Borgia Bulletin 3×1 “The Face of Spoilers”

They are baaaaaaaack!  This makes me incredibly happy.  “The Face of Death” brings us right back into the action where season 2 left off, so all is a smooth transition from poisoning to poison-aftermath.

 

On Lucrezia: Thank goodness for book reading!  Lucrezia’s supreme confidence and “This is the line-everyone should fall in!” rules all this episode.  Giulia should start paying more attention to where she stands with this mature Lucrezia, because of she decides to take umbrage with someone, they Will pay.

 

On Roderigo: Oh, Jeremy Irons, I doubt there are that many actors that could make unconscious flopping and charcoal spewing good TV.  I do wish they had given you more to say instead of just repeating the lines.  That being said, I appreciated the writers keeping alive the tension of Juan’s death without it feeling overly forced, I love the irony of despised, worldly you being the only one in the Vatican to be actually worrying about God right now, and the way everyone clusters to you with their concern felt truly genuine and reassuring.  Even through the TV.

 

On Cesare: I look forward to this as the baseline of a new escalating storyarc.  Without your energy and ferocity I might have disconnected from the storylines, seeing as I had no doubt that everyone would survive-because of history and Michiletto.  The only time you fell short was in your final confrontation with Della Rovere.  I wanted you to taunt with the fact that Roderigo’s fate had undoubtedly lain in the hands of God-and clearly God had wanted him to life, thus proving Della Rovere’s quest unworthy and damned.  I reeeally wanted Cesare to kick him in the religion.  I also really wanted Colm Feore to have the chance to react to that.  I felt he tried his best in his facial expressions both times he found out the Pope was better than expected, but…it’d have been so satisfying to see played out.

 

On Michiletto: You with baby Giovanni is the most adorable thing ever.  You with Giovanni while you’re covered in blood is magnificent.  It shows the true range of ways in which you are there for the Borgias and how they reciprocate in their trust of you.  Moreover, the expression highlighted how strange it was to end a fight with something that you saved, rather than something that you destroyed.  Saving a master is simply a duty and a portal toward which people to destroy and for what reasons, it’s not the same as suddenly being faced with something powerless that you rescued.

 

On Caterina Sforza: I love your penchant for birds.  I approve your plan for forming an Alliance.  I advise against saying “No more assassinations.”  Never say never, Caterina!

 

Basically, I am incredibly pleased.  However, this was mainly a wrap-up/set-up episode where all of the storylines had pretty set arcs which made the viewing stakes were fairly low.  Enough to wet the appetite, but not enough for a proper meal.

 

 

 

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/

“Death by Scandal”

Death by Scandal

By: Marguerite Butler

(http://margueritebutler.blogspot.com/)

Aurora Regency (Musa Publishing) 2011

An historical romance review

 

When Lord Westbourne is poisoned at a dashing house party, everyone knows who to blame: the scandalous Lady Calandra who shot her last fiancé.  Unfortunately, the ton have the wrong person and only a small handful of people know it: Arthur, the man who secretly loves Calandra, her best friend Julia, and Lady Calandra herself.  The daunting task of clearing Calandra’s name isn’t made any easier when she claims she had no motive to kill Westbourne because she is engaged to another man.  Can Calandra escape both the law’s noose and the coils of a disastrous engagement?

Butler writes like a country dance, bobbing and sweeping back and forth to keep momentum and intrigue.  It keeps a good pace and builds curiosity for which steps Butler has in store next.  Her characters’ personalities develop more fully in the mind of the reader as they become revealed, rather than truly evolving during the story.  Yet, the dynamics between characters shift in tune with the plot and make these protagonists real.

The plot contains both mystery and romance.  Surprisingly, neither the structure of the crime nor the obstacles within the romance provide the real core of this work.  Death by Scandal is like an inside out cake-there’s a good layer of cake on the outside, but the larger inside is full of frosting.  The issues of discovering the killer and overcoming romantic impediments always seem peripheral to the tumultuous feelings they provoke.  Moreover, problems are resolved more simply here than in similar works.  However, Butler’s writing style keeps things moving so well that it never seems more melodramatic or less interesting.  She sustains the excitement remarkably easily.

Death by Scandal is a lovely quick read for those who truly enjoy the warm side of romance.  For those who prefer the chase in relationships or the detailed part of sleuthing, this book might be a bit too sweet for you.  For those with the romantic sweet tooth, enjoy your caked frosting.

Snow White and Prince Rufus

With all the Snow White tales floating in the air from the media lately, I’ve decided to add a flake of my own.  The older Snow White tales are the ones I find the most creepy.  They are filled with princes who find supposedly dead, yet fresh-looking, young women and decide to take them home.  Or ones who never bury their first wife, even after they marry a second.  My favorite has the second wife awakening Snow white (by removing a poisoned comb) and then they form a threesome.  These guys are creepy.  I find it highly ironic that of all the Disney princes to be simply known as “Prince Charming”, Snow White’s prince is the one.  (Yes, also Cinderella, but at least he dances charmingly.)

The following is my attempt to create a version of this prince who is not creepy, while adhering to the formula where Snow White is already out cold before they meet.  One who is even likeable, though not necessarily “charming.”  I give you: “Prince Rufus”

Prince Rufus sulked atop his horse.  When his elder brother took his year of pilgrimage, to see their lands and learn of life and wonders, his missives and tokens numbered dozens of marvelous treasures and unheard of wonders.  Now, his turn was proving miserably disappointing.

 

“Dwarves!”  The entourage of guards prepared for an attack by the Wood Dwarves, but it proved to be nothing but a small mourning party of Valley Dwarves.

 

Rufus proffered condolences.  “How long ago did you lose her?”

 

“A year ago last week, your highness,” the dwarves babbled together.  Puzzled, the prince took a real look at the girl in the coffin.  “…but she always looks so fresh.”

 

“I’ve found the girl who defeated death!” cried Rufus.  His natural vanity and sibling jealousy rejoiced at finding this wonder.

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On returning home prince Rufus was shocked to discover his parents had construed the mention of a girl as news of his betrothal.  The court was thrumming with celebrations and preparations for his nuptials.  Too loyal to cause his family embarrassment, and used to feeling a fool (so long as it’s private), he married the Girl Who Defeated Death.

 

“It’s not so bad, really,” he explained to his captain.  “I would’ve had to marry anyway, and I definitely wasn’t looking forward to spending all my time meeting or courting girls.  I never have a thing to say to them, anyway.  With Snow White I don’t need to worry about that!  And you know my wife’s a beauty!”

 

The captain sighed.  All the soldiers loved Prince Rufus for his bravery and tenacity on the field, but his captains held him in special regard.  While brilliant in the moment, Rufus had no gift for planning ahead and, amazingly enough, he knew it.  He never tried to lord over the captains, and always adhered strictly to their advice.  Staunchly loyal as a brother, good-natured as a friend, and a proud enough prince to command the love and respect of every man in the kingdom, was their Prince Rufus.  If only he could think of himself alone once in awhile.  Not as part of the royal family, not as a fighter among many, but as his own man.  Long had Rufus’ friends hoped their prince would realize himself through the eyes of a girl-loving or mocking, it didn’t matter so long as he found her thoughts directed at him alone.  Now even that possibility was gone.  Snow White’s eyes held nothing.

 

“A beauty,” he repeated.  And nothing else. 

 

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.

Voice of the Falconer

Voice of the Falconer (sequel to Master of Verona)

By: David Blixt

(http://www.davidblixt.com/)

Sordelet Inc. (April 23, 2012)

An historical adventure fiction review

 

Young Cesco is the hidden heir to Verona’s master, Cangrande della Scala, the foster child of Pietro Alaghieri and the rest of Dante’s family, and a mercurial eleven-year-old.  Voice of the Falconer brings Cesco to Verona with his entourage of protectors.  Through an onslaught of plots, surprises, and lessons, Cesco must make spectacular debuts, uncover secrets about his identity, and above all: survive.  Meanwhile, Pietro’s return finds him confronting both old friends and familiar demons.  With battles, intrigues, and references galore, this sequel retains all the momentum and excitement of its predecessor.

 

In Voice of the Falconer Blixt sets up all the players of “Romeo and Juliet,” enriching their characters and continuing to make them his own.  Entwining them with other Shakespearian tales like “Merchant of Venice” and “Much Ado About Nothing,” Blixt’s cleverness will delight fans and draw the Bard new ones.  Far from staying in Shakespeare’s shadow, these references spark seamlessly alongside history, prophecy, research, and philosophy.  Never less than an adventure, each aspect of Blixt’s novels carries multiple sides: passion, poetry, humor, mystery…Voice of the Falconer twists its cast through intriguing events without ever sacrificing depth of character.  This sequel’s ability to reintroduce readers to old friends after an eight year gap is impressive, but that pales to the achievement of showing such astute shifts in relationships and individuals through the novel.  Even laboring under the knowledge of many character’s deaths, Blixt’s portrayals give these people a marvelous wholeness and reality.

 

I’ve waited five years to read this sequel.  This book is worthy of that wait.  Its only problem is that I already care so deeply for many of these characters that remembering “Romeo and Juliet” grows painful.  Luckily, there is always one more quest for my heroes to follow, one more mystery needing to be solved, one more gorgeous sentence that I have to read twice.  Above all, there is so much of the plot left that I cannot foresee and that I absolutely need to know!

 

Blixt’s historical Italy was never a place for the faint of heart and this second book brings no relief, throwing readers through a gauntlet of anticipation, suspense, and wonder.  It’s a rough environment that not everyone will enjoy-definitely not a cozy, relaxing read.  For readers who thrive on challenging, intricate works, this is a gift for you.

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