“The Borgias”–Bonfire of the Vanities

In the Season 2 finale of “The Borgias”, there is adultery happily engaged in by the beautiful Lucrezia, the fratricide of the favorite son of Pope Alexander VI (Jeremy Irons), the torture and death of the charismatic but delusional Savonarola (who spearheaded the original bonfire of the vanities), and the successful poisoning of the pope by his archrival’s deputy.

The ecclesiastical greed and hypocrisy in the Catholic Church drives the adrenaline of the Borgia family, an Italian/Spanish dynasty, to continue the campaign of corruption and murder in order to retain their position as the greatest force–religious or secular–in the entire Western world of the 15th century.  And how unashamed the Borgias are of their venal lives while most of Italy endures horrific poverty.

The series is rather closely based on history: the cunning of Pope Alexander VI and two (of three) sons and daughter by his beautiful but now middle-aged mistress.  A womanizing and vain man, Pope Alexander VI is determined to have his family remain unified in appearance if not in intention, all the while perpetrating lies, deception, and murder.

Like “The Tudors” which preceded “The Borgias”, the villains and antiheroes in this TV mini-series are obsessed with power at all cost, in the guise of religious devotion.  With Jeremy Irons as the sinister Alexander VI, Colm Fore as his archrival Cardinal della Rovere, and newcomers playing his sons and daughter, the series is outrageous when you least expect it (for example, Catherine Sforza’s exposure to the troops).   There is some poignant and moving dialogue as well.  In the powerful interchange between the pope and his older son Cesare, his son asks why his father always favored Juan yet was blind to his cruelty.  The distinctions, which are played out between what constitutes good intentions and bad, would yield a philosophical treatise on the nature of good and evil.  You will be thinking of scenes from this series long after the program has ended.  Another season is planned for 2013, so at least I can postpone my disappointment for now when the entertaining and provocative “Borgias” finally comes to an end!