in fact sometimes are not noticeable at all. The architectural backgrounds to many of the scenes are simply superb, even when they are CGI.
The Borgias had a loyal following for the first three seasons on Showtime. However, in a trend that we have heard all too often before, ratings were not as high as Showtime had hoped, particularly in Season Three. The show was originally slated for a four season run, but because the ratings were slightly disappointing in Season Three, Showtime decided to cancel the series at the end of the third season. This means that the planned Season Four of The Borgias does not exist, and likely will never be made. (This is not unlike the situation that occurred with the critically acclaimed show Boss, starring Kelsey Grammer, which was canceled after two seasons because of low ratings, but was considered to be one of the best drama shows put on television in recent memory.) But in spite of the disappointment that no Season Four is to be made, this is no reason not to watch The Borgias and to follow those first three seasons as they are made. (The same is true of Boss, as well; watching its first two seasons can be an amazing experience, in spite of the truncated ending of the show.)
The Borgias is an excellent historical drama that will help you to learn much about the period, and the papacy of Alexander the sixth. It has some difficult scenes, but the show has seemingly done a reasonable job of attempting to portray the story without making it so consistently brutal that one would not wish to watch it. Watching the show in Blu-ray format with a high-definition television can provide some of the sharpest clearest and most colorful presentations that we've ever seen.
This is an easy five-star recommendation for anyone enjoying historical dramas, or for those interested in the period.
The proper comparison for "The Borgias" is similar 10 - 12 episode costume dramas, historical or fantastical, such as "Rome" and "Game of Thrones", not what we find in history books. There are too many deviations from history to make that comparison worthwhile, with one big exception. The historical interpretation of the Borgias as vile and immoral may be inaccurate. This dramatization seems to err on the side of making the Borgia clan no more vile and immoral than their antagonists.
One thing which makes this production (both seasons) more exciting and engaging than "Game of Thrones" is that there is so much more light, color, and action, in spite of the fact that both lived in a world where the only light was sun and candle. Both involve battles and large armies; except that like "Rome", "Game of Thrones" keeps all that action off screen, and when it does appear at the end of season 2, it is at night, and mostly with close-ups of small groups of combatants, or with ships, done with models.
As I mentioned above, the Borgias are presented as no worse than their enemies. Some opponents, like the semi-factual Niccolo Machiavelli become their friends and some appear more virtuous, such as Caterina Sforza. Juan Borgia is both dissolute, incompetent, and cowardly, with no honor to speak of. Rodrigo, Pope Alexander, is seriously flawed, but he is true to his faith and its humility, which works to his purposes, as he see's God's guidance being effective in charming his most serious opponents such as the King of France, who is one of the most interesting characters in bot seasons. Juan is so corrupt he disgusts his own ally, a Conquistador captain from Spain. Cesare and Lucrezia fall between the two. Both are willful, but smart and ruthless. Cesare leaves a lot of the dirty work to his bodyguard, Michelotto Corella, but Cesare plans all the dirty deeds, and participates in many of them, with a mask.
In my review of the first season, I said it was hard to keep everyone straight, especially all the cast members who are cardinals (except for the distinct face of Derek Jacobi, who does not survive the first season.) It usually takes no more than a second viewing to sort everything out.
At the risk of revealing a spoiler, I will say one of the most interesting aspects of the series is the relations between the Borgia family members, which are often no less intense than the relations with lovers and enemies.
I suspect the production benefitted from being able to use buildings from the Renaissance in Rome, Milan, Naples, and Florence which are still around. When I walked the streets of Florence in 1964, it seemed as if I were walking them in 1500. Very little had changed.
on March 30, 2013
Excellent acting one and all. Made us feel we were right there, just hiding behind a screen! A history lesson that will always stick in my head from now on. Wish those historic lessons had always been this way, years ago. Whoever thought this up, and put this story on the screen, is brilliant. Thanks for the pleasure.
I don't know the target audience for this show-- I suppose it's for people who like the Tudors, and may be interested in the upcoming DaVinci's Demons. As someone interested in the Catholic church, and a fan of Mario Puzo who supposedly found his inspiration in this family, I found it intriguing. The series is mostly quiet, with a lot of plotting in hushed voices, then someone gets a throat slashed or gets poisoned. Battles are either thwarted or mostly fought off screen, though individual murders happen all the time. I think there is enough sex, story and eye candy for most people.
A lot of people complain how the show deviates from history, just like the vocal Game of Thrones fanbase is locked in an eternal struggle between book fans and TV show fans. If you have doubts, I think Showtime has the full season 2 premiere free to watch on their website. The episode can stand enough on its own that you can understand what is going on and get a feel for whether or not you will like it.
There are a few stand out parts for me. We finally find out more about Micheletto the assassin when he travels to his home town with Cesare. The scenes with his mother are hilarious, and we find out why he doesn't ever seem to be preoccupied with a girl or brothels.
Lucrezia, the Pope's current mistress, and the mother of his children set out to make sure church funds go to the poor where they are supposed to go. It seems that all the women the Pope sleeps with ultimately become agents of his, doing favors for him like this. One is placed in charge of finding cannons when the French army approaches again. Lucrezia is in charge of the Vatican when the Pope has to go on a journey.
The tension between Juan and his two siblings, Cesare and Lucrezia, builds to a fever pitch upon his return to Rome after a hiatus in Spain. Juan kind of gets what he deserves, and Cesare more put him out of his misery than murders him. The scene where the Pope/Rodrigo Borgia buries his son Juan intermixed with scenes of Lucrezia's wedding was very well done. I hope the music score for the second season will be released, because it helped make that moment all the more poignant.
Cesare has longed to stop being a cardinal and to be a soldier in the Papal army since the beginning, and this season he dons a mask to avenge his dead lover and to steal gold in an effort to get the Pope to release him. I don't know if his costume was supposed to be true to the period or not, or if they intended it, but the scenes where he puts on his mask and runs about in his armor are hysterical. By day, he's a cardinal, by night, he's Batman! With Micheletto as Robin, and a band of outlaws and no-goods as their Merry Men, the Batman tortures, kills and steals to set right what once was wrong! The mask looks so bad that I couldn't stop laughing.
There are really no extras on the blu ray to speak of. The special features that do exist all seem to be on BD live, and you have to have an internet connection for that. I can't tell you how incredibly annoying that is. There are 2 episodes of Californication and 2 episodes of House of Lies that you can access through the BD live, but neither of these shows interest me in the least. They would have been better off including a couple of key episodes of the Tudors if they needed filler-- at least it would be a related genre. I really resent paying for the discs and then having to go online to ask permission to watch the extras. There aren't even any episodes with commentary as far as I can tell.
This show could benefit greatly form a slightly larger budget, and perhaps one or two more episodes per season to keep a better pace. If you're preoccupied by the problems in the modern Catholic church, if you're easily offended by most things that come out of an HBO or Showtime series, if you're an historical nitpicker, or if you're expecting the show to wow you on all levels, don't watch it. It is a solid 4 stars, not even coming close to 5, but it is entertaining and for me a worthwhile watch.
on April 2, 2013
While I enjoy the show, there is a problem with the discs, there are white lines above the border on the top of the letterbox. Need to return it and hopefully get a copy without the problem.