After this week’s announcement that there will be no 4th season of The Borgias, this is now officially the penultimate episode of the series. In my humble opinion, this episode proved that it shouldn’t be.
Let’s bitch it out…
We open right after Pascal (Charlie Carrick) tells Micheletto (Sean Harris) that it was his wish to die in Micheletto’s arms. His wish is granted. Micheletto slits Pascal’s wrists and promises to hold him while he bleeds out. As Pascal’s blood is dripping down Micheletto’s face, he begs Pascal for forgiveness. As soon as Pascal dies, Micheletto flees Rome.
Cesare (François Arnaud) tries to find Micheletto, discovering only Pascal’s body and the word “Goodbye” on the floor, written by Pascal in chalk and copied by Micheletto in blood. Cesare asks his men, “can one of you replace him?” and turns away scoffing, “don’t even try to answer that.”
Over in Naples it is time for the Festival of Bacchus, which gives Lucrezia (Holliday Grainger) the perfect opportunity to slip her sleeping potion in the wine that the entire kingdom drinks. Once everyone falls asleep, she escapes with her baby, her nurse, and Alfonzo (Sabastian de Souza). The scene where she walks out of the castle with everyone asleep is eerie and beautifully shot, like a dream sequence.
As Lucrezia rides towards Rome, she runs into Cesare, who was on the way to Naples to free her once he learned she was being held captive. Aside from the incest aspect, this felt like a well-established romantic comedy trope (only much darker). Like I was watching the quintessential airport scene, where one person chases after the other only to realize they never got on the plane. Anyhow, back to the story at hand…
Cesare cannot hide his feelings of relief when he sees Lucrezia is okay, and he rushes towards her grabbing her full-on makeout style. Finally, it looks like an actual light bulb went off above Alfonzo’s head as he realizes this may not be the way all brothers and sisters reunite.
Alfonzo calls Lucrezia on it in one of the more depressing dialogues about marriage I’ve heard:
Lucrezia: You are the joy of my life, the light of my days.
Alfonzo: You know that I know that isn’t true. How long can we last like this?
Lucrezia: How long does marriage last?
I know I give useless Alfonzo a hard time every week, but I have to give him props. As he spars with Cesare, he makes a ballsy move and says “does she love me as she loves her brother…rumor has it that there are three in this marriage not two.” He also alludes to the rumor that Cesare killed Juan. I would be willing to wager that wasn’t a smart move in the long run, pissing Cesare off, but good for you Alfonzo, welcome to the game.
I was very excited this episode because the Pope is supposed to be this political mastermind and we haven’t really seen that lately. He just sort of mopes around reacting to things. I know he’s gathered funds for the crusade and decimated the Turkish fleet, held the Jubilee, and brokered a marriage with France (okay, wow maybe he has done a lot), but I haven’t really felt like he’s been in control or had a strategic plan in a while.
But now, the Pope decides to control all of the sulfur in the world, which is required to make gunpowder. By purchasing all the available stock, the Pope cuts off the availability to both Catherina Sforza (Gina McKee) and Cesare, effectively ending their war and either one’s chance of gaining additional power. He asks Mattai (Brendan Cowell) to be his broker.
Cesare orders Prospero Colonna (Joseph Macnab) to figure out who’s been buying all the sulfur. Colonna discovers where Mattai is holding it, and in his infinite wisdom decides to betray Cesare and hold the sulfur ransom. Yeah, horrible idea. When Cesare finds out he sets Colonna on fire, obviously. But the reason we all care about this, is that it brings together Cesare and Mattai at the sulfur stores. Mattai tells Cesare that he bought it all for his father, and dude is pissed!
When Mattai brings Cesare to the Vatican to serve as their couples counselor, we get the scene we’ve been waiting for. Italy’s most powerful father-son duo finally have it out, screaming their frustrations and fears with each other. Cesare feeling betrayed that his father wouldn’t trust him to tell him about the sulfur (or more broadly, give him command of the papal armies), and the Pope betrayed, and scared, that Cesare brings entire armies to his doorstep without his approval, that he no longer has a say in Cesare’s ambitions.
When I began writing about this scene, I started to quote every single line, because they were all powerful. Needless to say, A+ writing. One of my favorites, “The fire, the fury, the drive, the pitiless ambition…I look into his eyes and I see myself, do you expect me to love that?!?” Cesare is shocked when he realizes his dad, the person whose love he’s been trying to get his entire life, may not love himself. First Cesare asks for his father’s love…then his trust…and finally, addressing the elephant in the room, asks for and receives his father’s forgiveness for his sins (namely, murdering his own brother).
While watching The Borgias, it sometimes seems that Jeremy Irons and Francois Arnaud are acting in different shows. I feel like Jeremy Irons has oscillated between chewing the scenery and being a bit aloof. Francois Arnaud, on the other hand, seems driven to earn himself an Emmy. That being said, lately I’ve noticed a convergence between their two styles and thought this scene was fantastic.
- The reconciliation scene had some good dark humor. As Mattai tells both the Pope and Cesare that the bond between father and son is sacred, he says “Adam begat Cain” “who killed his brother Abel,” says the Pope. “Abraham begat Isaac” “Who he offered up for sacrifice” says Cesare.
- There have been some excellent scenes this season between the Pope and Vanozza (Joanne Whalley). Whatever the status of their relationship at various times, they understand and have full trust in each other, which allows us viewers the opportunity to get insight into their thoughts.
- When Colonna discovers the sulfur, he tries to get Baglioni (Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson) to double cross Cesare with him. Baglioni decides to save his own hide and tells Cesare. However, he the begs Cesare to spare Colonna’s life, almost not believing that Cesare was planning to kill him. Seriously? Have you never met Cesare? This drove me nuts.
Best Line (omitting the reconciliation scene):
Vanozza: Go home Lucrezia, you brood too much.
So what did you think of this episode? Was the reconciliation everything you had hoped it would be? Have you already been searching for a backup historical drama for next season? Sound off below!