Creator Neil Jordan enjoyed a captive audience when he decided to tell the story of one of the most controversial Renaissance popes in The Borgias. But just as viewers had become enamoured with the Borgias and their litany of debauched acts, Showtime has pulled the plug on the series, writes Debashine Thangevelo.
HISTORY is a breeding ground for Hollywood filmmakers. We have seen many legendary figures captured on celluloid time and again and they vary from politicians such as the Kennedys to stars like Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley to notorious criminals like the BTK (bind, torture, kill) killer.
Let’s not forget life-changing events like the 9/11 terrorist attacks or natural disasters like the tsunami in Thailand in 2004.
The point being, creators are spoilt for choice when it comes to material.
And when the subject is based on real life, the undertaking can be immensely successful.
Following in the footsteps of the hit runs of The Tudors, Boardwalk Empire and Rome, The Borgias has not fallen short on its expected delivery.
With the inimitable Jeremy Irons breathing life into Pope Alexander VI, series creator Neil Jordan had to simply plug into the narrative for the period drama.
Fortunately, he didn’t have to rely on any artistic licence to capture the scandalous reign of this pope, which reads like a New York bestseller as it features everything from betrayal, lust, orgies, politics, blackmail, bribery, murder and nepotism to incest.
Sadly, season three marks the end of the series.
In the first season, viewers were introduced to Rodrigo Borgia (played by Irons), his two sons, Cesare (François Arnaud) and Juan (David Oakes, and daughter Lucrezia (Holliday Grainger).
With his sons as his strongest allies, Rodrigo’s savvy as a politician and diplomat is established, as is his ruthless ambition to ascend the papacy.
And this sets the tone for the series, where collateral damages are par for the course. Threats are either bribed or eliminated.
Amid this festering power play, the tension within the family feeds into the unfolding drama. More so with Cesare having killed his brother – forcing the pope to face his shortcomings as a father.
Although Jordan would have preferred a better climax for his series – pushing for a two-hour movie, which he’d already scripted to conclude the characters’ story arcs – he wasn’t extended the liberty by Showtime.
Meanwhile, Arnaud doesn’t seem to be fazed by how the story concludes. If anything, it finally gave viewers what they wanted.
He told Zap2it: “I like the ending. For my character and Lucrezia, there was something very Shakespearean about it.
“It would have been great to play Cesare until his death. I get the feeling that I still brought Cesare to the Cesare Borgia that is remembered in history, and who we think of when we think of him.
“It was just that incredible journey from innocent little boy to mass murderer, army general, incestuous brother. It was fasci- nating every step of the way. It’s like 20 roles in one.”
Looking at the actor’s career trajectory, this series offered a definite leap into the spotlight.
On the incest angle, the actor notes: “At first, what shocked me is that Neil always said he didn’t want to go there, and that he personally didn’t believe it happened. Those were the conversations we had early on in season one.
“When I first read it, I went, ‘oh my God, he’s going for it’. I think, dramatically, you can only hint at something for a certain while before you actually go there.”
Tonight’s finale is definitely not to be missed – the poisonous desires of this notorious family take a deadly turn.
• The Borgias airs on M-Net Series Showcase (DStv channel 113) tonight at 10pm.