Follow TV Tropes


Series / Borgia

Go To
"Do not have faith in them."

Borgia, also known as Borgia: Faith and Fear, is a 2011 Channel+ and EOS Entertainment production based on the rise and fall of the Borgia family in renaissance Italy. The series had three seasons and aired in Italy, France, Austria, Germany and Belgium as well as US and UK Netflix.

In 1492 Italy is divided into warring states and at the centre lies Rome where the ageing Pope Innocent VIII rules. As Vice Chancellor of the College of Cardinals Rodrigo Borgia plans to use all his influence in order to become the next Pope and create a great dynasty. Following the death of his eldest son he summons his other children; Juan, Cesare and Lucrezia, back to the Rome. Soon all three are embroiled in the plotting of the noble families and the church and the series follows their development from pawns to skilled players of the game.


The series is notable for having at least two consecutive episodes directed by one director who then hands the series over to a new director, as well as for the variety of accents within the cast, a result of international casting.

Not to be confused with the 2011 Showtime series The Borgias (note the "the" and plural "s").

Borgia contains examples of:

  • Addled Addict: Rodrigo and Giulia whilst taking vitriola (diethyl ether) in season two.
  • Amicable Exes: Rodrigo and Vannozza.
  • And This Is for...: Cesare's opening scene.
    Cesare: This is for calling my uncle a Jew. [punch] This is for calling my uncle a Moor. [punch] This is because I feel like beating the shit out of you.
  • Arranged Marriage: Pretty much all the marriages in the show.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • The Laocoon sculpture being discovered earlier than it really was so it can provide a metaphor of a father and his sons being dragged down by snakes. This doubles as Secret History as Rodrigo is so perturbed by the implication that he orders it reburied, presumably to be later rediscovered (and put on public display) by Julius II.
    • Advertisement:
    • Cesare Borgia probably didn't fake his death and escape to the New World.
  • Asshole Victim: Juan Borgia
  • Badass Bureaucrat: Gacet, the pope's secretary; without him things quickly fall apart for Rodrigo.
  • Bedmate Reveal: In 3.01, after an orgy, Cesare wakes up with… Giulia. He starts laughing hysterically.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Or at least the nicer ones; Lucrezia stabs Juan nine times, and when he refuses to die, has her lover cut his throat.
  • Big Brother Bully: Juan to Cesare, Lucrezia, and Goffredo.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Borgia's are not actually that a big a family (unless you count all the Spanish cousins) but they are definitely screwed up.
  • Blood-Splattered Innocents: Rodrigo is covered in blood when Cesare stabs Perotto a foot in front of him with The Lance of Longinus. While the Borgia pope can hardly be called "innocent", it does seem to badly unsettle him and affect how he sees his family.
  • Book Burning: By Savonarola's followers in Florence
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Goffredo
  • Brother–Sister Incest:
    • Subverted (Zigzagged?) in a very interesting way. Cesare and Lucrezia never actually have sex—the definition of incest—but get very close to it multiple times. They have a romantic dynamic, and never have sex more due to circumstances rather than lack of interest. The more-likely historical truth (that people made up rumors they were incestuous to hurt the Borgias) is also present in the story, and discussed. These rumors are an Accidental Truth, and predate their first kiss.
    • One time, Juan briefly tries to rape Lucrezia, until she blackmails him into stopping. In a later episode, Juan also claims that Lucrezia is "the only one" he loves. Lucrezia responds by (repeatedly) stabbing him.
  • Cain and Abel:
    • Juan and Cesare. Subverted, because just as it's really starting to look like he did, it's revealed that Cesare didn't kill Juan. And then Double Subverted, because Juan's other sibling—his unsuspected, seemingly innocent little sister Lucrezia—did.
    • Juan hired some assassins to kill Pedro Luis.
  • Casual Kink: Cesare appears to enjoy being tied to chairs.
  • Corrupt Church: Almost all the cardinals seen have mistresses and most are very happy to accept bribes. Truth in Television.
  • Costume Porn
  • Cycle of Revenge: Between Cesare and the Colonna in season one
  • Distracted by the Luxury: In the beginning, Rodrigo invokes this with both Giula and Lucrezia.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Lucrezia's baby Giovanni is named after her brother Juan/Giovanni.
  • Domestic Abuse: Juan commits this against his wife, even going as far as having her murdered.
  • Emotional Bruiser: Cesare is as rough and as emotional as they come.
  • Engineered Heroics: Cesare wins the favour of the Roman people by convincing them he killed the monster with an ass's head, which they believed was roaming the flooded streets
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Up to Eleven. Borgia is a complete exploration of this trope. Borgia could be renamed Even Evil Has Loved Ones: The Show.
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex/Really Gets Around/Your Cheating Heart: Everyone. Seriously, everyone.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: At least half the cast has reason to want Juan dead
  • Exact Words: Lucrezia asks Cesare to not make her children orphans. Cesare, with Alfonso D'Este, organize Alfonso di Calabria's murder and takes all the blame, so Lucrezia would marry D'Este: with a stepfather the children aren't—technically—orphans.
  • Fanservice/Fan Disservice: When someone gets naked on Borgia, there's a 50/50 chance they're going to have sex, or be tortured to death in truly horrific ways.
  • Faking the Dead: Cesare Borgia in the final episode.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The fates of many of the historical characters. though the show suggests otherwise for Cesare Borgia, see above.
  • The Fundamentalist: Savonarola, whose preaching against greed and corruption angers the established church.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: Try and count the characters that haven't plotted/committed at least one murder—you probably won't run out of fingers.
  • Gossip Evolution: The events leading to Cesare's death in the final episode become this. As each new person tells the story, the number of enemy soldiers he killed before dying and how long he held it reach ridiculous levels. It is also meant to represent that the entire incident may not have even happened.
  • Hand-or-Object Underwear: A whole line of them parade through Rome, angry and humiliated.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Most characters
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere (the future Pope Julius II), even in a series rife with Gray and Gray Morality. Given that Pope Alexander and della Rovere were bitter rivals in real life, and this series isn't called Rovere, this is understandable.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Cesare declares several times that he does not believe in God and the hereafter. He is also hedonist and selfish. At some point, he puts his trust in astrology. He is anti-social and has no empathy for others. He thinks that he is above good and evil and is convinced of his own superiority.
  • Hot-Blooded/World of Ham: Good God where to start? Its a show set in Renaissance Italy, so pretty much everyone except maybe Lucrezia?
  • Hot Consort: Giulia Farnese to Rodrigo.
  • Hypocrite: Giuliano della Rovere. One of his schemes is to weaken Pope Alexander by bringing the reliable and talented papal secretary up on false charges of rape and sodomy, which would force Alexander to condemn him to torture and death. The man della Rovere enlists to make the false accusation? His own devoted male lover, whom della Rovere abandons to suffer life imprisonment when the plot threatens to backfire.
  • Identical Grandson: Francisco Borgia in Rodrigo's Dying Dream looks identical to his grandfather, Juan (They are played by the same actor).
  • In-Series Nickname
    • Giulia—"la Bella"
    • Cesare—"il Valentino"
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Truth in Television for Lucrezia and Alfonso D'Este: after delivering two healthy sons before their marriage, Lucrezia has a long series of miscarriages and babies who died in infancy. Considering her value as Alfonso's wife is in her ability to bear an heir, the whole thing is not only devastating but dangerous to her position.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Lucrezia and her first husband, Giovanni. She is not impressed, and he is later divorced for said failure.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Have fun trying to keep all the cardinals straight, let alone their allegiances to the various states.
  • Lover's Ledge: Juan escapes on one once. The girl doesn't, she's killed.
  • May–December Romance: Rodrigo and Giulia, though her age is never explicitly stated she does not appear to be much older than Lucrezia.
  • The Mistress: Everyone has mistresses.
  • Morality Pet: To Cesare—Lucrezia, his children, his wife Charlotte when he remembers her, his mother Vannozza sometimes…
  • Mr. Fanservice: Cesare has no problem to walk around shirtless or naked.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Cesare after leaving his son to die on a hilltop. He gets over it.
  • My Secret Pregnancy: Lucrezia's political value lies in her marriageability, which would be severely damaged by an illegitimate son, so Rodrigo has her confined in her apartment and then gives the child away. In the end Cesare declares the baby his son and leaves him with his sister saying his duties precluded his caring for him.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Giovanni de' Medici: a young, naive cardinal who really doesn't know how much the corruption runs deep in the Church.
  • Nepotism: At times Rodrigo seems to think the name Borgia is the only qualification needed for a job. He insists on trying to give Cesare jobs that he doesn't even want
  • Not So Different: Rodrigo and della Rovere. Lampshaded repeated by many characters.
  • One Steve Limit: Very much averted with two regally appearing noblemen named Alfonso and far too many people called Giovanni.
  • Oedipus Complex: Cesare toward Rodrigo
    Cesare: A son exists to glorify the life of his father—as meaningless and worthless and that life might be. But if a boy is to become a man, he must glorify himself… and make a name even greater than his father's. A name… that will shout throughout history. I am Cesare Borgia!
  • Open Secret: The fact that Cesare and and his siblings are Rodrigo's children rather than his nephews and niece.
  • Parental Favoritism/The Un Favourite:
    • Rodrigo favors Juan to Cesare…
    • …and Vannozza favors Ceare to Juan. Juan laments that she let him be sent away to Spain when he was only 12.
    Vannozza: Thank God I have another son. Thank God I have Cesare.
  • Pervert Dad: Rodrigo toward Lucrezia. He feels super guilty about it.
  • Plot-Triggering Death:
    • Pedro Luis
    • Pope Innocent
  • Rape as Drama: Marcantonio Colonna rapes Cesare in "Prelude to an Apocalypse".
  • Rape by Proxy: On Lucrezia and Alfonso de Calabria's wedding night, they are forced to consummate their marriage before two witnesses… and Sforza makes them get graphicer and graphicer.
  • Reforged Blade: Cesare's Cool Sword—the one with Lucrezia's image on the base of the blade—is dramatically broken and then reforged. It's not a Lady's Favour exactly, but Cesare treats it as such, and after she gets it reforged for him that's even more true.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Cesare stabs Perotto to death with the Holy Lance on the floor of the Vatican, in front of all the cardinals, while he's clinging to the Pope's robes. And he gets away with it.
  • Romancing the Widow: Lucrezia is surprisingly distraught after the death of her husband, Alfonso de Calabria. Lucky, her longtime lover (the other Alfonso) is still around to marry.
  • Royal "We": Rodrigo after becoming pope
  • The Runt at the End: Goffredo is younger and less badass than his siblings.
  • Shameful Strip: Giuliano della Rovere orders to strip Vannozza to humiliate her.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Between Juan and Cesare. Purposely encouraged by Rodrigo, who thinks it will push both his sons to be the best they can be.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: It seems it falls far on the cynicism side, but scratch the surface and you see that Rodrigo for all his grand personal ambitions genuinely does care about setting Italy free from the influence of foreign powers and takes his responsibilities as Pope seriously (although for the most part as long as they don't interfere with his relationship with his mistress); various characters have an awareness that the Church can function with less corruption than it currently has; and even the violent, sadistic, and borderline megalomaniacal Cesare has his selfless and sincere moments. The series does enjoy delving into the casual brutality of the Renaissance era of Europe, however.
  • "Take That!" Kiss: Juan delivers one in 1.02. "We are a planet of Judases."
  • Tell Me About My Father: Lucrezia to Vannozza in "1492"
  • Tsundere: Giulia, of the tsun type.
  • Token Good Teammate: Alessandro. He really is very moral most of the time.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Cesare shows signs of this towards the beginning
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: In "The Serpent Rises" Cesare gets so drunk that he blacks out and does not know if he was the one who killed Juan.
  • Wham Line: 1.12:
    Cesare: You? You stabbed him nine times?
  • Who's Your Daddy?/Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: In a world where Everybody Has Lots of Sex and there's no paternity testing, this is no surprise.
    • Rodrigo isn't sure Goffredo is his son.
    • Rodrigo d'Aragona (Lucrezia's second child) could be fathered by Alfonso D'Este (her lover) or by Alfonso di Calabria (her husband)
    • Vannozza invokes this for Cesare, in a desperate attempt to save him from Della Rovere after Rodrigo's death.
    • Likewise, after Rodrigo's death, Giulia claims her daughter Laura was actually her husband's, not Rodrigo's.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Cesare and Alessandro were friends when they were classmates in Pisa.
  • You Remind Me of X: Cesare's wife Charlotte reminds him of Lucrezia.
    Cesare: You remind me of my sister.
    Charlotte: And you remind me of no one else.


Example of: