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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Borgias
The Second Season


Starring: Jeremy Irons, Lotte Verbeek, Holliday Grainger, François Arnaud and David Oakes
Paramount Home Entertainment
RRP: £29.99
Certificate: 15
Available 29 October 2012

Rodrigo Borgia, having schemed and murdered his way into becoming Pope Alexander VI, finds his position less than secure, as his rapid ascent to power has made him many enemies. With his house beset without with enemies, within his family is tearing itself apart. His mistress Giulia Farnese realises that her position may not be as secure as she once thought and Rodrigo’s two sons Cesare and Juan bring their rivalry to the point of fratricide...

The Borgias: The Second Season (2012 - 10 x 1 hr. episodes) is written, produced and directed by Neil Jordan. The second season continues with the blend of tits and swords which seems to be the order of the day with Game of Thrones, Spartacus and The Bogias all having a surfeit of both.

Only loosely connected with historical face, The Borgias has more in common with The Godfather (1972), although the Borgia family is a lot more dysfunctional than the Corleone’s and much more overtly brutal. Rodrigo’s morality is single minded, to advance his family, at any cost. The hatred of Rome's leading families, historically, had less to do with any depravity which might be attached to Rodrigo’s name and more to do with the fact that he was an outsider, being of Spanish birth.

Jeremy Irons gives a magnificent performance as the single-minded autocrat. It would be easy to portray him as mad, or even evil. Irons, however, portrays him as a shark swimming through dangerous waters, all the time avoiding being stabbed in the back by both friends and family.

Visually, Irons looks like a dissolute emperor, which is what he really is. This was a time when the Pope and the Catholic Church had real political power to make or break kings, a situation which was only ended in England under Henry VIII and the dissolution of the monasteries. Rodgigo is a strange mix, considering the main PR trust, trying to portray the show as The Sopranos, in frocks. Rodrigo appears to have a genuine concern for the poor and the powerless, which is at odds with his callous treatment of his enemies.

Surrounding Irons as the central character, Lotte Verbeek as Giulia Farnese, is stronger now she is faced with losing the Pope's affections and the power that comes with this. In fact, nearly all the actors are able to grow their respective parts. Whereas season one, written exclusively by Jordan, was a little ponderous, season two has really opened up to encompass the beauty of renaissance Italy, adding a real cinematic feel to the show.

Season two is presented on a four disc DVD set, with a respectable 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack with optional English subtitles. The picture on the DVD was serviceable, although given the richness of the sets and costumes, it will probably look better on the Blu-ray.

There are some pretty impressive extras on the final disc. The World of the Borgias contains eight smaller featurettes, War (2 min, 33 sec), Power (3 min, 03 sec), Rome (3 min, 08 sec), The Vicar of Rome (2 min, 02 sec), Gunpowder Revolution (1 min, 41 sec), Love (1 min, 18 sec), Sex (2 min, 07 sec) and The Renaissance (2 min, 07 sec), with shots from the show, have talking heads putting aspects of the show into historical perspective.

The Art of Fencing (6 min, 11 sec) looks at the sport of sword fencing with some attempt at relating it to the fights in the show. Instruments of Torture (4 min, 45 sec) is a small piece of torture and torturers and lastly, The Borgia Poison (6 min, 35 sec) trots out an expert to discuss the types of poisons which would have been available to Rodrigo.

The second season has certainly built on the success of the first, if anything providing a stronger story with a more visually impressive background. Fans of the show will be impressed, though for anyone who hasn’t seen the show I suggest you start by buying season one.


Charles Packer

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