This review contains spoilers.
5. The Borgias In Love
With news that Showtime has officially renewed The Borgias for a second series, it looks like the papal drama is proving to be as popular, if not more so, than The Tudors. Interestingly, the show’s first episode was the most watched drama premiere on Showtime in the last seven years. But does that mean it will have the staying power of its predecessor?
Well, on the basis of this week’s episode, the answer is possibly.
Like The Tudors, The Borgias mixes historical and political intrigue with soap opera subplots, and this was never more noticeable this week than with the humorously titled episode, The Borgias In Love.
As you can imagine, this week saw members of the Borgias family confront their own passions and desires with a mixture of consequences. Meanwhile, Rodrigo continues to plot potential alliances, both political and through marriage, in order to stop Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere overthrowing him and his family.So let’s dive in shall we?
Lucrezia’s new marriage to Giovanni Sforza is not going well. If he’s not forcing himself upon her at every opportunity, it seems he is beating her. Luckily, Lucrezia’s hand maiden has been giving her tips to make her husband climax faster, which seems to involve counting sheep very loudly. Now, as a man I have no idea what help this advice was meant to provide, but I can imagine it would only serve to be really distracting and thus prolong her misery.
Still, it seems you can get over what’s basically rape and domestic abuse in a few days if there is a handsome stable boy on the premises. That’s right, in a storyline that could come out of the cheesiest Mills & Boon novel, Lucrezia has fallen for Paolo, her husband’s groom. However, it appears she may have actually learnt something from Giulia Farnese, as it is not too long before Paolo is willing to sabotage Sforza’s saddle in order to keep her safe. Who would have thought playing patty-cake would have such an effect on a young man?
Meanwhile, Cesare’s relationship with Ursula Bonadeo continues to grow, as the two share longing glances and innuendo-laden conversations. If only she didn’t have such an abusive and domineering husband (which it seems all husbands are in this show). Luckily, Ursula’s husband called Cesare’s mother a ‘Spanish whore’ last week, so his days were always going to be numbered. It only takes a quick five minute refresher sword course before the Cardinal is ready to challenge and defeat a veteran soldier. Granted, I’ve made it sound ridiculous, but the scene was actually done rather well with the rain and the mud hiding the fairly obvious stunt doubles.
Despite Jeremy Irons being the lead, the Man That Was Scar is strangely absent from most of the proceedings. In the pilot episode, he was front and centre and a force to be reckoned with as he pushed his sons in line in order to secure the papacy. Now he’s wearing the big hat, all menace seems to have disappeared and he seems content to let Cesare handle most of the decision making, while he organises more alliances with powerful families (including bethroting his youngest son), and spends time with his mistress.
At least Cesare is on the ball. Quickly figuring out della Rovere’s game plan involving a potential French invasion, the young Borgias goes to Florence in order to secure an alliance with Machiavelli (expect him to play a bigger part in the future) and the Medici family.
Meanwhile Vice Chancellor Sforza (who seems to be related to everyone) is dispatched to secure the Duke of Milan’s allegiance. Unfortunately, strong-arming both parties doesn’t pay off, as the Duke simply offs his nephew who was next in line, and who would have won the support of the Borgias should Milan have proved difficult to negotiate. Still, it means the Borgias (and della Rovere) are going to have to work that much harder to find support in their own little war… that could potentially engulf Europe.
Yes, it appears The Borgias has learnt the most valuable lesson from The Tudors: if you’re going to insist on the soap opera plots, at least supplement it with some good old fashioned murder and bodice-ripping. More next week, then…
Read our review of episode 4, Lucrezia’s Wedding, here.