Showtime series “The Borgias” became a cliché so quickly that it was hard to distinguish what it was attempting to do. The series started out attempting to mine controversy — unless you’re a child of the ’90s, you may have forgotten the original hit 1997 film — but after a few seasons, it became clear that “Borgias” wasn’t too concerned with reflecting Catholicism, as popularly understood. Instead, it sought to follow a young, expectant woman (Nina Ricci) from Italy to Canada with her errant man, persuading “original sin” to thrive.
Why the name change to “The Queen” (from “The Borgias”)? “The Borgias” was interested in canonizing religion, and in business. The “Queen” preaches that one move at a time can change a life. What’s that mean for our weary viewer? This is an unusually sophisticated little show — “Mad Men” in the service of designer parenting. It’s impossible to name a more well-cast actor than Hugh Dancy as Lucrezia Borgia, which speaks to the shifting lineaments of this “The Borgias”: Lucrezia is the center, the guide, the coach. Diane Lane plays her younger daughter. Alex Kingston plays her brother, Cesare, and Phyllis Somerville plays her mother, Lucrezia Florio.
As the strongest episode in the first season (the others (I’m catching up) were lesser, and the first run of “Borgias” was tremendously uneven, so “The Queen” is not one to wait for in order to know whether the series has peaked or not.
Read the full review at New York Times.