While in Colorado I caught up with my premium channels and discovered that I liked some things I expected to like (Game of Thrones – more on that soon), hated other things I expected to like (Mildred Pierce – why are you so painfully, obnoxiously boring and ham-fisted?) but I was most surprised by how much I enjoyed the bloody soap opera that is The Borgias. Although, ever since a short stay in Rome in my college years, I have had an interest for Italian history so I shouldn’t have been so surprised. It’s so juicy and tawdry and fascinating and The Borgias gets all that drama just right.
The cast is perfection. Even though Jeremy Irons bears no physical resemblance to Pope Alexander the Third, his portrayal of the corrupt Patriarch who manages to think himself virtuos and wise by making others do his dirty work is a joy to watch. Without him lending his gravitas and subtle humor, the tone of the show wouldn’t settle right. But he is not even the best character!
I have to admit I have a huge crush on the Cardinal son, Cesare (who my mom pointed out has a passing resemblance to Jim if he were dark) and his right hand assassin, my favorite character is portrayed by Sean Harris – who some of you might recognize as a very, very bad police man in the Red Riding Trilogy. Looking every bit like a nightmare and quite a lot like Vincent Van Gogh, Harris has found the role of a lifetime, custom suited to his creepy gaze.
Lucrezia is played with charm and a mischievous streak by the adorably named Holliday Grainger. It’s nice to see former Mrs Val Kilmer Joanne Whalley who I think I last saw in The Singing Detective as the mother and new comer Lotte Verbeek is appropriately lovely to look at as Giulia “the Beautiful” Farnese. Even less central characters are a thrill to see like Derek Jacobi (I, Claudius), Nicholas Rowe (The Young Sherlock Holmes – which I loooved as a kid), Gina McKee (from Mike Leigh movies and Soames’ suffering wife in Forsyte Saga) and Stephen Berkoff (the bad guy from Beverly Hills Cop and a former Brix Pick hunk). The other son? Eh – I just can’t get over his bad hair I guess.
While the show may not be completely historically accurate, much of the intrigue, scandal, plots, murders, affairs, assassinations, and conspiracies did happen; making the poster’s claim “The Original Crime Family” not only a desperate attempt to grab former viewers of The Sopranos but true as well. And really, there is no need for The Borgias to be desperate, even if it gets a slightly slow start, anyone with a penchant for this kind of thing will become an instant fan. I can’t wait to see what wickedness comes next – and even went ahead and ordered Showtime to find out.