I knew Jeremy Irons was in this series, but Derek Jackobi and Colm Feore too? That pushed me into watching and also seeing a snippet of some of the production values. Though, they aren’t the only reasons I stayed.
I don’t watch a lot of Showtime shows (Homeland was the other one I watched and liked recently), but I know they made this one to replace The Tudors essentially. I saw a few eps of The Tudors and while it its highs (James Frain, Natalie Dormer), it didn’t keep my focus and made me a bit bored by Jonathan Rhys Meyers whom I actually liked more before seeing him in The Tudors. I digress.
It’s been awhile since I’ve seen Jeremy Irons in anything. Whenever I think of him, my mind goes to Brideshead Revisited and The Man in the Iron Mask (a guilty pleasure film for me). For some reason, I keep thinking him as the men in those films so watching him play an aging Pope was surprising at first. I think his acting is solid for the most part, but there were some times when he seemed to be slurring and inconsistent. When he was good, he was good though. Derek Jackobi is only in the first episode which is a bit of a waste. As for Colm Feore, he’s in the whole series, but his character is quite dour and scared half the time. I do like Feore; he’s got a reputation in Canada. He has a full frontal nudity shot in this series which is a bit random and surprising. I didn’t expect to see that much of him.
All that said, the actor that I stayed for is Francois Arnaud who plays Cesare Boriga. He is perhaps the star of this series as he steals your attention even in scenes with the venerable Jeremy Irons. When I first saw him, he looked so familiar to me. Maybe I had seen him in some Quebec production or maybe he just looks so French-Canadian. He has a lot of chemistry with the rest of the cast and strangely enough, he huamnized his character too much. Cesare Borgia is a sociopath and in real life, probably was a psychopath. Jordan and Arnaud have portrayed him as less psycho than history has, making him more conflicted and a tad emo (in a good way). Usually, historical characters are made worse. In this case, he is a lot better, but still disconcerting knowing how Cesare will become worse and worse. Arnaud has a lot of chemistry with Holliday Grainger who plays his sister Lucrezia Borgia. She is also excellently cast and even looked 14 at the beginning of the series. Cesare/Arnaud has chemistry with everyone except perhaps his intended love interest Urusula. I blame this somewhat on the actress, but mostly on the bad writing of the relationship.
All in all, a well acted and well designed series. The writing is not the tightest, but it’s vastly better than The Tudors or the terrible Camelot (yes I saw and those are hours i will never get back; still love you Eva Green). One last thing, I love the opening credits of this series. It’s snippets of the show interlaced with Renaissance art. It’s gorgeous and done with really good music. It is also a bit funny because I always smile when the goat appears. Most shows nowadays don’t do proper opening credits and even when they do, they aren’t that good.
The opening credits for this show:
Watched 27-29 February 2012.