The Borgias (2011–2013)
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The Art of War 

Paolo helps Lucrezia and Guilia escape Sforza, but they are captured by advancing French forces as the Pope's cardinals flee Rome before King Charles' military juggernaut.


Jeremy Podeswa


Neil Jordan (creator), Neil Jordan

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Jeremy Irons ... Rodrigo Borgia
François Arnaud ... Cesare Borgia
Holliday Grainger ... Lucrezia Borgia
Lotte Verbeek ... Giulia Farnese
David Oakes ... Juan Borgia
Sean Harris ... Micheletto
Simon McBurney ... Johannes Burchart
Colm Feore ... Giuliano Della Rovere
Ruta Gedmintas ... Ursula Bonadeo
Michel Muller ... King Charles VIII
Luke Pasqualino ... Paolo
Peter Sullivan ... Cardinal Ascanio Sforza
Ronan Vibert ... Giovanni Sforza
Robert Reina Robert Reina ... Spanish Ambassador
Bosco Hogan ... Cardinal Piccolomini


Lucrezia and Giulia Farnese leave Sforza's castle for Rome but Paulo the groom pays a heavy price for helping them get away. The two women soon encounter a French patrol but Lucrezia manages to charm the French King. The Pope meets with the Spanish ambassador but doesn't get the help he was expecting. Despite the advice of his Cardinals that they decamp and leave Rome, he refuses to do so. Juan does come up with a plan to meet the French forces long before they reach Rome. They find themselves just a bit outnumbered however. It's Lucrezia who comes up with a solution. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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Canada | Ireland | Hungary

Release Date:

15 May 2011 (USA) See more »

Filming Locations:

Korda Studios, Etyek, Hungary See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Aspect Ratio:

16 : 9
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Did You Know?


Although it is mentioned more than once that Charles VIII's French army numbers 25,000 men, it also included 10,000 Swiss mercenaries. See more »


The use of chain-shot first occurred in 1631. Although Charles VIII revolutionized several aspects of artillery this was not one of them. See more »


Cesare Borgia: [Observing the retreating Papal army] Will the Good Lord see the justice in our cause, Micheletto?
Micheletto: Where war is concerned, your eminence, our Good Lord will take a holiday.
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The Borgias Main Titles
Written by Trevor Morris
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User Reviews

"Kings are of short supply"
2 June 2019 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

Season 1 may have had a slow start, but the episodes still managed to be never less than good with so many fine things that outweighed the unevenness of the writing and pacing. It was with "The French King" where things properly got settled and got back on track after a slight slump, where the writing and pacing had improved, and the good things got even better and more numerous. The previous episode "Death on a Pale Horse" saw the season have its first great episode.

The penultimate episode of the first "The Art of War" is every bit as great as "Death on a Pale Horse" and one of Season 1's best. Its numerous strengths are pretty much exactly the same as those of "Death on a Pale Horse", their impact about equal, and issues are less. Things are progressing, tensions mounting and although purposefully unpleasant (calling the characters unpleasant should not really be a flaw, as the Borgias in real life were not what one would call likeable) the characterisation is getting richer.

Could care less for the Cesare and Ursula subplot, which was always rather soapy in the writing and the chemistry never really ignited. Never was a fan of Ursula or her bland personality either, to the extent that you are not sure what Cesare saw in her.

Otherwise, to me the episode was great. Personally did not have a problem with the writing for Juan and his role in the episode, sure his behaviour is far from subtle and could be seen as distasteful but it added to his increasing loathsome-ness. David Oakes brings that out with great confidence and his chemistry with Francois Arnaud's Cesare is both tense and in a way oddly entertaining. The most interesting subplot here though was with Lucrezia, Giulia and the French. Lucrezia continues to grow in development and in character and Lotte Verbeek's ravishing Giulia, absolutely great that she is playing a bigger role and more than being the mistress to the Pope, continues to be one of the show's best assets. Love their chemistry together and actually did like their mind games. Michel Muler is less hammy here which is a good thing.

Brought to the forefront too is the war battle, which is every bit as gut-wrenching and intense as the scene in Luca in "Death on a Pale Horse". There are other highlights too, the flies in a spiders web feel with the Pope and the cardinals, Jeremy Irons relishing his quite chilling lines in the scene with the ambassador, the unexpected final scene, the Pope's/Rodrigo's speech and the hilarity of hearing the Pope saying the ten letter word (probably prohibited here) beginning with w and ending with e, concerning Juan's behaviour. Continue to love the chemistry between Rodrigo and Cesare and the writing has come on a lot. The pace likewise, thanks to more going on and the tension mounting.

Jeremy Irons chills in the ambassador and counsel scenes as well as when he learns of the retreat, but he equally excels in the quieter moments where Rodrigo is guilt ridden where his line delivery is more understated and his eyes and face tell such a lot. Arnaud and Holliday Grainger continue being more comfortable, Cesare being the most interesting character by now along with Rodrigo, Sean Harris continues to unsettle as Micheletto, Oakes is suitably loathsome and Verbeek is a major bright spot.

Visually, 'The Borgias' continues to have very high production values with "The Art of War", that was never a problem and continually one of the best of the good things about the show. The exquisitely designed and richly coloured costumes, especially Lucrezia's and Giulia's, and scenery and interiors are wow-worthy, and the beautiful photography rivals period dramas on film. The music still has the beauty and intensity that were present in the previous episodes. Meanwhile the opening titles sequences and main theme still give me the chills. one of my favourite opening titles sequences of all time (film and television). The main theme is incredible, the sheer intensity, grandeur and drama (already sending chills down the spine and induces goosebumps before the episode's even begun) makes it one of my favourite main themes for any show. Matched by splendidly and cleverly designed visuals.

All in all, one of the season's best. 9/10

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