Monday, May 2, 2016

The Medieval History Bucket

‘The Borgias’

After the death of Pope Innocent VIII, Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia is elected by the College of Cardinals as the next Pope. In a tumultuous reign spanning 11 years, the Pope and his family, namely his wife and three children, go through various troughs and crests, surviving through with grit and determination.

Sounds like a history lesson, eh? Sample this:

Cardinal Borgia gets elected as the Pope in an election rigged by bribes and simony, incurring the dislike of almost every turncoat cardinal. In a family that survives on lechery and deceit, guile and duplicity, Pope Alexander VI plays the game of power, slowly eliminating his opponents while his family, abhorred by the entire Italian nobility, grips onto the noble houses of Europe through marriage and murder.

Now that's something worth looking out for and that forms the core plot basis of the TV series ‘The Borgias’. This series is full of double-dealing, treachery and politics and does a good job keeping you hooked onto the screens simultaneously making you hate the Borgia clan. For those of you who'd have watched/read the Game of Thrones, here's a line to sum it up:
‘If you the think the Lannisters are bad, you haven't yet met the Borgias.’

Overall, the story line is fairly linear and simple to comprehend. It basically portrays the medieval Italian decadence and poisonous political struggles with the bluntness of a nun. A fair warning though: This series is slightly heavy on medieval papal and Italian history, something that may not appease to all. Sure, you don't have to be a Europe history buff to watch it but if you're a history-phobic, best stay away. That said, the show does an earnest job to shed it's history image to transform into a political thriller.

The scale of the production is nothing short of mind-boggling. The beautiful sets and extravagant decor of the entire series will make your eyes bleed with bourgeois jealousy and are undoubtedly the major selling points of the show. The sheer richness of the show is one reason to watch it. The costumes, apart from bring exquisite, portray the Italian nobility's finery to a high degree of accuracy. The attention to detail does seem lacking at times (you know something's wrong when a lady just brazenly enters the papal apartments and starts berating the Pope) but for most part, it won't make you cringe.

Apart from the setup, the screenplay is, to be honest, average. To be fair to the showmakers, the fact that this is based on actual history and is not a figment of anybody's imagination makes room for story-changing twists and turns, slightly narrow. There are few moments when your mouth would be agape for a few seconds but these sweet moments are a rarity rather than the norm. Don't go about ploughing the Wiki pages once you watch this show if historical correctness is a sacrosanct entity for you. There are ample of places where the events have been restructured to make a better storyline and certain, in my opinion, sacrilegious creative licences taken. But all that is forgotten if the end product turns out to be TV series rather than a documentary.

The acting department of The Borgias solely rests on the strong shoulders of Jeremy Irons’ Pope Alexander VI. Jeremy’s facial acting brings much-required brilliance in the sea of acting mediocrity shown by much of the characters. His portrayal of the wily yet pious, troubled yet ambitious pontiff of Rome deserves credit. He's undoubtedly the captain of this ship. Apart from this, Lucrezia’s character evolves pretty well over the course of the three seasons. There are few other noteworthy characters in the show, but most get overshadowed by Irons’ immaculate portrayal of one of the most controversial popes in history.

That mostly wraps up the specifics of the series. The shows has some very promising pieces like multiple poisonings of important people (a recurring theme in the show, one right at the start), murders, assassins, betrayal, deceit, even an incest sub-plot! It's just the optimal dose of political duplicity one could crave for. This show is not for the puritans but if you're up for some likeable medieval drama in between the episodes of the newest season of a certain TV series released just now, do tune in to the show. All three seasons are available online. Happy watching!

Review by- Aparajeya Dash