BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Borgias - The Complete First Season
Showtime's sexy, scandalous, religious shocker hits hi-def home video...
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There's something about the Catholic church and scandals which makes for entertainment to modern society. Be it modern day controversy involving abusive priests or the questionable action of popes 550 years ago, if it's scandalous and involves the Catholic church, people will watch it.
Enter Showtime's The Borgias, a nine-part season one which follows the murderous misadventures of Rodrigo Borgias and his illegitimate children - Juan, Cesare, and Lucrezia - as they navigate the tumultuous tides of Rome in the late 15th century. Rodrigo, who would became Pope Alexander VI, made quite a name for himself and his family as they fought - tooth and nail - to become one of the most powerful families in all of Europe. Through vicious backstabbing, violence, and manipulation, the Borgia family is shown as being synonymous with the wealthy, power-hungry, greedy, and violent crime families seen in modern mob movies and thus it's no wonder Showtime's tagline for the show is "the original crime family."
The Borgias stars Jeremy Irons in the lead as Rodrigo/Pope Alexander VI. A brilliant actor with a history of impressive roles, Irons is excellent. While he shares few real physical traits with Pope Alexander VI (who was so large, his coffin wouldn't close), Irons plays this role in amazing fashion - manipulative, masterful, emotional (when necessary), and stoic (when needed). Likewise, supporting leads - including François Arnaud as Cesare,
Holliday Grainger as Lucrezia, and David Oakes as Juan - are all exceedingly well done also. So too are the Borgia family nemeses, including Peter Sullivan as Cardinal Ascanio Sforza and Colm Feore as Cardinal Giuliano Della Rovere, As dreaded enemies of the Borgia family, the pair are engaging and wonderful. Also impressive is Lotte Verbeek as Giulia Farnese, Pope Alexander's teenage mistress, who steals many a scene.
It is Cardinals Rovere and Sforza and their kin who help make the series engaging for in the many mischievous maneuvers taken by all parties is the engaging storytelling that fans of Showtime's original series are so fond. It is here we find the suspense and drama which demonstrates why this series will continue to thrive. It is, after all, the continued violent, sexy, unscrupulousness which leaves viewers wondering just how far these supposedly religious characters might go before they cross the line and are damned forever. Of course, when you're the Pope, there are few things which can't be done.
Under the watchful eyes of Irish writer/director Neil Jordan, best known for his films "The Crying Game" and "Interview with a Vampire" among others. Jordan has, in bringing The Borgias to life at Showtime, provided today's audience with a look at the dark side of the Catholic church which is often - and better off - left forgotten by the faithful. This history haunts unfortunately haunts the Catholic Church and while no doubt much of the series has been dramatically recreated to be appealing to today's audience, there's no doubt the sex and violence often seen in the series is engaging and interesting to the modern TV viewer. As the old saying goes: truth is stranger than fiction...and my how The Borgias shows that.
The video and audio on this set is gorgeous. The 1080p video comes to life in the show's original 1.78:1 aspect ratio with bold, vibrant colors that almost bleed off the screen. The minute details in the clothing and fabric and the harsh textures of the landscape and dwellings are all clear and present. Same too with the audio; the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless audio track brings to life Rome in the 1490s. Be it the chanting of crowds, the ringing of church bells, the galloping of horses, the screams of the dying, or the pleasure moans of the unscrupulous, the soundtrack presents a clear, undiluted audio experience that'll impress viewers.
Unfortunately, the discs include no special features, though BD-Live function is available and should provide fans with access a few bonuses, including episodes of other Showtime series like Dexter, House of Lies, Californication and others.
If you're a fan of political dramas, suspenseful sexy actioners, or multi-layered mysteries, The Borgias may be right up your alley. It's dark, deceptive, captivating, and creative; features a slew of engaging characters; and - all things considered - is based on real events. What's not to love? Even if you're one of the faithful and have no desire to know of the sins of the church's forefathers, The Borgias can at least act as a reminder of how far we've come and, sadly, how far we still have to go, even today.
The Borgias is available now on blu-ray hi-def wherever fine home video is sold and is for mature audiences only.
- Jess C. Horsley