TV Review: The Borgias

I know the show ended a few years ago but I also cancelled my cable a few years ago so I had to wait until seasons 2 and 3 of Showtime’s “The Borgias”, starring Jeremy Irons and Holliday Granger as the fabled Rodrigo Borgia (Pope Alexander Sextus) and his daughter Lucrezia, came to Netflix. The show chronicles the rise of the Borgia family as Rodrigo buys and promises his way to an election after the death of Pope Innocent. He is followed in this rise by his three illegitimate children by former courtesan and lover Vannozza dei Cattanei: Juan, Cesare, and Lucrezia. A fourth child, Gioffre, dies of the sweating sickness in the first season.  As Rodrigo takes the throne of St. Peter’s and elevates his children with him (Juan to head of the Papal army and Cesare to Cardinal), he begins to work to build a last legacy of Borgia. He takes a new mistress, the legendary La Bella, Giulia Farnese – a woman as intelligent as she was beautiful. Cesare, unsatisfied with his brother’s inept martial abilities, decide to take his family’s protection and honor in hand and he does so by acquiring the skills of a man originally hired to assassinate his father, one Micheletto Corella.

Micheletto Corella, God’s own assassin

Now, here’s the interesting part. Micheletto, an assassin, a nobody, became my absolute favorite character in the show. Of course, Micheletto’s convincing line to Cesare is “Someone as pitiless as you needs someone as pitiless as me”. And so he becomes God’s own assassin, meting out death and pain in equal measure where necessary. A skilled student in the art of death, we find out that Micheletto is from Forli, kingdom of the infamous Catherina Sforza. He has ties there, secrets. Micheletto is a man of many secrets and ever so many more burdens upon his soul, though he would exhort the opposite. He becomes instrumental to many a Borgia plot and the jinn to grant even many a Borgia wish. He is indelibly complex, even though he seems pretty straight-forward and cruel. He is an assassin, after all. But he is a clever man with untold skills and an eidetic memory. We never find out all of his story. He gives you one or two details about a situation and keeps the rest forever for himself. I’m fascinated by him. And, what’s more, I feel for him, all the time! When he left in the middle of season 3, I have rarely been so upset about the departure of a character or as elated as when he returned for ONE scene later on in the season.

I was disappointed with the show’s end but even more with how it ended. I know that television shows do not have an option when they are cancelled but events had been set in motion with that final episode of season 3 that left one’s stomach in a lurch and disappointed that they would never come to fruition. Jeremy Irons was not as diabolical as I am perhaps used to seeing him but he portrayed the conflicted Rodrigo Borgia – a man who desired to be of faith but was always a slave to ambition – as well as I have ever seen him played. All in all, however, “The Borgias” was enjoyable, beautifully set and costumed, and the actors portrayed their characters just as I would have wanted.