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Review #3527: The Borgias 2.7: “The Siege at Forli”

Posted on the 24 May 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: John Keegan

Written by David Leland
Directed by Kari Skogland

Juan Borgia returns from Spain with a rather distracting problem, while Lucrezia rebels against her role as a political pawn. Oh, and Savonarola continues to gain influence in Florence, as he inspires one of the more infamous “bonfires of the vanities”. Not to mention the titular siege at Forli, which does not go as planned!

Review #3527: The Borgias 2.7: “The Siege at Forli”

I’ll start with Savonarola, since it is perhaps the most grounded in the actual history of the times. This incident actually took place in 1497, as Savonarola’s control became prominent in Florence. While it does seem a bit slow in comparison to some of the other items in the episode, it is significant, if only to show how entrenched Savonarola is at this point. Cesare and Machiavelli can do little more than watch as “God’s children” rule the streets, inspiring fear in the residents of the city.

It also continues to remind the audience of the stakes for Rodrigo. Savonarola’s defiance makes it harder to convince other states in Italy to bend knee to Rome. And since they’ve been using the famous Catherina Sforza as the face of the political resistance against Rodrigo, it makes sense to depict the Papal army’s struggles of the period within the context of Forli. I couldn’t find reference to these specific events in 1497, but generally speaking, they are representative of the kind of upheaval in Italy at the time.

It’s also a period when Juan was still in command of the Papal forces, so his return from Spain fits well into how all these pieces come together. A more visible deviation from history is Juan’s struggle with syphilis. That threw me a bit, because as I recall, that was more a problem for Cesare and Rodrigo than Juan. On the other hand, I can see why they wouldn’t want to saddle two long-term characters with such a condition.

It also goes a long way towards explaining Juan’s over-the-top tactics. Getting the medieval equivalent of a Roto-Rooter would probably put me in a less than charitable mood, especially if I had to follow it up with extended horse riding. Ingesting regular doses of sanity-eroding mercury also doesn’t help, I’m sure.

How much of his strategy is simply expedience as opposed to questionable sanity is still to be determined. Whatever the case, I wasn’t surprised by Catherina’s willingness to sacrifice her son. It was clearly not a decision she relished, but she wasn’t going to let that sway her in the end. At one point, I was even expecting her to turn around, grab a bow, and dispatch the boy herself!

Back in Rome, Rodrigo is smoking turds (that they are cigars does not change this notion, in my mind), but is more intent on forging an alliance with another prominent family via Lucrezia. Continuing her stronger showing since the death of Paolo, Lucrezia conspires to undermine the main prospect while seducing his younger brother. As neither is historically her second husband, I imagine that this is a subplot to allow her to build her reputation before they turn the calendar to 1498.

I suspect that will come by the end of the season, since they are foreshadowing a certain major event that takes place in mid-1498 quite a bit. They skip through time rather quickly on “The Borgias”, and move around events to suit the needs of a dramatic arc regularly, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they just cut to the chase.

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

Final Rating: 8/10

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