THE BORGIAS: “The French King” – SE01EP06

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“The French King”

Cesare falls deeply in love with Baroness Ursula, Lucrezia has a torrid affair with Paolo the stable boy, while her husband lies in bed with a broken leg. Cardinal Della Rovere meets with Charles VIII, King of France and procures the invasion of Italy, and Rodrigo gets his alliance when Gioffre is betrothed to the beautiful and licentious Sancia of Naples.

This episode is all about SEX! It’s been misnamed “The French King” when it should’ve been called, “The Borgia’s Sexy Party” because every Borgia (including Gioffre!) gets it on this episode!

“I must accept your forgiveness then my Lord, for the…accident…of my Borgia blood ” ~ Lucrezia Borgia Sforza

OH SNAP! While Lucrezia tends to his wounded leg, Giovanni Sforza offers her a half-assed “apology” for mistreating her because of the “mistake” of her Borgia blood. WOW….At this point, you wish the guy had broken both legs and arms. As a nicety, he allows her to ride out on his horse, to give it exercise. Gee, that’s awfully kind of you, after you insult my family; you let me take your horse out for a ride…well, at least in Lucrezia’s case, that’s not all she gets to ride this episode ;) *blushes*

Lucrezia rides out with sexy stable boy, Paolo, and they find a calm pool of water in which she recounts the tale of Narcissus. She kisses his reflection in the water and then kisses him, then, they have sex in the woods! I’m so happy that she’s finally free of Giovanni Sforza, even if only for a little while. She was so utterly miserable and Paolo makes her happy.

Lucrezia and her Narcissus get to spend another night together while her dear Lord Sforza is laid up in bed. There is a very tense scene where you think they’re going to get caught because there’s a squeaking bed noise Giovanni Sforza goes to check out but it turns out it’s only the maid churning butter for the morning. I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief.

My only comment here is that all of Lucrezia’s sex scenes with Paolo border on boring and chaste when you compare the love scenes between Cesare and Ursula. It’s a kind of innocent teen-love for Lucrezia but at the same time, I wish it had been a bit more risque, more like an affair than a schoolyard romance.

“Gioffre still plays with his sister’s dolls ” ~ Cesare Borgia

King Ferrnate wants an independent Naples. France and Spain are bearing down on him and he is feeble, and under the care of his (highly annoying) son, Alphonso. He offers Sancia, his illegitimate daughter, to Gioffre after Juan refuses her because she is a bastard. Seriously?! This is funny considering Juan is not only a bastard, but might not even be a true Borgia – where does he get off being so haughty?! Chezzy – send Michelotto after him PLEASE! Juan does, however, agree to going to Naples to “check out” a.k.a screw, Gioffre’s bride to see if she is “suitable”….OK, so he won’t marry her, but he’s going to have sex with his brother’s future wife. CLASSY.

“And your brother, Gonfaloniere, is he illegitimate like me?” ~ Sancia of Naples

OH NO SHE DIDN’T?! Juan arrives in Naples to find his youngest brother is betrothed to an exceedingly beautiful, yet very naughty, Sancia of Squillace. Juan looks so uncomfortable discussing the fact that he and his siblings are bastards. It’s just bizarre – like who does he think he is?! He mumbles some line about the Pope legitimizing their names and that he is leading his father’s Papal armies and Alphonso bursts out laughing and asks his sister if she’s not scared. OMG – too funny! I really enjoyed that scene – Alphonso may be a nutter but he took a much deserved pot shot at Juan.

EWWW moment: What’s creepy is that Sancia and Juan decide to get their freak on in the macabre dining room full of corpses. I suppose no one will walk in there, but seriously?! That’s just NASTY! I don’t know how you can get excited in a room full of stuffed dead people.

Poor Gioffre asks Juan later at dinner whether Sancia is pretty and has anything to recommend her and Juan teases him but says that he’s a lucky boy while Vanozza and Cesare exchange knowing glances. Cesare is SO onto Juan. He knows he’s sleeping with Gioffre’s betrothed. You feel for little Gioffre – he totally adores his brothers and Juan is screwing his future wife. Brotherly love? Not so much :(

“Can you love me Cesare Borgia, or is it just desires of the flesh?” ~ Ursula Bonadeo

“I am very much afraid it is both. One or the other, I could deal with…both, and I may be lost ” ~ Cesare Borgia

After clandestine kisses, sexy confessions and flirty horseback rides last episode, Cesare and Ursula finally make love. I LOVE their scenes together; he’s genuinely in love with her :) Her hesitation and his willingness to do whatever makes her happy was nice. Our beloved Chezzy spends most of his time running around in cleric’s robes, miserable, plotting for his father since one brother is too young, and the other is a veritable idiot; so it was nice to see the happier, softer side of our murderous mastermind ;)  After a while, Ursula grows suspicious that her husband has been gone for one week. Cesare says nothing, he’s just happy for the time they have.

“We need this union more than we need riches. The wolves are bearing down on the Papal states” ~ Rodrigo Borgia

Rodrigo seems to enjoy giving political lessons, and he gives one to Giulia in bed. He says love and politics have more in common than you think and uses Giulia’s leg as a metaphor for Italian politics. He’s concerned about France and needs to do whatever is in his power to stabilize his alliances and keep his papacy running. If this means sending his children out like cattle for marriage, so be it. Rodrigo isn’t feature as a central character in this episode – its’ all about Juan, Ceasre and Ursula and Lucrezia and Paolo. The French King gets a few scenes here and there but isn’t the main focus in spite of the episode’s title.

“You would entice me to battle, but do you know what that means?…No war is just, war is chaos…but there is no honour in war; the French learned that against the English…Be careful what you pray for, Cardinal, if you pray for war.” ~ King Charles VIII

FRANCE

Della Rovere is in France parleying with Charles VIII He wants Naples in exchange for his aide. It’s a funny scene, Charles VIII tries to get Della Rovere to give him an honest answer about his unfortunate appearance and Della Rovere refuses to oblige, giving him his snake-oil salesman responses. Charles doesn’t want those – he appreciates only plain speech. Della Rovere knows that Italy stands no chance against France since France has been embroiled in battle for over one hundred years with England.  Charles shows Della Rovere the latest in Renaissance “weapons of mass destruction” ;) Chained canonballs that demolish castle walls like twigs.

“Juan! What has this papacy done to you?!” ~ Vannozza dei Cattanei

Here we get to see the full extent of what a jerk Juan is and the difference between him and Cesare. When Cesare ran into Theo, he too was not pleased by his presence around Vannozza but he was just mildly disdainful and at least somewhat polite. Juan just all out attacks Theo and beats the crap out of him in front of Vannozza, to her sheer horror, all the while screaming about being the Pope’s son. He thinks that he is coming around to admit that one of them is his son and not Rodrigo. Juan, knowingly, seems to think it’s him. He is absolutely paranoid about not being a true Borgia. Funny enough…after this scene, to me, he isn’t. Cesare and Rodrigo would never act that way or stoop to such vulgarity.

“Do you know what they say about you? What they whisper about you? That your brother would be more suited to your estate. Would you have us consider those thoughts?!” ~ Rodrigo Borgia

He gets completely chewed out by Rodrigo for brawling in his mother’s house like a common soldier. Rodrigo threatens Juan that Cesare should have his job. He fears that Rodrigo will give Cesare the papal army. I think Rodrigo lies to him when tells Juan he is his son. I think he is trying to reassure him because he is very paranoid about his lineage. He’s obsessed, and has been obsessed, since the beginning of this series with not being a bastard even though he is one. Rodrigo slaps him before crossly storming out of the room….he deserved it, I wish he had slapped Juan around some more, maybe drop-kicked him too. I just don’t buy that he’s the Pope’s son. Juan lacks the aplomb and cunning of a Borgia; he’s a disgrace to the family name.

“And you brother…what of your heart?” ~ Lucrezia Borgia

“It was broken…by a nun” ~ Cesare Borgia

Lucrezia comes home for Gioffre’s wedding and is happily reunited with her beloved brother, Cesare. They have such a sweet relationship, and I enjoy all their scenes together. Cesare adores his sister and would do anything for her. This is the one other person who brings out Chezzy’s good side :) Lucrezia doesn’t have this kind of close relationship with Juan, but given that Juan is a tool, it’s not hard to see why ;) Cesare asks how marriage is and she refuses to give him details; she’s smart and knows her brother meant it when he said if her husband was ungallant, he’s cut out his heart with a dinner knife! I think she is smarter than she lets on – she knows (or at least has a good sense of) what her brother is capable of doing.

“I will search you out, like Abelard and Heloise! You may find a nunnery cell but you will never be free of me!” ~ Cesare Borgia

Oh boy….guess who’s bloated and stabbed corpse washes up for two men to find? Yup…Baron Bonadeo. Ursula confronts Cesare and he tells her he did it for his mother’s honour but more because he loved her and she wanted to be liberated from her husband. He thought she would be happy that they could be together but she is not. She feels he has sentenced her to Hell and she must atone for her part in this and decides to go into a nunnery.

Ursula seriously annoyed me this episode. If you watch “Lucrezia’s Wedding”, she asks Cesare twice to liberate her from her oafish husband. He’s a jerk, and completely insults and humiliates Cesare’s mother at the wedding. She is upset with Cesare for the murder but really, she lead him to believe it was what she wanted. She even said that he saw what her heart wanted and he gave it to her – so…WTF?! She really doesn’t know Chezzy. He completely took her unhappiness as a go-ahead to be rid of her husband. She’s so preoccupied with her soul yet she slept with Chezzy for 3 weeks solid. Make up your mind. Seriously. What did she think she was asking for when she told a Borgia to “liberate” her? She lead him on, she doesn’t know what she wants. She wants to be with Cesare and hopes for more days of them making love, and being together, then she complains when she finds out her husband is dead and she knew Cesare was going to avenge his mother’s honour. In this scene she makes Lucrezia look like a political Einstein *smh*

In spite of my irritation with her, I loved the scene between them, it was so heart-rending and raw. Cesare is so, SO in love with her and blurts out his fave reference – Abelard and Heloise. He has mentioned them a few times before and it is fitting now that she is in a nunnery and he is a Cardinal. He is completely devastated that she is leaving him, totally heartbroken. In spite of his murderous ways – I felt bad for him. He really thought it was what she wanted.

Ursula goes into a nunnery, and we see her cutting her hair and donning the habit as Gioffre gets married to Sancia. The contrast between Ursula paying for her sins and becoming a bride of Christ and Gioffre marrying a licentious illigitimate whore is brilliant. This series does an amazing job of contrasting pivotal scenes.

What’s just brutal is that while poor little Gioffre waits to “bed” his new wife, she is getting screwed in the next room by Juan. When she comes out, it’s implied Gioffre “gets some”. Even a thirteen year old gets it on this episode! Gioffre, the political pawn of his father’s mad race to cement alliances.

This episode was sleek, sexy and fun to watch. There wasn’t much on the murder front but it was exciting nonetheless. Juan was made into an even more dispicable character, Cesare was heartbroken and Lucrezia got her revenge against her horrid husband. All in all, a great show ~ tune in next week to watch episode 7, “Death on a Pale Horse”, as the French press towards Italy and Rodrigo and Cesare looks for his beloved “Heloise” ;)

SharanNewman