The Borgia Bulletin 3×10 (The Prince)

The finale is here and…I feel satisfied.  This show always excelled at season endings and this one is no exception.  It covered everything immediate and brought the characters to a place where I am alright leaving them, although I’d rather not.

 

SPOILERS:

Dear Machiavelli: The man is an oracle.  I dearly want a Machiavellian tarot deck now.  Think about what it would be-THINK OF IT.  All the Borgias would be present, of course.  The ordinarily peaceful cards would involve orgies.  The cups suit would be vials of poison.  Pretty much anything you do with it would bring the answer, “I shouldn’t have asked that, should I?”  It’d be a thing.

Dear Rodrigo: This-this-is why I love you.  Yes, Cesare needs to do the actual carving and fulfill his ambitions, but once you accept that he’s there, your planning and confidence blow even him out of the water.  This is the way I believe that it worked, with your twin ambitions and different abilities complementing, building, and scaring the hell out of everyone including each other.  This is it.

Dear Cesare: Ah, to be young and devious.  Francois Arnaud got to showcase the range of his talent here, from vulnerable and wishing his mother could fill in for his best friend to creepy tormenter to possessive lover.  There was everything in that.  You showed everyone just exactly how in charge and fearsome you could be, even though we don’t get to see you filling out that position, you let us already see and enjoy it.  Thank you for that.

Dear Michiletto: I understand.  Your affair not only ended in killing your lover, but in proving that you were not, in fact, the most trustworthy companion ever.  You let down your master, yourself, and your lover.  No matter what, your hometown will fall and your family have a good chance of dying.  You came back to ensure that your work was finished, because “loyalty was his only code.”  You are not dead, though-you are a ghost wiling away in the shadows.  You can go wherever you want, take whatever you want, and disappear whenever you want, and you deserve that.  In my head you wander until you meet up with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, tossing coins that turn up heads and arguing about everything.  You’ll take one as a lover, convince them it’s okay to be unsure of their names, and kill off the cast of Hamlet all by yourself.  It’ll be epic and haunting.

Dear Lucrezia: Your arc has differed the most from what I expected and wished for your character.  I expected to see you growing in triumph, killing for the good of the family, and using your tie to your brother as leverage.  In spite of that…you have completely won me over.  This version walks a fine line between different tropes, but weaves them together seamlessly.  And Holliday Grainger sells the hell out of it.  I cannot not buy her emotions, her disillusions, her determination.  There is a part of me that really wants to be upset at how defeated she winds up here, how dependent, and yet….it was just too good not to love.

Dear Alfonso: I was so afraid they wouldn’t get around to killing you!  Thank you for being such a wonderful foil for everyone else.

Dear Vitelli: Well done, you!  You’ve got craft, foresight, initiative, and commonsense.  I foresee you going far.  I’m sorry I won’t get to see you setting yourself farther up from the pack by slyly setting them up and taking their castles until Cesare finally poisons you.  It’d have been fun.

Dear Caterina Sforza: You really ought to know all the weaknesses of your chosen fortress, milady.  That being said, in all fairness, you had only Rufio instead of Michiletto and one cannot badass everything themselves.  Although, the fact that someone was touching your wardrobe seemed an odd thing to show your claws at.  The defeat was exquisite.

Dear show: The camouflage cloaks rocked!  The music throughout the whole thing was just the right amount of suspenseful-enough buildup I was literally on edge, but not so much that it wore out over time.  The camerawork, particularly in the confessional scene with Pope Alexander VI and Lucrezia was just beautiful.  The bloody smudges on her at the end were perfect.  I know you had more to give.  You will be sorely missed.

 

The Borgia Bulletin 3×6 (RelicSPOILERS)

This episode is building, all plot, and only one thing made me take the time out to review it instead of going straight on:

 

Dear Pope Alexander VI, BEEKEEPER!!: This should totally be the new thing-everyone must buy my personal honey or no forgiveness!  All crusaders must pay for a stock of my honey-it’ll keep you blessed in the Holy Land!  Unforgivable suicide, you say?  Bury them with my personal honey and I’ll make it Purgatory!  Keep coming back and anointing their graves with Vatican honey and they’ll get to Heaven just as soon as I get some Treasury fullness!  Plague around and people dropping like flies?  Get Vatican honey and I’ll let you fly away like bees!  See, Rodrigo?  I’m coming up with money ideas for you-wear the beekeeper hat more and I’ve always got your back.  Ahhhhh, I am satisfied.

But also, now that I’m here, Dear Cesare, your time has finally arrived!  Am so glad to see you enjoying it so thoroughly.

Also, Cardinal Newbies, just HAD to battle it out for who has the best “spear” already, eh?  And try to be as sneaky as your predecessors.  *shakes head*  Perhaps you learned nothing from the Banquet of Chestnuts, but in case you forgot-secret writing is Always Problematic.  Battles of Spears always have Losers.  Also, if the Pope wants relics, he’s gonna get relics, don’t stand in his way, fools.  (Cardinal Sforza is a whole different thing, just because he got to deny the Shroud of Turin doesn’t mean you Cardinewbies can go around trying to deny him things.)

Dear Overly Symbolic Fireworks: I think you should be an option on all TV shows now.  Need to liven up a bittersweet love scene?  Get the Overly Symbolic Fireworks in-it’ll be festive without losing or mocking the drama!  Need to keep the flames going between a couple who haven’t got enough screentime for anything sexy?  Fireworks activate!  Endless possibilities, you guys, endless.

Dear Michiletto: Of all fictional characters, I would most like to have you help me babysit children.  Also, I reeeeally want some kind of crossover where you get to hang out with Hannibal Lector (Mads Mikkelson version), because you would be his perfect friend.  Of course, he’d probly be sulky that his perfect friend is gay, the opposite of fancy, and actually liked having a master, but let’s be honest: He’ll want to eat you, you’ll want to fuck him, you’ll ENJOY his mindfuckery and he’ll enjoy your torture-it’s just a match made in Heaven.  Plus, you’re both masters at being behind the scenes, quiet persuasion, and the quiet speeches.  Yeah.  This is happening in my head now.

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.