Director: Neil Jordan (Episodes 1 & 2)
Writer: Neil Jordan
Principal cast: Jeremy Irons, Lotte Verbeek, Francios Arnaud, David Oakes, Joanne Whalley and Holliday Grainger.
Broadcast date: 13th August 2011.
Director Neil Jordan’s lavishly produced historical drama set in the late fifteenth century recreates the events surrounding the infamous Borgias dynasty and the rise to power of Rodrigo Borgia, better known to history as Pope Alexander VI, who ruled both Rome and the Catholic Church whilst becoming the focal point of political corruption and scandalous rumour.
Quite possibly a major contender for the original family from hell, the events surrounding the infamous Borgias clan allow Jordan to zoom in on a period of history that manages to throw in enough political intrigue, corruption, murder and scandal to draw comparisons with the recent BBC production of The Tudors.
The Borgias also shares with that show a lavish production value and an inclination to display moments of a sexual nature and periods of somewhat ghoulish violence which not only places the series rightly beyond the watershed but potentially classes the drama as an historical soap opera.
But it’s more than that as attention is paid to the political intrigue endemic in the Vatican during this period as well as fully developing the political motivations of the characters that form the establishment in Rome during 1492.
The desire by Rodrigo to create a dynastic power base by placing his own sons in positions of authority also recalls both the fictional account of the Julio-Claudius clan in the BBC adaptation of I Claudius and more importantly the fictional mafia family found in the Mario Puzo novel The Godfather.
Indeed Puzo has said that he drew direct influence from the notoriety of the Borgias whilst writing his seminal crime epic.
Jeremy Irons is simply captivating on screen and portrays Rodrigo as a man who will stop at nothing to achieve the papacy and then hold on to power. His haunted face somewhat betrays the inner emotions of a man somewhat at a moral crossroads as Rome finds itself with a newly elected Pope who has fathered several children with a lifelong mistress (Joanne Whalley) and is still prone to seducing the occasional Italian beauty (Lotte Verbeek).
Elsewhere thespian support and on screen opposition to the newly elected Pope comes in the form of Derek Jacobi as the soon to be poisoned Cardinal Orsini and Colm Feore as the morally upright and soon to be framed Giuliano Della Rovere.
Some beautifully crafted costumes and well conceived set designs help give the production some added weight whilst some smart dialogue creates a suspense factor that makes The Borgias quite watchable.
Oh and the opening credits are pretty stylish too…..
Decadent, intelligent, violent and extremely well acted, Jordan’s historical and slightly mafia inspired soap opera may well become addictive.
The Borgias is currently airing on Sky Atlantic.