Of all the infamous families ever to proudly stroll across the mountains and plains of Europe during the Renaissance, perhaps none are as notorious as the Borgias. Driven by almost every kind of lust imaginable, the family has become synonymous with corruption and crime — an aspect that makes for a smashing Showtime series, don’t you think? Well, Neil Jordon, the director of The Crying Game and Interview with the Vampire certainly thought so, as he is the force behind the creation of this series starring Jeremy Irons, François Arnaud, Holliday Grainger, and Colm Feore.
The Borgias: The First Season begins with elder Rodrigo (Irons, who may finally put the scarring memory of Dungeons and Dragons behind him with this one) buying his way to the top in order to become Pope Alexander VI. From there on in, Alexander does his very best (or worst, as it were) to ensure he remains in the chair of St. Peter, racking up crimes against him ranging from adultery to murder — though the latter is never done by his own hands, but rather by those of his eldest son, Cesare (Arnaud), whom he appoints as a cardinal.
While the very idea of the series comes from there having been other successful period pieces produced for cable television (The Tudors, Spartacus, etc.), The Borgias doesn’t seem to go overboard with its levels of sex and violence. Oh sure, they’re there alright, but at least the surrounding factors (the conniving, the betrayals, etc.) are done in such a manner that the film never reaches the point of sheer ludicrousness like Californication wound up doing. It’s a far from perfect series, but it’s very enjoyable in a guilty pleasure sort of way.
Showtime releases all nine episodes of The Borgias: The First Season on Blu-ray in a three-disc set with excellent image and audio quality, as well as several bonus episodes from other series as special features. The premieres of House of Lies with Don Cheadle, the sixth season of Dexter, and the quirkily-enjoyable Episodes (there are two of the latter) are included on the third disc. More episodes of Dexter as well as Gigolos and Californication are also available via BD-Live, but there are (sadly) no special features related to The Borgias — which is a Borgia-like crime itself.