“The Moor”- SE01 EP03
“My father had many adversaries, Cardinal. One of them came to sing his praises. When they could sing no more, he had them stuffed.” – Prince Alfonso of Naples
Cardinal Della Rovere has fled Rome to the safety of King Ferdinard I (a.k.a. King Don Ferannte’s ) hospitality. But the King is old, and deaf and the Cardinal must speak to his son, Prince Alfonso.,who happens to be a bit of a psychopath. He delights in showing the Cardinal the stuffed corpses of his father’s enemies and asks if the Borgia Pope has earned a place amongst this table *shudders*. UGH. Creep factor 10+ – this guy is a sicko. The Cardinal doesn’t have anything quite so drastic in mind, he simply seeks to depose Rodrigo Borgia and offers an alliance against Spain should he take over as Pope once Borgia has been deposed. I don’t know that making alliances with psychos in necessarily a good idea but at this point, Della Rovere has little choice since going back to Rome would mean certain death.
“What the Holy Church needs at this junction is someone who can ensure its survival…by whatever means necessary” – Rodrigo Borgia
Rodrigo sees to this by peddling kindness in exchange for money. Rodrigo mentions the expulsion of the Jews from Spain (in 1492 decreed by Queen Isabella I) and invites them to Rome because he sees profit in their presence. He wants his Pontificate to be remembered as being open and welcoming towards Jews and Muslims, for a price, of course. He makes it appear that he is magnanimous and in turn, they pay to remain in Rome unscathed. In this same vein, he invites Sultan Cem of the Ottoman Empire to stay with him for 40,000 ducats, under the pretense of protecting him from his older brother who wants to see him dead for 400,000 ducats. Rodrigo drops this last little tidbit of information in front of Cesare while they are watching Juan and Cem at swordplay. Something for use down the road should they need it. Poor Cem thinks he is genuinely liked by the Borgias and has no idea of his peril.
Another point of contention lies here – the Sultan looked quite campy. In fact, all the Muslims looked corny. The costumes and mannerisms were over the top. The Muslims looked more like run aways from Disneyland’s “Aladdin” than anything believable. Two words: #MuslimFAIL
“Maybe it is time for the good Cardinal’s collar to be replaced” – Rodrigo Borgia
Rumours and whispers about Cesare’s henchman, Michelotto are swirling and the Pope asks his son if he can makes use of him to “replace the Cardinal’s collar” via garrote. Michelotto shows Cesare how a garrote is used to cleanly and swiftly slice through a watermelon. This is pretty gruesome – the cheese cutting wire would easily and quickly decapitate someone. This show really is turning into a late medieval mafia extravaganza with new plots at every turn and hits flying around the Vatican. Cesare asks Michelotto to go to Naples and kill Cardinal Della Rovere at his father’s behest. Unfortunately, Michelotto has a bit of a #garroteFAIL in Naples…twice. Once, he is foiled by guards playing dice outside the Cardinals sleeping quarters, the second time, he attempts to attack him in the spa baths but is spied by the flogging scars on his back even though his face and body are covered in mud. Della Rovere screams that an assassin is after him and somehow, Michelotto manages to escape the guards and flee the palace. He is one helluva killer!!!! I’ve never seen a guy take people down so quickly in nothing but his underwear! Very impressive :)
“My beloved son…crimson is a colour that suits you but, you regard this elevation as a burden…you’re my eldest son,; it is your duty to follow in my footsteps. Tell me you accept this calling?” – Rodrigo Borgia
Ummm…no…no he doesn’t. Cesare of course answers yes, but when Rodrigo embraces him you can see the look on Cesare’s face that he’d rather run through the streets for Rome naked and on fire than become a Cardinal ;) He is raised to Cardinal along with twelve others and during the entire ceremony, and the entire time, looks as if a little part of died. Cesare makes quite the Cardinal – taking hits out on other Cardinals and anyone who gets in his family’s way. He is the ultimate papal bad ass :)
“The vultures are circling our family, our Rome. We must protect ourselves…we must marry her. ” ~ Rodrigo Borgia
The Pope decides to have Lucrezia married off as it would be beneficial to have family alliances. This part of the episode was meant to be funny with many ugly and insipid suitors being paraded in front of the Pope to fight for Lucrezia’s hand but it fell flat for me. The attempt at comedy barely garnered a smirk. With all the murder and plotting happening, trying to force a comedic moment now is just that – forced. It’s beyond the point of being able to make jokes about much now – this show has firmly entrenched itself as a drama for me. This was the same with Alfonso’s scenes, they were meant to be funny in a twisted way but they also fell flat. He just came across as an annoying psychopath with a grating voice.
Cem tells Lucrezia about the customs of his people – how he has four wives and he can beat, but not really kill them unless they do something grave. WOW. That’s some marriage advice. NICE. Way to sell marriage. We also notice that he’s crushing on her hard. He is attracted to her and she likes him. This can’t bode well.
“I’m afraid dear sister, the Pope does not ask you to love your future husband, only to marry him” ~ Cesare Borgia
In the end, it doesn’t end well for our happy-go-lucky Muslim friend. The Sforza family wins the suit but it comes at a high cost – they will take Lucrezia but she must come with a dowry – a substantial one to re-equip the Sforza’s armies for the turbulent times ahead. Poor Cem, with this deal, his fate is sealed; the Pope now sees him as the means to his daughters dowry.
He tells Cesare that the Sultan has overstayed his welcome and he is flirting with Lucrezia. Cesare tells his father to send Cem home, because he likes him, and he sees that he makes Lucrezia happy. Rodrigo reminds Cesare that ‘there is the matter of a dowry’. Juan asks Cesare for the use of Michelotto to kill Cem and Cesare declines and tells him to get his own hit-man for the job. Cesare forces Juan to do his own dirty work. For once, it seems Cesare wants no part in murder. His sister’s happiness and his affection for the Sultan override his family obligations. This is especially hard for Cesare when Cem comes to him and confesses he wants to convert to Christianity. “…because of the kindness you Christians have shown to me. I have found peace in this Rome of yours…see how these Christians love one another. I would gladly embrace a religion of such charity” Oh boy….*cringes*….It’s just brutal to hear his confession because we know his fate. Cesare mumbles that not all Christians are so kind and you can see in his eyes, he feels sorry for what he knows will befall Cem.
“So our sister’s dowry is done…here endeth the first lesson” ~ Cesare Borgia
Meanwhile, Juan goes to the kitchen and gets the cook to poison the Sultan’s tea. The poison isn’t strong enough, it’s a botched effort and Cem just ends up writhing in pain and screaming in agony. Cesare, frustrated by Juan’s stupidity, relents and asks Michelotto to advise them. After the cook tells him what he used, Michelotto tells them the Sultan will be languishing for weeks. Cesare has him “silence” the cook and forces his brother to finish what he started.
It seems Cesare has a bit of a change of heart when it comes to Lucrezia. It just kills Cesare that Juan gets to protect the family as a soldier while he is stuck in serving the Church. It also shows juts how inept Juan is – he can’t even carry out a simple poisoning. Juan smothers Cem with a pillow and even has trouble doing that – he is all bravado in armour but when it comes time to do the real killing, he’s a joke, his brother in Cardinal’s robes is the real family mastermind.
Thus far, this episode has been my least favourite of the three. It had interesting dialogue and there is certainly enough murder to go around but it was kind of ho-hum in the scenes where someone wasn’t being offed. This show is good, but I’m not in love with it. I’m in love with Francois Arnaud’s portrayal of Cesare, and it’s what draws me in every week. Jeremy Irons is great as Rodrigo Borgias but I’m not riveted to the screen the way I should be. I’m hoping the fourth installment of this series is a bit more interesting in it’s down moments.