The Toybox

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the borgias: 1.01.02 -- the poisoned chalice/the assassin
children of dune - leto 1
seperis
The Borgias, thoughts.



1.) The baseline of general corruption is fantastically drawn. It's taken for granted that yes, you buy office. The fact that simony is only thrown around when a Spainard is elected is indicative of the problem; also, it helped it was stated outright. Sure, the throne of St. Peter was for sale--to nice Roman boys. Spanish boys need to know their place.

2.) There isn't a lot of shock value for anyone who did basic medieval history, so if you're hoping for a start value of DEFCON MY GOD WHAT then yeah, there's not a lot of it. This worked very well for teh sequence of events that next occurred.

3.) Alexander's VI's shock in attempted poisoning was in context fantastic. Buying and selling office was one thing; murder of Christ's representative on earth was another thing entirely. What actually got to me with that was that Pope's dying under strange conditions isn't rare, either. Historically speaking, some were hurried toward their personal meeting with God for various reasons; Alexander's genuine shock was a good way to get across how much of an outside he is to Roman ecclesiastical politics again; at the dinner table, no one was shocked someone was poisoned. They were shocked it wasn't Alexander.

4.) Interesting that Cesare wasn't shocked. Possibly due to being raised in Rome, possibly due to the fact that unlike Alexander, he's really not meant for the Church. The contrast between them in calling was well-drawn; Alexander felt a genuine calling for the Church, and it shows. Cesare really, really, really doesn't, and that shows, too, not just or even mostly in what Cesare says, but in how he acts.

5.) This is not a subtle show, no, but I was pleasantly surprised how much nuance Jeremy Irons is bringing to Pope Alexander VI as a man. I believe he's a true son of the Church, that he believes in the inviolability of the papacy and the Pope, of his place intervening between God and man, and his public and private faith. The fact he's truly devout makes the contrast between faith and the mechanics of the institutions of men being corrupt by the fact men created them very apparent. He's cynical about men (though again, that papal dinner was an example of how he's less cynical than he should be) but he's not cynical about God.

6.) I can't say enough about his performance during his coronation. Beautifully done.

7.) Yes, the whipping scene was hot as hell. I--yeah. Wow. Well fucking done.

8.) The monkey metaphor working in abstract and concrete was hilarious and telling. I figured Cesare brought the monkey to test for poison, but I'm wondering if he also knew what the Borgias were being called by the Roman cardinals (and the French king).

9.) Cardinals making ball and penis jokes: never not hilarious. Rodrigo's expression when being felt up to verify his manhood in front of the other Cardinals was possibly the best thing ever.

10.) The second son--I cannot remember his name right now--is going to turn out badly. Really, really badly. I see why he wasn't put in the Church and Cesare was; if the show wants anyone to believe he's the favorite son, it's really not getting across. Cesare is being groomed to be teh next Pope; he's being sent to play with swords to get him out of the way. Pope Alexanders' scolding of Cesare--seriously, it was a scolding made it clear that power came from within the Church, not the Vatican military, which apparently sucked, hence Cesare's intelligence and drive is chained to holy orders.

Also, he's annoying. God. Like, outright no charm at all annoying.

11.) I like Lucrezia. She still very much a kid and it shows.

I really expected this to start out a lot more soap-opera-y and overdone; I'll be honest, I'm relieved. Shock overkill would really spoil some of the more--unusual--actions taken by Alexander.

Oh! Twelve!

12.) Papal decree of bullfighting last Sunday of every month. Such a Spaniard. I love him.

I didn't hope too much for actually liking the characters, but I really do. The relationships are complex, and there's a sprinkling of small moments that show the genuine affection between them as well as the more noticeable bigger moments; Cesare grinning at his brother when he's being fitted for armor, indulgent; Alexander with Lucrezia; the affection of Vannozza for her children; Cesare's love and respect and awe of his father despite chafing at the restrictions; Alexander's surprise at his own reaction to Guilia. When the relationships are genuine and not based on self-promotion or self-interest, they're so much more dangerous; they're something the characters can't stand to lose.

Cesare and Lucrezia's feelings for each other are fascinating, as she's being played as a girl not yet really interested in--or aware of--sex or sexual attraction, whereas Cesare's feelings for and attraction to her is sexual as well as emotional, but I'm not entirely sure he's aware of it consciously. The garden scene was rather confusingly sweet on that level; she's a kid horsing around with her elder brother, while he's a man with a woman he's attracted to in his arms, and his moment of brief awareness was suppressed, but it was very much there.

I kind of want to disclaim on quality or historical accuracy, but weirdly, unlike the Tudors, in this instance the characters are attracting me enough not to even care.



ETA One more thing, remebered when I was answering a comment.



Their first meeting and how they relate to each other throughout the episode is one of the things I'm hoping they'll develop in regard to Lucrezia and Guilia. Lucrezia very innocent of what her position as the Pope's daughter means in terms not just of people who will apply for her hand, but how she'll be used by her family to exert their interests and gain support. Guilia's early conversations with her about beauty and intelligence as weapons I'm hoping will be expanded to show her arming Lucrezia with what she'll need to survive both the politics of Rome and the politics of her marriage.



ETA: Can I just say Cardinal Sforza is kind of hot? I like the quiet, devious type.

Posted at Dreamwidth: http://seperis.dreamwidth.org/79343.html. | You can reply here or there. | comment count unavailable comments

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I have a few thoughts on that, since Cesare and his brother are both much more aware of it, though I'm curious how it will be played out. I think at least part of it is his faith; whatever he was before, he's now the Pope and hence, God's representative on earth; it may never have occurred to him that being Spanish would in any way negate that fact. You don't assassinate God's chosen. And he does believe it; it was God's will for his bribery to work, after all.

The other thing is, he's been involved in ecclesiastical politics his entire life, but I'm not sure he understands how the Roman cardinals view him. Until he was a contender for the Papacy, they might have treated him in the "and my best friends are [insert minority]" by the other Cardinals. Until now, he may have viewed racism and xenophobia as political weapons, not personal bias, so sees it as the Spaniard being an excuse</> to hate him for his power, not the other way around, which is they think the Spanish are inferior, and not worthy on due to being Spanish. And his experiences with it with his uncle would have confirmed it as hating the guy who has power; from his view, it may have all looked like simple, cynical politics as usual.

Cesare was born and raised in Rome, he's Roman in every way but how people view him (that fight in the street between his brother and that Roman reflects the attitude), so he'd be much more aware of how much of the opposition is due to being Spanish, not jsut due to power envy. The monkey he brought to the Cardinals' dinner, to me, pretty much confirms the difference in how he and his father think. It's not that he wasn't surprised that they tried to kill his father; he brought a monkey as a poison taster. He expected it.

YMMV; I'm still working on early impressions, but I love that Alexander in some ways is surprisingly naive compared to Cesare and his other son, but does explain why he's rolling his eyes early on about all the accusations; he's reading it as politics as usual and will win them over.

XD, I love how you've gone into depth on the show and all I posted about was whipping. And the incestuous undertones.

Mostly, the whipping.

I came into this show expecting Jeremy Irons to chew up Roman scenery like nobody else could, and was pleasantly blown away by Francois Arnaud's sheer charisma on the screen. He had chemistry with everyone! He portrays the suppressed angry passion Cesare's famous for, in a way where we can sympathize with him even while he's whipping Michelotto and ordering people be killed. That takes some skill. (I mean, Irons does it too, and better, but Arnaud's skill came as a surprise.)

Juan, oh Juan. He's such a jerkass. Already!

Do you think they'll have Gioffre (or Joffrey, I can't spell that name) as the token good guy on Team Borgia? Which reminds me, I want to see what they do with Sancia, especially in the face of her affairs with his brothers... and apparently the actress they found looks very like Lucretia as well. Yay for incest?

The interesting thing about Lucretia is that I thinks she's pretty much got the manipulative chops already. Yes, she's innocent of just how brutal her family's rise to the top is, but she's aware of it, because she doesn't even need to guess about the bribing. For her it's 'how much'. And the way she handled introducing Giulia to her mother was just precious (in the way baby manipulators are). I think she was aware of who Giulia was, and that she chose to inform her mother in a way that wouldn't get her in trouble with papa and allows her plausible deniability to continue the friendship with this beautiful, fascinating woman. Giulia was the only woman approaching Lucretia's peer group in her family's immediate circle, and I think she was drawn to that possibility of friendship.

In a way she's the sneakiest of the bunch.

For the first twenty minutes or so I was thinking, "Is ALL the dialogue going to be exposition?" but then I got swept up. It's gorgeous to look at, and you're right, the characters are much more complex and nuanced than one might have expected from a Sexy History show.

(Though I do keep expecting Colm Feore's character to suddenly become Sanjay from Slings & Arrows. But that's my own C6D fannish problem.)

I'm really interested to see where they're taking Lucrezia, and how much of her seeming naiveté is genuine innocence versus manipulation.

Good stuff, overall! And I really enjoyed reading your thoughts.

hello, I sent an email to you about this post, its not coming thru for me. Can you connect with me when you get a chance.


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