The blessings and backstabbings of Showtime’s The Borgias will continue for another year. The cable network renewed the series for a second season today.

The Borgias is a historical drama surrounding the appointment of Pope Alexander VI, formerly Cardinal Rorigo Borgia (Jeremy Irons). The Pope’s children Cesare, (François Arnaud) Gioffre (Aidan Alexander) and Lucrezia (Holliday Grainger) assist His Holiness in some unholy duties, while keeping various cutthroats and usurpers at bay.

The show debuted earlier this month and is currently just five episodes into its nine-part season. The two-hour premiere landed 1.5 million viewers across two airings: Showtime’s best drama debut in seven years. The series has also done well in Canada. For comparison, the 5th season premiere of Showtime’s poster boy, Dexter, scored 1.75 million.

The high production values and impressive performances of The Borgias have drawn critical acclaim. The scheming and plotting of Catholicism’s royal family make it an easy pill to swallow for Showtime’s adults-only crowd, and the tagline “The Original Crime Family” seems to be well-earned.

Jeremy Irons is particularly engaging in his leading role. The actor isn’t far out of his element in a period piece: in just the last decade he’s starred in western Appaloosa, fantasies Eragon and The Color of Magic, and historical dramas Casanova and Kingdom of Heaven. Going back a little further, he even played the Musketeer Aramis in 1998’s The Man in the Iron Mask. Irons’ subtly menacing Pope drives the plot forward. 

The Borgias‘ grim subject matter and cinematography make it a “spiritual” successor to The Tudors, Showtime’s dramatization of Henry VIII’s bloody romances. The two series are even set in a similar time period, only a few years apart. The Tudors premiered to a large audience and critical applause, and lasted four seasons, ending in 2010. Michael Hirst, James Flynn and Sheila Hockin, all producers for The Borgias, served the same duty for The Tudors.

The second season will span ten episodes in 2012, giving writers an extra hour to spin the alliances and squabbles of Europe’s spiritual and political monarchies. The first season cost Showtime an estimated $49 million.

The Borgias airs Sunday nights at 10PM on Showtime.

Source: TV Line