Entertainment Magazine

Review #3512: The Borgias 2.6: “Day of Ashes”

Posted on the 16 May 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: John Keegan

Written by David Leland
Directed by John Maybury

Savonarola takes the center stage as a major adversary to Rodrigo Borgia in this episode, and it is some of the most gripping material yet. Savonarola subscribes to a brand of religiosity that borders on the sadistic, as various followers are prompted to scourge themselves publicly, while others are pressed into religious vocation. Given the state of Italy at the time, of course, one might have indeed felt that the time of repentance was at hand.

Review #3512: The Borgias 2.6: “Day of Ashes”

In the wake of Cesare’s decision to kill Giovanni Sforza, Rodrigo is in a delicate position. He cannot allow an upstart decrying the Church to interfere with his access to Medici funds, but Florence is more and more out of control under Savonarola’s influence. With war once again on the table, he is also looking to secure an alliance through marriage, putting Lucrezia back on the market.

With Juan off in Spain, Cesare continues to press his case to replace his brother as military commander of the Papal armies. He is happy to exert his power as cardinal when possible, but he clearly wants to toss off the robes and play the soldier. History shows us that this will indeed happen, but that’s supposed to be years away. Though events are often muddled in terms of historical accuracy, Juan is still the Captain General.

Speaking of history, Lucrezia’s second marriage didn’t happen until after Juan was dead, and she married the half-brother of Sancia, her younger brother’s wife. Whether or not this turn of events will occur on the show is hard to predict; it certainly seems as though other options are being explored. One thing is certain: Lucrezia’s experience with Paolo has led to a more willful personality, which has done wonders for the character as a whole.

The impending “war” with the Sforzas would appear to be a stand-in of sorts for the tensions with the Orsini that emerged following the French retreat. There’s no direct record of Juan ever leading a Papal-led force against Forli. I assume that this is for the purposes of keeping the narrative more or less streamlined. Not that I’m going to complain too loudly; the second season has been very focused as a result.

It occurred to me that this episode had a somewhat different feel, with a bit more intensity, particularly in the Savonarola scenes. When he rebuffs the offer to be made a cardinal, it’s one of the best moments of the season to date. And then I realized that this is the first episode that Neil Jordan didn’t write. If he is stepping back and letting others handle the scripting, while keeping a hand on the overall direction and tone of the series, then I think it’s another step forward. This season has seen a great deal of improvement across the board, and with a third season coming, I would hope the trend continues when production resumes.

Writing: 2/2
Acting: 2/2
Direction: 2/2
Style: 2/4

Final Rating: 8/10

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