“Winter is coming.” No wait…I’m confused about what show I’m reviewing. Ironically during this final episode of The Borgias, Caterina Sforza (Gina McKee) says it. Perhaps she’s a Game of Thrones fan. Unfortunately for viewers, this line sadly foreshadows the end of the series.
Let’s bitch it out…
I hate to be dramatic about this, but this episode (as a season finale) was pretty much perfect. Unfortunately, it sets up such promise for the continuation of the story and characters, that it makes it that much worse knowing there will be no resolution. Sure, we could pick up a history book, but where’s the fun in that?
We all know the Pope (Jeremy Irons) is ambitious, but in this episode he surprises us all. He self-righteously questions whether God is served well by the papal elections. Instead, what if the Vatican’s power is passed down from father to son, in a family pre-ordained by God? Cesare (François Arnaud) is admittedly stunned into silence at his father’s audacity, as even he could not imagine this. The Pope orders Cesare to carve out a kingdom for the family, and he will work to ensure it remains in Borgia hands, wanting Cesare to one day become Pope and King.
This show has never really been about the battle scenes – moreso their outcome and subsequent impact on politics – but the siege of Forli is a perfectly-executed sequence. Cesare’s army is having no luck getting through Forli’s 12 foot thick walls. Caterina assumes she’s safe, more concerned that she will be defeated by way of attrition. Luckily, Micheletto (Sean Harris) briefly returns to let Cesare know there is an old Roman quarry underneath the wall. Shooting artillery in front of the wall where the land is weak brings the wall tumbling down.
When Caterina is captured, Cesare stops her suicide attempt and dresses her up to parade her around, for he has captured a legend. In kind of a dick move (shouldn’t he have more respect for her as an adversary and former lover?), he takes her all the way to Rome in a gilded cage. This doesn’t stop her from nearly biting off the Pope’s finger when he presents his ring for her to kiss. Ah Caterina, you’re a rock star until the end!
Meanwhile, both the Pope and Cesare agree something must be done about Naples. France wants it and they certainly can’t let the current King remain there. Cesare makes it clear that his now-alcoholic, suspicious brother-in-law is nowhere in his plans. Lucrezia sees the writing on the wall and goes to beg her father to tell her truthfully what will happen to her husband. “Now that your ambition is the same as my brother’s, that ambition is multiplied tenfold.” See what families can do when they stick together? Murder other family members!
Since Cesare lost his own “henchman,” he offers Rufio (Thure Lindhardt) the opportunity to kill Alfonzo (Sabastian de Souza) in order to get out of prison. As luck would have it, Alfonzo challenges Cesare and ends up getting stabbed in front of Lucrezia. I love the look of agony on her face when she realizes the reason her husband lays dying is because of what she is, and her unholy love for her brother. Alfonzo begs her to end his misery if she ever loved him, and she slips poison in his water.
We then get to the quasi-creepy final line of the series. As Cesare finds Lucrezia hunched over her husband, distraught and bloody, he picks up a rag and begins wiping her face. “You will be naked, clean, bloodless again…and mine.”
As I mentioned earlier, I was not satisfied with this as a series finale. After setting up such a shocking revelation about the Pope’s ambitions, the show leaves us wanting to find out how everything pans out. How close would he have gotten to changing the course of history? What would have happened between Cesare and Lucrezia now that Alfonzo’s murder is between them? Would Cesare begin relying on Rufio as his henchman or would Micheletto come back? Would a fourth season have built up the rise of both Della Rovere and Alessandro Farnase as they become future popes? Alas we won’t know (I refuse to crack a book unless it’s written by Neil Jordan!)
Thank you for watching with me this season. It has been my pleasure! It’s going to be tough to fill The Borgias shoes. But True Blood is back on, so I guess I can swap out clerical robes for fangs on Sunday night…
- The entire concept and title of the episode is great. Machiavelli (Julian Bleach) has some great scenes with Cesare. Machiavelli says the perfect crime is one without a suspect (like what happened to Juan). Whoever killed him cast doubt on everyone else and the person that could do that would be the perfect prince. Was I the only one smiling on the couch?
- I loved the score during the scenes in which Cesare’s army is marching on Forli. As the A.V. Club points out, it is straight from Middle Earth.
- It cracks me up when, after stabbing Alfonzo, Cesare looks at Lucrezia to say “it’s not what you think, he started it” – as if he didn’t stop by with an assassin for the sole purpose of murdering his brother-in-law!
- Cesare: “Never presume that I will not act on my worst instincts”
- Cesare: “Rome’s about to change, mother”. Vanozza (Joanne Whalley): “Not again.”
- Cesare: “Where have you been?” Micheletto: “Talking to God.” Cesare: “And what did he say?” Micheletto: “Nothing”
That’s it for us. What are your thoughts on the finale? Do you wish we had a fourth season (or at least a movie) to wrap things up? Would Cesare and Lucrezia have stuck it out as a “couple”? Finally, what would have become of the Pope and his plan for Cesare to succeed him? Hit the comments below
The Borgias has completed its three season run on Showtime. You can check out our “Best Of” list for the series here