Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Borgias

(spoilers all around)

“Ambition rules this family.”

I got into this show on my own whilst in a losing battle with a cold = 3 seasons in 3 days.  I thought it was about some immoral royals or courtiers and was surprised to learn it was about the Pope’s family in 15th century Rome.  Let me tell you, it was just as bloody and sexy if not more so.  I think it brought out a lot of conflicting emotions, as success and safety were the priority against enemies, people were only valued for their utility rather than morality. From the bodies of the Tiber to the usage of wax seal stamp, all the details were incredible.   Applause to Neil Jordan for the bringing the Renaissance to life.

Alexander/ Rodrigo
“What would Rome be without a good plot?”
We don’t have any money? Our army sucks?  Huh, my son is evil?  Geez, man, get a clue.
Despite opposition and racial tension, a Spaniard made it to the papal seat by virtue and esteem.  Nah, just bribe everyone, it’s a lot quicker.  Seriously, he had an endless appetite for sex and power, followed by the fierce love he has for his family.   But my judgment softens when he shows class and heart not a few times.   He can also be hilarious, like when he puffs on cigars and rocks a straw hat.  Also, pigeons better watch out when he’s around!

“Affections can be lethal in this Rome of ours.”
The loving and wise woman who raised her crazy children. She a big heart and does not fall to corruption despite family dealings. I like how her presence calms any who are in need if counsel, accepting and forgiving even the mistress of her former husband.

“Never presume that I won’t act on my worst instincts.”
It seems wrong to be turned on by His Eminence, but he makes those robes look so good. The ends justify the means for this man, who is driven by his desire to be recognized by his father. He is always occupied and gets so much done it’s dizzying.  It was painful to see that he wanted to stop being a cardinal for a long time and be free to use his considerable skills in battle and strategy.  His love and hate live in dangerous extremes. His challenge to Savanarola to walk through the fire was easily my favorite maneuver from the series. He will do literally anything for his family (except if you’re Juan, then bye).

“If I married a thousand times it would always be the wrong choice.”
I never particularly liked or disliked her much.  She was sweet and boring in the beginning then progressed to meddlesome and annoying.  She was the picture of angelic beauty and innocence until she was tragically ill used by her family. Although she did pick up a thing or two about manipulation, all of it was undermined by her whining. Being in such a powerful position, anyone who crossed her was doomed.  Though to play fair, those that loved her were screwed as well.

“Because lechery and debauchery are the very marks of nobility.”
Nope, nothing redeemable about this dude.  You just love to hate him!  Still, I would rather he stayed away from Rome so he could avoid suffering so much and be saved from the poison that is his family.   If anything was his weakness it was his undoing to love his father.  But being rude to mother is inexcusable!

“Sometimes goodness needs the help of a little badness.”
Cesare’s dealer of death, his ace in the hole.  One could not ask for better skills and loyalty. It’s amazing how knowledgeable he is about all weapons, vendettas, and gathering intelligence. He is not a looker but easily a highlight of the show.  Need a loose end taken care of?  He’s your man.

“No man can put a price on sainthood.”
A bold preacher who stood for righteousness in a setting given over of hedonism. Difficult not to admire the steadfast courage in the face of the almighty church.  His end was gruesome but he never broke.  However, his cult burned innocent paintings, so yeah he had to go.

“Break the spell, break the man.”
The creepster who gave information for Florence. He proved to be one of the best spies and was on Cesare’s side when he could use his power for anyone else.  It was always a delight to see the famed author advising and learning with the object of the Prince.

King Charles VIII
“You will have your war, but it will be fought the French way.”
He is down to earth and is chivalrous to women even in times of war. I loved his French accent!

“God gives you riches and you kill for more.”
Saved Catherine’s son and wisely skedaddled out of there. He was one of the rare voices of reason on the show.  His honor shone a brief light over the degradation of the family that we the audience support.

Della Rovere
My goodness he just wouldn’t die!  He is formidable and I just loved the exchange when Cesare acknowledged his abilities and attempted to recruit him.

He carries out tasks without murder or compromise, another light of virtue in this show. I mean taking out an entire Turkish fleet overnight was something but reconciling Alexander and his son was a miracle itself.

Epic Roman scenes
– Micheletto being coddled and loved by his mommy who believes he is a doctor
– Lucrezia telling off her father saying that many people would kill Juan and she wanted him dead too
– The Pope conducting his daughter’s annulment and all the cardinals laughing about the impotency charge
– Cesare and Lucrezia actors’ chemistry
– The Pope holding young Juan to bury him
– Poor Geoffrey who was obedient but left out and went missing from the show entirely
– King Charles arriving to find His Holiness humble before God
– Cannon bluff
– Lucrezia waking through a sleeping Naples court to her freedom then her reunion with Cesare
– Anytime Anthony prince of Naples talked
– The Pope admonishing the Cardinals for mocking King Charles’ death and punishing them accordingly
– Caterina’s impressive plans for the upcoming siege, only to realize the French had already arrived
– Those 2 or 3 moments the Pope took God seriously
– The family together for Giovanni’s birth
– Cesare walking in like a boss to his father after bringing in the French army.
– King Louis XII bonding with Cesare over shooting
– French gunpowder set off by incognito condotierri trained by Micheletto
– Lucrezia the regent looking pretty satisfied on the throne
– Cesare and his father finally weeping and embracing is a touching display of humanity

Vatican Sayings
“You brought me a turd from the New World?
“Certainty is the preserve of youth.”
“Jesus loves me!”

“He is me! All the fire, the fury, the drive… the pitiless ambition! I look into his eyes – I see myself!  Do you expect me to love that?”
“A strength misguided is still a strength.”
“God rest his soul.  And damn yours! And yours! And all of you!”
“Lies ooze from your mouth like pus from a dead horse.”
“He loves his errant son, does he not?  More than his dutiful one.”
“Why is it your touch is the only one that soothes me? And you spend a lifetime pulling away from me. I’m tired of that. I’m tired of my husband. I’m tired of life.The only thing that never tires me is you.”

“How refreshing our children still manage to surprise us.”
“You’re saying I’m not pretty? I’ve killed for less.”
“Is nothing in this damned city what it seems?”
“There is talk of something called honor. Let us show them another way.”
“I punish this world for not being as I want.”
“He fell onto a knife that Cesare happened to be holding.”
“We address an empty bed! We have never realized it would provide such sport.”
 “There is only one road and that is forward.”
“Shut up and pay for it.”
“We are in a fairy tale and the witch is me.”
“Can one of you replace him? Don’t even try to answer that.”
“Affection leads to weakness. And I have no use for either.”
“We’re Borgias! We never forgive!”

Worthy Women
Another reason to love this show is it’s portrayal of females holding their own when they had so little freedoms traditionally.  These individuals aggressively handle their own destiny rather than merely respond/react to their situations.
– Vittoria was an accomplished in drawing but her best artistry was in the execution of making plaster cannons.
– Lucrezia maneuvered as best as she could in Naples, easily overshadowing her young naïve husband; so credit to her however foolish the outcome (I never saw that Frederico crap coming!)
– Caterina commanded her own forces and was one of the largest threats to the Borgias.
– Giulia was a reasonable sounding board to the Pope and would be involved in the Vatican’s finances.  With Vanozza and Lucrezia, she headed the works to improve the lives of the poor citizens of Rome (points for the Pope’s indulgence in these matters)

Sin Scale
The Borgias chose to be accountable to no one and denied themselves nothing in their advancement.  Members in the Vatican all seemed to be deep in their transgressions and loved only themselves. The attitude is, God forgives so I can do whatever I want.  What they do not realize is that be it bribes, murder, or fornication, all of them are equally wrong. When it comes to the Cesare and Lucrezia relationship, it is unusual but no more shocking than homosexuality or pedaphilia which was widely accepted in culture.  It sickened me a few minutes into the show how little reverence and faith the Borgias had and how unaffected they were by their criminal actions.  Which is even more appalling when it seems I want them to rise rather than fail.

Blood and Tears novel
After I finished with the series I devoured this entertaining work from Dunant.   The Romans’ fondness for rumors and “whirlwind of gossip” were heightenedI liked Lucrezia a whole lot more in this version as she learns about being a Borgia the hard way and doesn’t succumb to treachery. Rodrigo’s is accurately big fat guy instead of the thin rail portrayed in the show.  Everyone knew his overpowering love for his children and he was never afraid to show it.  Giulia was a woman renowned for her golden tresses and sought after because of this. She was married to a mentally ill man and conflicted between her duty to him and compulsion to obey His Holiness. Cesare was a composed mystery in his many roles and did a lot of bull fighting as befits the family name.  I loved his sharp conversations with Rodrigo who valued and trusted him even if he didn’t love him.  The bond the Borgias had were stronger with their habit of slipping into their native Catalan.  It is more impressive that they got so far when they were opposed as foreigners but knew how to deal with high Roman society and Cesare could speak multiple languages to ply the French court as well as others. The themes were very similar to the show as they dealt with “one enemy at a time.”

So many larger than life characters that are likeable and 3 dimensional.  It’s such a pity they did not get another season or the 2 hour film they offered.  Reading the script for the finale was somewhat mollifying, and it is no small thing to be able to enjoy each quality episode as it stands.  The lesson from this dark family is that we are all mortal and that we reap what we sow in the end.

The Mafia got their playbook from this family