Episode Reviews (2)
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"The Art of War" is another great episode of The Borgias, a show that started off fairly slowly, but now has become one of my favorites on TV in just a short period of time. I jumped out of my seat when I saw the cannonballs with chains get shot off and destroy men and horses. Amazing effects there and anytime a period drama can elicit that kind of response you know you are watching something special. The show is doing the right thing by heavily focusing on the wars and battles of this time and less on the romance and whatnot, although I expect we will get some of that next week.
Great episode of TV though. Good drama all around.moreless
*** Spoiler-free *** Defective penultimate but slightly poetic, highly intense and sculptural enough
Lucrezia Borgia and Giulia Farnese escaping and the first charming the King of France. Now that's a plot that instantly seemed exciting and the intriguing war arc well developed in the past installment made it even more desirable. You really have to see them riding horses in the woods while crepuscular rays irradiate their natural beauty and colorful outfits. Moreover with the French army marching toward Rome I was wondering how they would encounter the King. So in a way it was almost like a Little Red Riding Hood adaptation, very short but definitely refreshing.
Once in the hands of the enemy the ladies met the cardinal in black, Giuliano della Rovere. Right before Colm Feore entered the stage, Holliday Grainger (Lucrezia) and Lotte Verbeek (Giulia) gently reminded us of some past sequence. Indeed in the premiere the second taught the first that women had weapons like beauty and wit to defend themselves. So it was quite interesting to see Lucrezia challenging the cardinal intellectually, asking the questions that disturb and doing the right move to settle her own pieces on the board. Sadly their inevitable mind game with the King wasn't as twisted and subtle as I hoped it would be. First Giulia was in Lucrezia's shadow when her skills are obviously superior. The second doesn't have enough experience yet and we still await the lessons she was supposed to received from the Pope's mistress. Second after all what the cardinal did, specially convincing the French to march over Rome, muting him was a dreadful mistake because it made Lucrezia even less believable as a puppet master. Otherwise I still enjoyed their childish Beauty and the Beast game, even if I wish more players had participated. After all how such an ugly man could resist such a pretty damsel ? I also appreciated a possible reference to Cyrano de Bergerac.
In Rome the Pope and Cesare Borgia had to convince the other cardinals in red not to flee the city. His speech was full of confidence and Jeremy Irons performance was good but for some reason it ended abruptly. The most interesting part was probably about the trial and the element was brought up again later and mentioned as a test. As for Juan Borgia you should really want to slap his face because David Oakes made him even more ridiculous. Dancing with the whores and a real drunk puppet enduring his bragging talk about war strategy and tactics was painful, the good way. The best part was probably when he compared himself to… Well I let you appreciate it because it should either make you throw up or want to struggle him even more ! As for the battle itself it was the perfect sequel to the Death on a Pale Horse brutal events. Moreover the presence of Lucrezia made things even more intense and I had no idea how it would end. You should be on the verge of your seat the whole time ! Last but not least the chain-cannonballs, also known as chain-shots (Boulets chaînés in French), were also back with a bloody vengeance. You have to understand that it's only at the end of the XVIII century that French explosive cannonballs were engineered.
As for the cardinals and other people revolving around the Pope they really acted like insects trapped in a spider web. A complain about the episode would be that it was a few minutes shorter than the others and I worry that they decided to censor the battle. An other disappointing element, almost annoying, was Cesare Borgia dealing with his former mistress again. He talks way too much and doesn't act. I have nicknamed him the "if" cardinal. However I understand how hard it is to be a good brother because you can't help wanting to protect your sisters from other men but when they're far away you feel just powerless. Anyway he's not the story bastard, playboy Juan is. As for the last scene featuring Jeremy Irons it was nearly in the same vein as the procession in the premiere, not as creative but definitely unexpected and fueled by the recurrent wicked confessions we had witnessed so far.moreless