• Network:
  • Series Premiere Date: Apr 3, 2011
  • Season #: 1 , 2 , 3
The Borgias Image
Metascore
66

Generally favorable reviews - based on 25 Critics What's this?

User Score
8.3

Universal acclaim- based on 98 Ratings

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  • Summary: The rise of power by the Borgias clan led by Pope Alexander VI (Jeremy Irons) and his children (Cesare, Lucrezia, and Gioffre) is examined in the Neil Jordan series.
  • Genre(s): Drama
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 16 out of 25
  2. Negative: 1 out of 25
  1. Reviewed by: Robert Bianco
    Mar 31, 2011
    88
    If it plays a bit fast and loose with facts, it's nowhere near as outrageous as its Showtime cousin The Tudors, whose ever-young, ever-fit Henry VIII was an affront to history and to common sense. Irons may not look anything like the real Pope Alexander, but he makes you believe in him - and for The Borgias' purposes, that's what matters.
  2. Reviewed by: David Hinckley
    Mar 30, 2011
    80
    What makes for a mixed stewardship of the Roman Catholic Church can also make for lively television.
  3. Reviewed by: Glenn Garvin
    Apr 7, 2011
    80
    Murder and sexual predation sure look fun when they're done by pretty people in luscious gowns. Jeremy Irons is splendidly depraved as Rodrigo, and Holliday Grainger (Robin Hood) so sunnily sweet as Lucrezia that it's damn near impossible to hold a little arsenic against her.
  4. Reviewed by: Tim Goodman
    Mar 30, 2011
    70
    The fact is, these kinds of grand historical reimaginings can be a scrumptious combination of costume drama acting, soap opera theatrics and pay cable promiscuousness. That'll make the hours fly by. And it doesn't mean your pleasure needs to be all that guilty.
  5. Reviewed by: Matt Roush
    Apr 1, 2011
    70
    Like the notorious family that bribed its way into the Vatican's papal chamber while sullying many a Roman bedchamber, we want our money's worth. And The Borgias wickedly delivers, serving up an operatic feast of delicious malice and unbridled lust: for power and wealth, for carnal pleasure and vulgar theatrics.
  6. Reviewed by: Phillip Maciak
    Apr 4, 2011
    50
    The Borgias is merely the network's most recent, shallow exploration into precisely how murderous, horny, and fabulously costumed the wealthy were at the turn of the 16th century.
  7. Reviewed by: Nancy DeWolf Smith
    Apr 8, 2011
    30
    Some shading aside, some occasional twinges of remorse, nothing can hide the fact that these people have no souls to lose, no character to develop. Apart from looking for "Godfather" homage moments, there isn't more to root for here than there is at a cage fight.

See all 25 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 12 out of 13
  2. Negative: 0 out of 13
  1. Apr 4, 2011
    10
    I'll admit I was predisposed to like "The Borgias" by the subject matter, by the network, by the involvement of Neil Jordan, and by the casting of Jeremy Irons as Rodrigo Borgia. And I do like it, very much. As usual with historical series, the show edits the facts quite a bit, but some of the editing is doubtless in the interest of fairness, given the blackening of the Borgia name after the family's downfall. Cesare, promoted to elder brother in the series, is a more conflicted, self-aware thug than his historical counterpart, and, played with intelligence and charm by François Arnaud, serves as a strong foil to his menacing father. And no one does menace like Jeremy Irons. Even when he's not saying a word, just staring into space, his face advertises his cruelty and depraved ambition. Then he speaks, complicating the portrait with a dark charisma that lures and repels simultaneously. From top to bottom, the casting is unusually good, as should be evident from the participation of heavyweights Colm Feore and Derek Jacobi, who play rival cardinals. Also first-rate is the overall look of the show, which is sumptuous in the extreme. One critic complained that Rodrigo's reason for seeking the papacy was obscure, but, for me, it was obvious in the buildings, the clothes, the ornaments, the art, all of which proclaim the massive wealth and power of the church in Rome. "The Borgias" is splendid, in at least two senses of the word. Expand
  2. Feb 27, 2014
    10
    I was a bit undecided about following this series as I thought it was going to be disappointing compared to The Tudors. It turned out much better for several reasons, among which the fact that the cast is much larger and the story does not focus mainly on one character (such as Henry VIII). Besides, the story of this family is a lot less known, so it is intriguing to discover a fictional version of historical facts. Jeremy Irons as Rodrigo Borgia is intriguing and decadent enough. His two sons, Cesare and Juan, are played by excellent actors; the women (ex-lover Vannozza, new lover Giulia, daughter Lucrezia) are all interesting characters. Even Michelozzo, the “bad boy” assassin serving Cesare is intriguing. A special mention to the gorgeous costumes, much nicer than anything seen in the Tudors. Expand
  3. Apr 22, 2011
    10
    The Borgias is a show that, by it's placement on a subscriber network like Showtime, and it's focus on intirgue and sex and death, must be compared to the Tudors. I am safe to report 4 episodes into the first season (which, unless there are mighty changes a-coming, has seemed to have shown the gambit of what this first season intends to bring us in manner of light/dark tones and general plot delivery), The Borgias have already far outpaced even the best moments of The Tudors.

    I believe this is in part due to the fact that simply put, Jeremy Irons from his first moment on screen as the soon-to-be-pope Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia so totally fills the role that he looks appropriate, if perhaps a bit lean for a papal figure of the time. However, his delivery, carriage, and mannerisms all are so enveloping as to erase any doubt by the midpoint of the opening episode. While this show does take historical liberties like the Tudors, it does not go nearly as far and they are mostly to add to the show, not to simply make it more marketable. So for those who are more intimately familiar with the zeitgeist of Machiavellian Italy and Cesare Borgia in particular might at first be a bit startled by his apparent complexity and depth. This becomes obvious from the get-go as Cesare is cast (not only in an eldest brother role, one that he was not in real life) as the double-edged foil to his somewhat immature (both too cruel and yet not cruel enough) brother and his menacing (and oh how he menaces) and scheming father.

    What I find so enthralling is that this show, after 4 episodes, has not given any sort of Singular Answer to the question of why, when by the end of the first episode Rodrigo Borgia is made Pope Alexander VI, the most powerful man in the Christian world, that is only the very tip of the iceberg. Sure, there is simple greed and ambition, but by a few episodes in you begin to realize that Pope Alexander VI is simply a man who cannot be defined like some sort of Gargamel, constantly searching for one singular end. Rather he clearly has many motivations, not all of which are even clear to his own family or even possibly, himself.

    So far, the historical cameos have been magnificent. The Medici's main scene so far (hopefully they will be returning, central historical figures that they are) was wonderful, to mention one. The architecture is also given a historical amount of detail for the most recognizable vistas that is an aesthetic pleasure (for those of you who have played Assassin's Creed II, this will seem like the live version of the stages) and also serves to ground the series, making you not want to look to the corner of every moving shot to see if you can see daylight behind the sets.

    Luckily for the series, the 11 year papal reign of Alexander VI has no shortage of drama to draw upon, and since it began in the auspicious year of 1492, glib historical references can (and I am sure, given the first 4 episodes, will continue to be) be peppered in regularly for bit sized chunks of humor and levity, which this show is able to provide at times.

    Overall this series seems to have done (and left itself enough room to continue to be able to do for many seasons to come) the best job of a historical drama from definitively pre-industrial times. Yes, it is clearly a cheerier, less hairy, more attractive version of the past, with mild edits to keep the plot aerodynamic, but it is still stunning none-the-less, and deserves the highest of praise.
    Expand
  4. Nov 1, 2011
    9
    What an outstanding depiction of power cloaked in religious edifice that is the Catholic church at the height of its political significance! The anti-hero, played by Jeremy Irons, instantly has you rooting for him as he out-plots his power hungry rivals. When he proves capable of committing the heinous deeds necessary, he simply invokes the religious façade that they collectively depend on to stifle any outbursts of religious hypocrisy. The whole series is deeply satisfying. Expand
  5. J_B
    Nov 5, 2011
    9
    The cast is great, especially Jeremy Iron, playing the Pope, and Francois Arnaud, who's Cesare. I bought the season on DVD and watched it within a week. And while the facts are stretched a bit, the main parts are true. The only thing is that some episodes are pretty fast paced. Collapse
  6. Aug 22, 2013
    8
    Liked it! There were some faults, but none that hindered it so much I would write about. I enjoyed watching it, it's lewd, kinky and interesting. A well done look into the curroption religious factions tend to have, I liked the characters (Juan and Chizera were awesome, most of the time) as well as the plot, I'd recommend this to anybody over eighteen who doesn't wince at some indecent acts. Expand
  7. Oct 29, 2013
    4
    Absolute, utter garbage. I came across this crap after searching for shows staring Derek Jacobi (Caligula, Cadfael). Yes, this great historical actor has his name is in the credits but his character graciously dies in the second episode. Good for him, he must have decided the show was too crap to continue. So what's wrong about it?

    The acting is crap, the accent are aweful or non-existent, the history is exaggerated and butchered. The characters and historical setting are stereotypical to an almost comical level. Just look at the French king, he looks like the hunchback of Notre dam and acts like one too.

    Worse than the history being butchered is that fact that every five minutes there is raunchy act of butchery followed by some murder. Very accurate stuff for a show about the vatican

    If you read the other reviews you will notice one thing- they were written by el idiots or Americans. The show was made for an audience used to Jerry Springer. Of course they are going to like it.

    If you are looking for a show with Jacobi, don't go anywhere outside of BBC. This cable-made, American crap can stay put.
    Expand

See all 13 User Reviews

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