At this point I'd call Showtime's 'The Borgias' a guilty pleasure. It's so overwrought, melodramatic, and at times erroneously overacted, but I can't stop watching. It's a high-concept soap opera about what the world would be like if evil Jeremy Irons was entrusted with the Papacy.
It's a period piece that takes place in the late 16th Century. Rodrigo Borgia (Irons) has been elected as the new Pope through less than reputable methods. The first season saw Pope Borgia try desperately to hang on to his new office through the midst of scandals, wars, and kings that sought to take away his power. Ever the strategist Rodrigo Borgia seemed to always be one step ahead of his enemies. His plotting, scheming, and yes murdering, all served a purpose: to keep him entrenched in his rule.
Now the second season opens and Pope Borgia swears that anyone who worked against him or did him wrong in the past is going to pay. His validity was challenged in the first season, but as the second season begins, he finds himself at the height of his powers. In the first episode we find him marshaling his sons, Cesare (François Arnaud) and Juan (David Oakes). With their help he will wreak vengeance on the people who have sought to usurp his authority.
Of course he's still as corrupt as always. Rodrigo finds himself growing weary of his newest mistress and has his sights set on a young painting apprentice. In order for the show to have the requisite amount of kinky sexual activities, his mistress finds a different way to deal with the problem of a new woman moving in on her turf. If you can't beat them, invite them to bed.
Ceasare and Juan have always had a feud with one another, but this season it's amplified. They're at each other's throats. Ceasare is still bitter that Juan was put in charge of the city's armies instead of him. It's one of the many intriguing subplots of the season.
'The Borgias' isn't as deeply complex as 'Game of Thrones' and it isn't as historically interesting as 'Rome,' although its production values are just about as good as either show. It's a well-dressed, well-furnished, sometimes cheesy period drama.
I don't think that the second season is as captivating as the first, but fans will enjoy it all the same. Irons is perfectly menacing in his role as Rodrigo. Sure the show is populated with a wide variety of characters, but Irons stands out as he chews up scene after scene. It's alright though because he's so good at playing a dastardly villain. Even though the show is about him, make no mistake, he is the bad guy. However, the case can be made that there aren't any "good guys" in this show. They're all varying degrees of bad ranging from mean to downright reprehensible.
I'll continue watching 'The Borgias' because I enjoy the story and I love watching Jeremy Irons do just about anything. I'll fully admit that the show is completely over the top at times and doesn't care too much about historical accuracy, but that doesn't really matter to me. Everything from the production values to Irons' patented spit-laced tirades make the show utterly watchable. It may not be the "best" premium cable show out there, though it's definitely one of the most entertaining.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Distributed by CBS this is a 3-disc Blu-ray set. The Blu-rays are 50GBs each. They're housed in a standard keepcase which has a swinging arm to house two discs back-to-back. Instead of an insert to give you episode information the back of the cover has been printed with it. So when you open up the set you'll see episode titles, synopses, and a list special features on the inside of the cover.
I really don't see any difference between the immaculate image quality of the first season and this season. They're both as good look as TV shows come on Blu-ray. If you think 'Game of Thrones' has a demo-quality to it, then this one should be right up there with it. The 1080p presentation gives the show's amazing production quality, art direction, and costume design a stage to showcase the immense amount of detail they go to in each episode.
The ornate decorations on Rodrigo's silk robes are strikingly clear. Velvet, lace, leather, and silk are all distinctly visible. Tiny details in the opulent surroundings of the hallowed halls of Vatican City are clear and well-defined no matter how far away from the camera they are. Everything from close-ups to long- and medium-range shots features outstanding clarity.
Reds, whites, and gold dominate the color palette. Rodrigo is constantly wearing the finest clothing available and the colors of the fabric leap off the screen. The greenery of the surrounding forests and open fields is just as stunning. Black areas are well-resolved. Crushing never takes over and banding stays at bay. There's nothing remotely wrong with the way 'The Borgias' looks on Blu-ray in its second season. Full marks are warranted.
The stellar atmospherics and the nicely prioritized mixing carries over from the first season to this one. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is an impressive array of natural sound effects, concise dialogue, and defined ambient sound.
Dialogue is perfectly clear. The front channels are full of the show's rich dialogue. The front speakers house pin-point directional speaking while the center speaker provides crisp sounding spoken word. Sound effects, like canons exploding, horses clomping, and swords clashing are all accurately mixed. The rear channels are alive with the rich and varied comings and goings of Vatican City. The aspect of the mix that the rear speakers harness extremely well is the echoing voices as they talk and yell in the cavernous hallways around the city.
It may not have as many action-packed scenes with incredibly immersive sound, but the entire audio presentation is very well done. Every channel is used to its fullest and there aren't any glaring audio deficiencies to report on.
All of the special features are accessed through BD-Live so they'll be discussed in the HD Bonus Content section below.
'The Borgias' is just as pleasurable in the second season. I concede that it can be completely melodramatic at times, but that's part of the fun for me. Jeremy Irons is always great in it. It'll never be as popular as a show like 'Game of Thrones,' but that's okay though since it's simply a lot of fun to watch anyway. With a dynamite video presentation and some pretty killer audio for a TV show, the second season of 'The Borgias' is recommended. If only Showtime saw fit to actually use the special features for something other than glorified advertisements for other shows, this would be a highly recommended set.