The first season of “The Borgias” is culminating towards a finale, but I find it hard to get very excited about it. The show has been plodding along for quite a while now, to the point where the threat to Rome, however historically accurate, just doesn’t feel very meaningful. All the panic and rushing about seems almost out of place, because while Neil Jordan has staged everything over the course of the season, the focus just hasn’t been sharp enough to engage the audience.
I’ll give this much credit: I didn’t expect the level of carnage that splashed across the screen when the French unleashed their cannons. Intellectually, I understood what the weapon could and would do in battle, but I figured they would film it at something of a remove. Instead, it’s shown in all its gory detail, which I’m sure put more than a few people off. It certainly underscores the reason why Juan would consider retreat a good option; there was no defense he could muster.
That’s partially because Juan is utterly outmatched in the whole “military strategy” department. It was a foregone conclusion that his efforts would be for naught, but his basic tactical plan was a simple flanking maneuver. By the time he actually saw the size of the French army (and why he didn’t have intelligence to inform him of such essentials, I don’t know), he couldn’t adjust on the battlefield. The demonstration of French cannon was just icing on the cake.
Using Lucrezia as a means of distracting abnd influencing the French king was a nice little plotting device, but it hinged greatly on the notion that Lucrezia was beguiling enough to twist him around her little finger. I’m not sure that Lucrezia’s characterization thus far made such a plot element credible. I certainly found it hard to believe that Charles VIII would let Lucrezia parley with Juan on his behalf. It’s not as though he was unaware that Lucrezia was a Borgia!
I know that Juan is eventually going to be replaced by Cesare in terms of the military and political side of the Borgia power block, but I was hoping that Juan’s incompetence would be a bit less obvious. Instead, it’s explored much like the ambitions of Charles VIII, staged with an emphasis that makes it seem almost cartoonish. If the tone of the entire show was like this, putting an ironic and darkly comedic touch on all aspects of the story, then it might have worked. The constant shift between the serious and the madcap, however, makes the show seem tossed together without much thought.
Final Rating: 6/10