It always seems like Americans get the short-end of the stick when it comes to TV. Our adaptations of foreign TV shows are, more often than not, absolutely horrible. For instance, take CBS’s Elementary and compare it to the wholly-superior Sherlock on the BBC, and then try to find something good to say about the former option. Such is also the case in the curious case of Showtime’s The Borgias and Canal Entertainment’s Borgia: Faith & Fear, in which those of us on the western side of the Atlantic most certainly get the worst offering. Luckily, if you have a Netflix subscription, you can view the German-French historical drama here in the US.
Set in Rome at the end of the 15th century, Borgia follows the exploits of one of the most infamous men in the history of the Catholic Church, Rodrigo Borgia, whose name would become synonymous with corruption, greed, and violence. While Cardinal Borgia is shown in a somewhat sympathetic light (at first, at least), the series also explores the dynamic between Cardinal Borgia and his illegitimate children: Juan, an egotistical, violent sexual deviant; Cesare, a priest-in-training who is torn between the teachings of his religion and his true desire for love, wealth, and power; and Lucrezia, a girl in the process of discovering who she really is, and the power that her sexuality holds over the men who dominate her life.
Rodrigo himself is played by the brilliant John Doman of The Wire, whose decision to play the role in an unapologetic American accent may raise a few eyebrows, but his inhabitance of the role of the compassionate yet firm minded Cardinal on a quest for power is fascinating to watch. It both highlights the rampant corruption endemic of pre-Reformation Catholicism, as well as how one man’s quest to set his family name in stone leads to all its members sacrificing their humanity in the process.
And if you’re a fan of other historical dramas like Rome and The Tudors, Borgia is almost required watching; few series can beat Borgia in terms of pacing and cinematographic prowess while also staying surprisingly true to the historical period they seek to portray.
Borgia: Fear & Faith is available for streaming on Netflix.
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