The Borgias cancelled by Showtime: plans for two-hour wrap-up movie scrapped
It’s an inevitable part of being a TV fan – some day, without warning, the axe will fall on your favourite show. And this week, Showtime cancelled it’s gripping papal drama The Borgias. And to twist the jewel-encrusted dagger even deeper, they’ve shelved Neil Jordan’s plans for a two-hour movie to wrap up the series and send the nefarious Pope Alexander to hell once and for all.
The Borgias had become our go-to period drama after the end of Spartacus. It was (and still is for the final remaining episodes) a truly absorbing look inside the papacy circa 1492. The show began with Rodrigo Borgia manipulating and negotiating within the college of cardinals to secure the votes he needed to become pope. And the corruption didn’t stop there. We’ve had strategic marriages to powerful nobles, poisonings and assassination attempts aplenty. Fratricide. Incest. Oh, and that unforgettable scene where Lucrezia tried to kill her brother by dropping an enormous iron chandelier on him while he was having sex.
And like Spartacus, The Borgias was one of those history-book shows where you were constantly Googling to see if the events in the show were true. And they almost always were.
What’s fascinating about this – for me – is the idea of a pope moving into the Vatican with four children and his long-term lover and their scheming and machinations to maintain their grip on power. Can you imagine that happening in the present day – a pope with an entire family in tow? There are so many questions as to how the head of the Catholic church could manage that in the 15th century, but it couldn’t happen today.
Showtime have announced that the Season 3 finale (which ends on June 16 with an episode titled The Prince) will be the end. And apparently it’s all Jeremy Irons’ fault. According to a report on Deadline, Irons may have suggested that the Season 3 finale effectively kills off the potential for any future storylines:
…while filming a pivotal scene in the Season 3 finale, Jordan said Irons turned to him and told him that “this feels like the end of something, that the family has come to an end.” While mulling a potential fourth season, Jordan said he wasn’t sure he had enough material for 10 episodes and wasn’t sure whether Showtime would want to commit to another season either.
And so, it seems Jordan was keen to wrap-up the story of the ruthless papal family with a feature-length movie that would wrap up the storylines of the characters and culminate in the death of Rodrigo. The finale Jordan had in mind sounds nothing short of incredible…
I wanted a totally biblical ending, for the Pope to burn in hell. That is how he wrote the proposed two-hour finale, with the Pope dying and no one willing to hear his confession. When they finally find a confessor and the Pope starts to repent his sins, the confessor interrupts him, saying, ‘I’m sorry, it’s too late, you’re already dead and burning in hell.’ This satisfies all moral feelings about the Pope.
There are suggestions that aside from the reasons given by Jordan and Showtime for cancellation, that the show would have caused duplication with another recently-commissioned drama series. Showtime are planning to debut a contemporary Vatican drama this year, called, surprisingly, The Vatican. The new show is said to focus on “spirituality, power and politics –- set against the modern-day political machinations within the Catholic church. The series will explore the relationships and rivalries as well as the mysteries and miracles behind one of the world’s most hidden institutions.”
Given the backdrop of what we’ve seen in The Borgias over the last three seasons, it’ll be interesting to see what a modern take on the papacy will show us. But there will forever be a soft spot for those villains of Rome and the most sympathetic way in which they were painted by Neil Jordan and brought to life by the core trinity of Jeremy Irons, Francois Arnaud and Holliday Grainger.