The Borgias – Review – SE02 EP10 – The Confession

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 “I swore a vow long ago that I would put an end to anyone who brought dishonour on our family. So you see father, a Cardinal’s robes sit uneasily on my shoulders” ~ Cesare. 

With lines like these, we saw the exciting season 2 conclusion of The Borgias.  Many story lines were resolved yet we were left with a nail biting cliff hanger.

“The strength of a faith misguided, is still a strength” ~ Machiavelli.

Cesare pulls out all the stops and gets Michelotto to do his nastiest but he is unsuccessful at getting a confession from Savonarola. Machiavelli is right when he points out that although Savonarola is physically broken, his spirit won’t easily break so he suggests Cesare forge the confession he so desperately needs.

“Make your confession and all this will end…you sign this and it’s done, what do you say?” ~Michelotto  

Through the torture, somehow, Savonarola knows that Michelotto is a homosexual and tells him he’s cleansed Florence of this sin. He refuses to confess to a sodomite so he requests to confess to Cesare.  Cesare visits Savonarola but he refuses to confess and in his frustration, Cesare takes Machiavelli’s advice and ends up signing the confession.

“With my last strength I damn this unholy Pope!” ~Savonarola

To silence Savonarola from revealing the forged confession, Michelotto cuts out his tongue. Savonarola is brought to his pyre to burn as a heretic and Michelotto, ironically enough, hangs the “hereticus” placard around his neck. At the last second, Rodrigo has a change of heart and speaks to Savonarola. His grief has tempered his usual severity and he offers Savonarola the chance to repent and offers him absolution. Savonarola, even with his tongue cut out and body broken, in a last act of defiance, spits blood on Rodrigo’s face. Then he burns in a dramatic spectacle before all of Rome. It was a fitting end to a spectacular and lively character.

“If I take off my cloak, what will you remove?” ~ Prince Alfonso d’Aragona , Duke of Salerno

Lucrezia’s suitor search comes to a close this episode as we see her select Prince Alfonso for her husband. She runs into the handsome suitor in the hallway of the papal suites and finds out he is there to woo her. She decides not to reveal her identity and flirts and questions the Prince as an intermediary to Lucrezia. He falls for it, and for her, and tells her to lie to Lucrezia so he can run away with her because she is so lovely. He doesn’t care about prestige, he is looking for love, and this wins over Lucrezia. Later, as he is presented, he realises that she tricked him. She agrees to marry him on the spot because she had the ability to choose him without Rodrigo’s interference. Rodrigo is happy and Lucrezia is happy: win-win!

“I have wished him dead a thousand times and now you wish me to mourn him? I’m sorry father, I cannot”. ~Lucrezia

Rodrigo and Giulia Farnese search the mortuaries and find Juan. Cesare and Lucrezia are not nice or kind about Juan’s death. In an explosive scene, they tell Rodrigo what he didn’t see going on behind closed doors. Juan killed Paolo, and attempted to harm Lucrezia’s baby. Juan was given all of Rodrigo’s affection while Cesare did all the work tirelessly behind the scenes. They are not sorry and will not mourn his death.

“How could we have missed such enmity in the bosom of our family?” ~ Rodrigo

Rodrigo is shocked by their hatred of their brother; he was blissfully in the dark as to Juan’s true character. He is stunned by their reactions and tells them to get out of his sight. What is shocking is even Juan’s mother, Vanozza wished he had not been born! This revelation is almost too much for Rodrigo to bear in his grief and he refuses to bury Juan.

“Life does not hold its breath for one man’s grief” ~Cesare

Apparently not, as Cesare arranges Juan’s funeral in spite of Rodrigo’s protests and insists that Lucrezia’s betrothal go on. The betrothal celebration is in full swing while Rodrigo mourns Juan in a cramped, dark chamber. In a moment of madness, Rodrigo sees Juan as a child and carries him tenderly into the garden and prays over his body. He weeps and digs Juan’s grave and buries him.

“So tell me Cesare, what are we celebrating? The betrothal of your sister of the death of your brother? We are dancing on your brother’s grave” ~ Vanozza.

Lucrezia asks Cesare to marry her to Alfonso. Cesare asks if she loves Alfonso. It’s a strange moment where there is the implication that there is more between Cesare and Lucrezia that sibling affection. This is hinted at again when they dance together at the betrothal party and for a fleeting moment, we see something in Alfonso that says he sees it too. Cesare tells Lucrezia that he can’t marry her because he’s done too many bad things and he believes he is no longer a cardinal after all he’s done. There were plenty of rumors historically but up until this point, the shows hasn’t “gone there”. I’d like to see them tackle this rumor and see how far they take it.

Cesare goes to see Rodrigo and admits that he killed Juan for shaming the Borgia name. He asks for his release as cardinal and Rodrigo has no choice but to relent – its one thing to order a murder, but it’s entirely another thing to partake and still wear a Cardinal’s robes. Cesare has finally gotten his wish – he has removed the obstacle to his quest for the secular life and has legally had his father remove him from a life in the Church.

“A man feels less favour for his own image reflected.” ~ Rodrigo
“If I cannot have your affection, can you at least grant me your forgiveness?” ~ Cesare

Lastly, Della Rovere’s ‘angel of death’ serves Cesare and Rodrigo wine. He tastes it and says it’s good and Rodrigo proceeds to drink it. Rodrigo tells Cesare he buried Juan and takes the blame for what Cesare’s did because Cesare is too much like him. Suddenly, the young monk begins to bleed from the eyes and spews blood before dropping dead. Rodrigo begins to gasp and is left writhing on the floor with Cesare screaming for help and wondering if this was divine retribution for his sins.

This was a fantastic episode. All of the season 2 story lines were resolved and we were also left with a spectacular cliff hanger. It was well done, and well acted. This cast has done a stellar job of involving their audience and making them care about the characters – good, and evil. You watch the show and feel invested in what’s going on. Even though the Borgias are a rather evil bunch, you manage to understand their motivations. Through some fine acting, the cast enables you to sympathize with them. I can’t wait for season 3. This show just keeps getting better and better. Join us again for season 3 of The Borgias!

Sharan Newman