Borgia Bulletin 3×4 (Banquet of SPOILERS)

This is like the happy hour of Borgia episodes.  There’s plenty of dark, alcohol-type, feelings and nefarious shenanigans about, but nothing goes too far, the plotlines are focused in tidy little dishes that aren’t really full entrees yet, and everyone knows these are the lighter ploys before someone really throws all their money on the table.

 

Dear Costume Department: The lighter fabric covering bosoms before leading up to a little collar is interesting.  It makes me want to talk about how to cover their emotions, the Borgias are creating walls around themselves, but walls that are so explicitly tied to their emotions that it’s impossible for anyone to miss the connection and therefore it doesn’t really hide anything.  I may be reading a lot into that, but it’s what I got-particularly when Lucrezia’s being congratulated in that dress on her gratifying wedding night.

Dear Jeremy Irons: You are talking to your daughter about how great her sex was, which can in no way be construed as checking she’s okay after her wedding night because everyone knows she’s not a virgin, and chortling at discovering her sex life was transformed, and still somehow-SOMEHOW, you sold me on being touchingly paternal in this scene.  HOW??  Also, your flabbergasted yelling when you find out about her lack of sex cracked me up.

Dear Alfonso: Okay, I do feel sorry for you now.  Exhibitionist sex is bad enough, without it being a) the only way you can get your wife to have sex with you and b) your first time.  Frankly, I was impressed that you managed so easily, considering your virgin status.  On the other hand, she did help you and a cousin watching is faar from the situation she was in.  I think you really just mellowed me out with your awkward talk about her liking sex “the usual way.”  Also, “Like brother and sister”?  Wow, you’re great for setting other people up to force awkward things.

Dear Cesare: French Ambassador guy seems cool.  Maybe you can subtly suggest to him that you’d like a French princess who looks exactly like your sister.  I bet he’d manage it-hey, it’s no skin off his back and it’ll give him more pointed things to say over wine.  In fact, you two could have a wonderful time trading pointed (but not barbed, he’s not a threat) remarks over snacks.

Dear Lucrezia: Please, please, please draw blood for the exhibitionism.  What I’ve been missing since Juan died is for you to have an enemy to deal with.

Dear Versucci: Smart man!  If you’re really going to hide your stolen money from the Pope, the best thing to do IS give it to the poor!  They’ll never think of that.  I do wonder how you navigate around in fields and rocks so well.  I thought you’d been living well at the Vatican for years-did you also steal maps?  Did you tour around a lot in youth and have a great memory?  Do you ask directions at every stop to the next place?

Dear Vatican Librarian: I’m so glad you are back!  So-did you “enjoy that”, as the Pope thought you would?

Dear Giulia: I didn’t expect you to be such a…presence in your night.  Couldn’t trust anyone else to be the auctioneer?  I’m glad you finally did your inevitable duty, but this storyline didn’t do much for you as the solution to getting leverage over all Cardinals in this Vatican was obvious.

Dear Cardinal Farnese: Poor, overwhelmed boy.  You had a very interesting look on your face at the end-were you just shocked at the others’ behaviour or were you a little sad you missed out on the fun?  Cause it kindof seemed more like the latter to me.  What do you think?

Dear Other New Cardinals: This is how we know you’re new-you paid no attention to the man behind the partition!  On the other hand, you know it’s dangerous to refuse Borgia invitations and you did know the Pope wanted money for the Crusades, so one can see how you might have felt that so long as you did spend the money for the right cause you’d be okay.

Dear Sforza Stealth Man: You reminded me of those weight guessers at carnivals, only with guessing the exact moment sex begins.  Is this a special talent of yours?

 

 

The (Other) Borgia Bulletin: Tom Fontana’s “Borgia”

Fontana’s Netflixed version of the Borgias’ story was a wonderful find to tide me over until Showtime’s version begins again inasmuch as it was so wonderfully different that it’s difficult to compare the two.  Of course, I’m about to do so anyway.

 

First and Overall impressions: The scenery and costumes are beautiful, with a more understated vibe.  This is attempting to show how people actually had pomp and circumstance, rather than bringing in TV pomp and circumstance to sell it.  This version sports accents on a spectrum, with those who soaked it up like Lucrezia forcing me to pause a moment to figure out what she’s saying til I got used to it, while others who didn’t pick it up well, like Rodrigo, sounding normal.  As the season goes on these discrepancies fade, but it made it difficult to stay in the show until that part.  The season starts earlier than the Showtimes’ version and ends in the same place as Showtimes’ second season.  This is because Fontana’s “Borgia” is focused much more on linear, intersecting stories that connect their dots, whereas Showtime’s “Borgias” tends to get caught up in certain themes and gratuity, allowing for sudden segues and some rambling storytelling.  Fontana also enhances context by ensuring that the influence of outside monarchs and European politics like those of Queen Isabella is keenly felt and placing the Borgia family firmly within the physical history of Rome.

Both versions are full of violence and nudity, but whereas Showtime cloaks these things in the aura of glamor, sexiness, showmanship, this version is the complete opposite: it offers up these things with no accompanying pageantry at all.  Lots of people are nude, many of them are not attractive.  If you have sex, you’re showing skin, we’re not making a big deal out of it-it’s just here for the logistics.  Violence was part of everyday life and we’re pounding that home with a whooole lot of bloody, pounding, simple acts.  There’s no music to lend it meaning, no quarter for those who’d rather blunt that side, no gratuitous feeling about the high dosage of in-your-face brutality.  We’ve got a couple naked guys strung upside down, getting sawed in half cock-first.  That’s just what we’ve got to deal with here. *shrug*

Most importantly, this version incorporates Cardinal-punching.  Cardinals punching each other in the face, in front of all the others and sometimes the Pope,too, is what is missing from the Showtime version.  Although, Showtime has monkeys and panthers.  This one has a sad lack of wildlife.

 

Characters:

On Cesare: Here is the greatest difference from the Showtime version.  Whereas that Cesare is a sophisticated manipulator and actor, suave in what he does, this version is just completely out of control and at the mercy of his “passions.”  Frankly, I don’t know that this version could pull off Machiavellian, which is interesting.  He is the epitome of this show’s vibe that the  family is just batshit, balls-out INSANE, rather than the cool, mafia-esque family of Showtime.  This shows Cesare going from elegant villain like early Lucius Malfoy to the psychopath that is Bellatrix, with God standing in for Bellatrix’s Voldemort.

On Juan: The events of his life and what stripe his deeds are marks the main line of agreement between the two versions.

On Lucrezia: Her story arc is the most exciting!  While both versions show Lucrezia starting out childlike, this version seems to act young for far longer.  Moreover, all possible incest rumors concerning her are taken on much more straight-on: the causes of the rumors, the potential for truth, what her policy on sex is-all are dealt with directly, rather than being winked at by the Showtime version.

On Giulia Farnese: This character is far more intriguing here.  While powerful in both versions, this Giulia is much more present and involved in all aspects of the family’s life.  Moreover, her power seems much more her own, while the other version makes it clear that she wields it through Rodrigo.  Not that this isn’t the case here, but she’s endowed with wiles and deviousness here, as well as standing from the Pope.  In fact, this Giulia holds so much power that she seems to lack direction in the use of it here.  She’s slinking around the Vatican like a woman at the party.  Most femme fatals either go in for the kill like that and move on to other parties/areas to work in, or work through the guests creating the mood or atmosphere that she likes, such as chaos.  This Giulia Farnese simply slinks around most of the time, influencing a few things here and there, but basically just adding an element of excitement and glamor to the crowd.  And while this crowd needs that, it’d be nice to see her slinking more aggressively or directly sometimes, instead of sticking to general slinkage.

On Alessandro Farnese: This character is unique to Fontana’s “Borgia” and is possibly my favorite.  Cesare’s best friend and Giulia’s brother, Alessandro is the guest who is popular with everyone because he’s so nice and so in-provocative that he makes no enemies, but the reader of the mystery story suspects he’s really the killer just because they’ve noticed it’s usually who you don’t expect (and also he constantly has access and opportunity).  The possibility of seeing his character develop more fully would be the main inducement to make more of this series, I think.

On Della Rovere: This version of the character is a violent, impulsive little troll who could never play poker because his temper would make him crumple the cards whenever he got a bad hand.  Showtime’s version gives him nobility, piety, patience, a plan, and a monkey.  This version makes him the instigator of the Cardinal-punching.  Frankly, I don’t know which is more fun.

Rodrigo I simply cannot compare, since it’s hardly this actor’s fault that he is not Jeremy Irons.  Michiletto I am also unable to discuss as he is largely a silent character in this version.  All I can really say is that the possibility of exploring him further is another good argument for making more of this series.  On the other hand, I’m just find not seeing anymore, simply because I find the in-your-face violence scenes difficult to swallow and the underlying current of INSANITY makes me stare in awe rather than experience more enjoyable reactions.  On the other hand, these are purely matters of taste, which is really the main thing that separates “Borgia” and “Borgias.”  If you prefer linear stories and scenes with less flashy showmanship, than this is the one for you.  I officially gift the dangerous, violent thing to you, a la PANTHER!

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Similar Posts:

-https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2013/06/22/the-borgia-bulletin-3×10-the-prince/

https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/attested-development-thoughts-on-arrested-development-season-4-as-a-whole/

The Borgia Bulletin (The Confession) Finale spoilers!

*claps hands in glee*  I am incredibly satisfied right now.

 

On Cardinal Sforza: Every time they let this guy act I like him more.  I know my Rome and Papal family well enough to know where to search, thank you.  I will just pick up that slack.  Good on him!

 

On Savonarola: New question: why bother with the rack when clearly his biggest horror is being caressed by a sodomite?  I’m sure someone somewhere could be paid enough money to sodomize him, especially since the threat alone might suffice.  Or, you know, there are artificial ways of doing it that might not be as morally horrifying, but could have helped perhaps.  I know it might be a tad awkward to explain to Cesare, but the man is often busy elsewhere-Micheletto could do it on his own power, at least the artificial kind.  Nevertheless, didn’t matter in the end so long as Machiavelli’s there to point out the obvious, wasn’t the pose of the people with burning torches picturesque, and isn’t it wonderful to get such a huge weight off Micheletto’s ass?  Yes, yes it is.  I was a trifle disappointed the Pope’s offer of clemency wasn’t phrased in the form of, “Just say this…and all is forgiven.”  Then the audience would’ve known that Savonarola had no chance in any case, so no matter what he did from that point on there would have been a least a smidgeon of doubt as to whether he would have ultimately given in or not.

 

On Lucrezia: Her game has been amped again!  This time she chose the more traditional route of posing as an underling.  I don’t believe for a moment that she did it purposely to gage Alfonso’s true feelings for her as opposed to her status and wealth, but it worked out anyway.  Besides, making quick decisions and acting well enough to stick it out are both excellent qualities for anyone in power, particularly a Borgia to be in accordance with their reputation.  I did rather wish that Alfonso recovered better after Lucrezia’s grand reveal, but if fits her reasoning about his goodness/sweetness.  Her reasoning works for her character and I think Holliday Grainger did a good job of portraying this as both natural progression and a Borgia girl’s assertion of will.  Also, the way the costumer gave them highly complementary costumes that were close to matching but avoided matchy-matchy was marvelous.  Also, cute.  There is one thing that could have made that whole thing better, though…PANTHER.  I miss panther.  Hopefully we will find out what happened to it next season.

 

On Giulia Farnese: That is dedication.  Pretty sure not many mistresses would agree to a midnight jaunt to all the off-brand corpse spots.  Of course, Giulia’s found the position she wants to be in and she is going the distance to stay there.  This scene also made me go ‘aww’ though-she so clearly didn’t want to be there, but was still clearly both willing and caring for Alexander VI.

 

On Cesare: Look at you!  I love derobed Cesare.  It was your turn to step up and take charge and you went for it like a panther for its first decent meal off-ship.  Your mistake about Lucrezia asking you to marry her and offering to run away and live simply was adorable.  You play the blurring of that incest line for all it’s worth wonderfully well, don’t you?  Your exchanges with your father held up to Jeremy Irons-always a feat, but even more so in this episode.  Kudos to you.  Hopefully you’ll soon get non-clerical garb that fits in at parties like Lucrezia’s engagement now.

 

On Vanozza: Calm, sensible, and fiery truth-caller.  Really, how did it get this far without me realizing how much I like you?

 

On Antonello: Good.  Now that you’ve done your job this plot can boast real movement!  Also, perhaps Colm Feore will get to actually do something again third season.

 

On Pope Alexander VI: Oh, Jeremy Irons, how are you this compelling?  From clinging to hope to undergoing all levels of disillusionment and betrayal, you were perfection.  The scene with you picking up Juan and seeing him as your precious little boy wrung my heart.  I did wonder for a moment that no one was set to guard you between your chambers and the lawn as it seems like something Cesare or Cardinal Sforza would do even if that wasn’t the norm, which it would be, but then we wouldn’t have got to see you burying your favorite child.  That scene, Jeremy Irons, is priceless.  You wept, you dug, you finally began your hardest journey: saying goodbye to something that truly matters to you.  I bow down.  My favorite scenes were the confrontations with Cesare, Lucrezia, and Vanozza, but damn if you didn’t pull me into this one so it’s hard to stop imagining it, too.

 

The music in this episode was spot on.  I loved the part with just Cesare walking through the Pope’s suite of rooms so for the first time it really demonstrated just how small those rooms are.  The ensemble cast pretty much all got their chance to play in this episode, which I love.  The confrontations between family members struck such delicious chords that I’m still vibrating and happy.  And Jeremy Irons…you were better than all PANTHERS tonight.  I will miss my show.

 

 

 

 

The Borgia Bulletin (World of spoilers)

I have conflicting feelings about this episode.  On the one hand, it’s an excellent penultimate episode content-wise and there were several excellent scenes.  On the other hand, it fell a tad flat for me.  The pacing felt odd, I was too aware of where in the series I was while still watching it, and I felt like the direction, particularly in its overlapping scenes, lacked the energy and spark that it usually has going for it.  In any event, next week looks properly stepped up and the world of this week’s episode was full, if not of wonders.

On excommunication: Adding the trappings of a curse to the excommunication of Savonarola did not cut it for me this week.  While the clear connection between the Pope damning him to hell’s fire and Savonarola literally walking through fire makes me understand why the show wanted this there, it held no real punch for me.  Mainly, my disappointment stems from the fact that every word Machiavelli said only showed the  astuteness of my original suggestion a few weeks ago of threatening the entire city to be excommunicated if they didn’t disown the heretic.  Watching this “disgrace” could not be pleasing while thinking of other ways it could be done.

On Antonello: This plotline continues to coast along, not doing much.  We don’t see the original interview for him, by the time he’s put up for the job at all it’s made clear he will get it.  Events clearly indicated that the poisoned jug wouldn’t reach its mark.  Whatever.

On Lucrezia: There is a return of PANTHER.  Who shall he be gifted to next???  I’ll never grow tired of PANTHER.  Also, her acting for me shone this week.  From the brush-off of her ruined betrothal and managing to use it to remind her father of what she’s owed to the demand for poison, Holliday Grainger kept me enthralled.  By far my favorite moment this week was when she brought Paolo’s murder out for an open confrontation with Juan after keeping it unspoken for so long.  That moment, with Lucrezia’s single tear and Juan’s immediate escalation, is the leaven that made this episode rise.  It made the incident with baby Giovanni-a foolish thing in itself-extremely poignant.  I really wish we’d seen what happened before Giulia Farnese went to ask for his baptism.  Scheming with Lucrezia?  A gesture of goodwill with Vanozza?  Her own plan to bring Alexander out of his “wilderness” and fasting, by using his beloved family member as leverage?  Any way you look at it, it’s an excellent thing.  And the baptism itself brought back to glory and costumes that I expect of the Borgias!

On Cesare: Finally, you get to have more drama!  I loved that bitchy little moment with Juan, the juvenile appetizer to warm-up to that delicious dinner of explaining to Juan just how little gets by you.  Eeeverything just came out with Juan this episode.  No wonder he had to die-his fights were over and he’s hardly up to new shenanigans.  Excellent sense of timing, my Cesare.  On the other hand, it’s so echoey of your stabbing of Lucrezia’s ex that it is likely to slide over into protection of your sister’s interests, doing the damning act yourself to save her, instead of being a whole new deed that you did for your own reasons.  After all that flack Juan gave you, you deserved to kill him for yourself alone.  I sympathize that you got to do it so simply.  Thank god for quips with Michiletto!

On Juan: How wonderful an effect opium can have on a person!  Just look at the difference between party!Juan and opium!Juan.  You played it off wonderfully, David Oakes.  Add to that how I wanted to laugh during your speech with your own cock, but couldn’t because you had too much feeling and it is a performance mightily ended.  I salute you, David Oakes.  Juan-this is the night that the wine came back, for goodness sake.  It is not the time to mess up.  You did have an endearingly blind faith in your father’s love as a shield though, didn’t you?  When you use it as a weapon against both siblings, it becomes a weapon that will bring you down.  It all fits in.  Unfortunately, I expected you to put up more of a fight during your death-at least say something more.  I sympathize that the writers gave you nothing for that.

On Pope Alexander VI: I believe my favorite line this week was your commending your ex-taster’s soul to Heaven and “damn yours!” *step* “and yours!”  to Lucrezia’s brotherly suitors.

On Vanozza: Writers, please to be giving her more time next week!  She rocked it!  Pointing out that Borgias love who they choose, defying double standards for the genders, and turning Juan’s best gibes into mere trifles to scorn…the Pope may have had my favorite line, Lucrezia my favorite scenes, but you and your gumption provided the gel that kept this episode together.  I hope to hear more from you next week-nay, I depend on it.

The finale should prove far better-once more, the Borgias shall be flung at each other, instead of each one drawing off to confront their own demons and put off the world.  It’s when they’re constantly working against, and for, other Borgias that this family really thrives.

The Borgia Bulletin (Choice Spoilers)

This episode is indeed a choice entree!  Or rather, it took pieces of choice foods, and desserts, and savory bites, and threw them all together in a kind of gourmet sandwich.  So many things happen, most of them without the ties or thematic thrust that usually encompasses this show’s plots.

 

-Over here the dark-robed priests are still trying to be Obi Wan and work up the Borgias as the Sith Lords.  And yeah, they found some young guy to be their Luke (with similar hair even, methinks), but do we really want to see people trying to be Obi Wan?  No, we want them to be succeeding or dying, and they’re just taking forever about it.  Definitely the stalest part of the palate, and no tastier than bread.

 

-Inside there, the trio of ladies: Giulia, Vanozza, and Lucrezia, are visiting the brothels, where there’s surprisingly little sex compared to the rest of the episode.  There are cardinals instead, which…really, no one’s surprised.  There’s meat on the bone here, but it’ll need another episode to carve it into something ready to eat.  The only new information is that they know as well as the Godfather how to make an offer that can’t be refused.  I’m sure that corresponding heads will be cut off.

 

-Back in the main plot, Cesare is facing off with Catherina Sforza.  This is apparently “the choice” of the title, but it really shouldn’t be.  Everyone knows how it’ll go down, just like the madam’s choice of an offer she can’t refuse, and the friars’ choices about death that all lead to the same thing-death, and therefore are not really choices.  We are, however, treated to Cesare’s choice ass in these scenes, so there’s that.  So, I suppose the main thing here is the show’s makers finally choosing to show it to us again.  Tasty.

 

– Michiletto has a mother!  A home city-sure, an actual home where his mother WIPES HIS HANDS FOR HIM is quite another thing!  Its sweetness needs no words.  And then he is gay, and juicy, and indulging it with someone who may or may not be his brother on the grave of the father Michiletto killed, and it’s easy to see there is clearly a dearth of choices for him to be happy.  Why is this thing called ‘the choice’ again?

 

Aha!  It’s because Cesare decides to STAB GIOVANNI SFORZA TO DEATH.  An excellent choice.  That spiciness hit the spot, thank you!

 

However, this is juxtaposed with lightning falling in on St. Peter’s and killing small children, while making Pope Roderigo soulful and upset.  There are real choices here, too.  Roderigo chooses to risk his life saving children and atone through fasting in order to prevent further calamities.  The other Cardinals, etc. choose to stand around on the steps being useless.  Jeremy Irons performs brilliantly, and the festival of different tastes in this episode is complete. Did they go together?  Not really so much.  Are they explosive, and excellent, and memorable in your mouth?  Definitely.

The Borgia Bulletin (Stray Spoilers)

Huzzah!  The Borgias manage to put everything into such a perspective, it miraculously makes everything seem better.  Bad news?  “Is there any other kind, my lord?”  And this episode, they do it by bringing in “The Princess Bride.”

 

So, this episode starts off with Michiletto gathering a band of Inigo Montoyas!  “Hello.  Our names are from warlike Italian families.  You desecrated our homelands.  Prepare to die!”  Michiletto leads them to an underground Zorro cave where there’s a noise and one asks, “What is that?”  Why, that’s the sound of An Entrance!  Cesare supplies these Inigo Montoyas with various hardcore weapons and instructs them that they should all dress in black, with masks.  However, camerawork shows us that Cesare himself is the main Man in Black of this outfit by having close-ups of him donning and removing his black mask.  Like the original Man in Black, Cesare is consumed by his desire for vengeance, due to a lost love.  However, instead of a swordsman, a giant, and Vizzinni, Cesare outfights and outwits a band of French scouts.  This is something of a letdown, especially considering he could’ve just put cantarella (or iocaine powder) in most of the drinking goblets in the first place.  No doubt we’ll get to see Cesare Borgia poisoning a table full of fighters at a later date.  In any case, this allows Michiletto to play The Count and demonstrate that he’s a connoisseur of pain, without needing any special Machine.   This brute squad closes out the episode by clearing the battlefield of French gunpowder.

The Pope, meanwhile, is tactfully making his way through political and bedtime alliances.  Along the way he instructs his audience in good vengeance techniques, that Honor has many cousins, including Valor, and that all such conceptual cousins have killed many people.  While he’s perfectly all right with this, he’s ready to throw a fit upon learning that Cesare’s taken to playing the Man in Black and leading his team of Montoyas.  Even when he’s told pointblank that it’s guaranteed his “Holy Mother Church” all of the valuable booty.  Perhaps this is understandable when one recalls that learning of Cesare’s interference has robbed the Pope of his perceived ability to obtain miracles, and also of the feat that had previously impressed his hostess.

Back home, Lucrezia’s officially in charge and teasing the cardinals with cooking metaphors.  She’s decided to add her own verve, and her mother’s experience with brothels (no doubt held off until it could be given more screentime) to Giulia’s work to help the poor.

 

This episode could just as well have been called “Unfinished Business.”  It rounds out the conflict with the French army, it reminds everyone that the Sforzas will still need their own special punishment.  It finally ends the saga of Cesare and Ursula.  It’s reminding everyone that there’s serious humanitarian issues in Rome to be dealt with.  It continues the gender crossing theme by placing Lucrezia on St. Peter’s chair.  And, of course, the Pope and the Duchess consummate their sexual “unfinished business.”

The Borgia Bulletin (Spoiling Paolo)

My show is back to perfection with 2×2 “Paolo”!  I knew it wouldn’t let me down after last week!

Lucrezia’s lover arrives in Rome.  This should be everyone’s first clue that he will die, and this being an excellent show, it is.  In the meantime, his tender, requited passion for Lucrezia is used to ask the question: “What is love like?”  Set against Giulia’s ploys to retain the Pope’s affections, prostitutes, and Cesare’s infatuation-withdrawal symptoms for Ursula, this query packs a punch for everyone this episode.  Especially the audience.

On more thematic lines, however, this episode began a very interesting turning point.  The Borgias are always seen to be crossing lines-upstart family to Pope of Rome, adultery, murder.  First season these were all crossed for various self-serving purposes; all shocking, scandalous infringements!  This episode displayed the Borgias’ willingness to cross boundary lines from motivations that are good.  Lucrezia doesn’t care for class lines in her love.  The Pope audaciously crosses class, convention, and most importantly, financial lines in his crusade to better Rome.  Giulia Farnese smacks down gender rules to help with this crusade.  It’s not just about their morals anymore, now it’s about circumstances and what anyone might be asked to do.  It might even be said that Colm Feore’s murder of his would-be assaulters is an unwitting endorsement of the Borgias in this episode.  I’m not crazy about the line “Sometimes goodness needs the help of a little badness,” but it does get the point across.

Other notes: I entirely feel Roderigo’s vexation at the pigeons.  I’ve gotten absurdly sick of pigeons myself at various points, and was highly pleased to see his hawking campaign.

Michiletto is still the most awesome!  No idea why he spent so much of his valuable time with that prostitute, though.

I’ve always been in favor of Cesare as the murderer of Juan, but after this episode I’d love to see Lucrezia behind it.