The Borgias, Season 3 ~ A Capsule Review by Allen Kopp
The Borgias is now in its third season on Showtime. I’ve seen every episode, and what I like most about it is the way it looks. It is, of course, set in Italy during the Renaissance (late 1400s). The sets and costumes are lavish and authentic-looking in every detail. The Vatican looks the way you imagine it must have looked over 500 years ago. How do they do it? Doesn’t it take tons of money just to achieve that “look”? It is photographed in a way to make it look like paintings of the period, with lots of soft reds and yellows. Every scene is like a painting in motion. Even the outdoor scenes are stunningly beautiful. If you don’t like the story or get tired of too many sex scenes and too much intrigue, just turn down the sound and enjoy the way it looks.
At the end of season 2, Pope Alexander Sixtus, the “Borgia Pope” (played by Jeremy Irons) was poisoned by his archenemy, Cardinal Della Rovere, with a poison called cantarella. We had to wait until season 3 to see if he survived the poisoning, but I had a feeling he would. He did survive, thanks to some quick thinking on the part of his daughter, Lucrezia, who administered charcoal as an antidote.
Cardinal Della Rovere was captured and imprisoned for his part in the attempted assassination of the pope, but he was released from prison by a “friend” and escaped. When the pope discovers that some of his cardinals (members of the “consistory”) were involved in the plot to kill him, he strips them of their offices and considerable wealth and prestige. Even with the cardinals gone who want to murder him, the pope still has lots of enemies.
While Cardinal Della Rovere was Pope Alexander’s archenemy in seasons 1 and 2, he has now receded into the background since the assassination attempt failed. The pope’s new archenemy is one Catherina Sforza, a powerful and power-hungry dame who lives in a castle at Forli and who will do anything to bring down the Borgias. The pope calls her “the Great Arachne.” She is constantly trying to bring influential “friends” into her alliance against the pope and his family, using whatever means they have at their disposal. She would rather slit a Borgia’s throat than to look at him.
Pope Alexander is the father of a brood of “bastard” children, meaning he was never married to their mother, although the mother remains a part of the “family.” (She must endure the pope’s string of “mistresses.”) Principal among the Borgia children are Cesare Borgia, a one-time cardinal who is his father’s most loyal ally, and Lucrezia Borgia, who gave birth to an illegitimate son fathered by a sweet stable boy, whom her brother, Juan, had murdered. Cesare and Lucrezia are both young and stunning-looking. They continue to have an unwholesome interest in each other, even though Lucrezia has just taken her second husband and Cesare has a new wife from France. (The evil and dangerous Juan Borgia was murdered in season 2 by his brother, Cesare. The pope doesn’t know yet who murdered Juan, his favorite son, even though Cesare has dropped a few hints.)
While the Borgias are motivated by ambition, they also seem, in large part, to be motivated by their love for each other. This keeps them, I suppose, from being all bad. If they are to survive in a swamp full of poisonous snakes, they must be snake-like themselves. Life can’t be simple for a family that holds immense power and has no intention of giving it up.
Copyright © 2013 by Allen Kopp