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Monday, April 9, 2012

'The Borgias' still TV's baddest crime family

Showtime's The Borgias begins season two with "The Borgia Bull." Cesare's (Fran├žois Arnaud) attempt to kill Cardinal della Rovere (Colm Feore) fails when the hired would-be assassin spills some of the poison. With della Rovere instead suffering ailment, Cesare returns to Rome, where his rivalry with brother Juan (David Oakes) heats up. Meanwhile, His Holiness Rodrigo Borgia, Pope of Rome (Jeremy Irons) cheats on mistress Giulia (Lotte Verbeek), finds some lost artifacts, and throws a party for his people.

The Borgias is a clever serial series. There isn't a lot of movement in the plot from week to week, but taken altogether, it's an exciting adventure of scandal, betrayal, and lust. "The Borgia Bull" fits into the mixture just fine, moving along the major characters a bit, without any huge developments.

Della Rovere is the biggest thorn in the side for the Borgias in season one. Now, his tongue is swollen and he lies in bed. Considering that Feore continues to be billed as a main character, he will likely recover and come after the family again. Why didn't they just leave him alone? He is lying low, and poses no threat. Sure, he might in the future, but that's no reason that he has to be dealt with now. Or, at least, if they want him taken out, make sure to finish the job. He is currently infirm and in no position to defend himself. By failing to kill him, they may have just reawakened a dangerous enemy who will come at them with renewed purpose.

Of course, overconfidence is a trademark of the current Pope. He seems to devote very little worry to della Rovere. Nor does he concern himself with the King of France (Michel Muller), who may also feel anger at Rodrigo after finding Naples deserted and diseased. These are very real threats. Instead, the Pope lounges with his infant grandchild, whom he even brings to work with him, and sleeps with women who are not his official mistress. He may have reason for this attitude, with the victories he achieves at the end of the first season. But acting this way, with little regard for the things he should be concerned about, will catch up to him.

Giulia is not ignorant of her lover's behavior. She picks up on his dishonesty almost immediately upon returning to the city, not that he's being very careful in hiding it. Interestingly, she goes to the mother of his children, Vanozza Cattaneo (Joanne Whalley), for advice. Even more surprisingly, Vanozza offers realistic words of wisdom. If these two ladies were to pool their efforts, they may be scarier than anything else Rodrigo has to face! Talk about the neck that turns the head!

The struggle for dominance between Juan and Cesare should not last too much longer. Juan gets the upper hand in a horse race, but Cesare strikes back at the party. Cesare comes at the fight with a mixture of bemusement and whimsy, indicating that he does not take his brother too seriously. But Juan has a wicked, cruel, arrogant streak that could get out of hand if not kept in check. It would not be surprising if their actions take a more serious, deadly turn later this season.

An interesting start to the second season. Let's see how they progress from here. Watch The Borgias Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime.

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