The Borgias 2.03—The Beautiful Deception

This week is we get to say good-bye to someone. And I’m not talking about the dead guy. (Although, he’s not coming back to life, so I guess there’s two someones.) We also get to prepare for war. And I’m delighted twice by Cesare’s interaction with women characters. In other words… this week was awesome.

We start with the camera panning up to Paolo’s hanging body as it’s being cut down. Lucrezia is over in the market, and Cesare finds her and tries to lead her home so she won’t turn around see what’s behind her. But she knows something’s up. She turns and sees the body and runs to her beloved.

She holds Paolo’s body and cries over him while Cesare tells people to stop looking. It’s like something you’d see on reality TV, only it actually breaks my heart. Poor Lucrezia feels to blame for Paolo’s suicide: “The pity was he loved a Borgia.”

Cesare finds a note on pinned to the body and it almost seems like he believes it was suicide. But Lucrezia knows the truth—Paolo could neither read or write. The note says he bids farewell to her (lies!!!) and she is clearly stricken. As she gets up to move away, she faints and her dear brother scoops her up and carries her home, telling one of the guards to take care of the body.

Oh Lulu, no. She wants to die; she and her baby both must die. Like Paolo. Here’s moment one of Cesare killing me—he leaves Lulu on her bed, telling her to sleep, then goes to see to the baby. (My ovaries can’t handle this shit, yo.)

Poor Giovanni is crying from hunger, they’ve yet to bring in a wet nurse. Cesare tells the nanny to find a way, not to disturb Lulu.

At the Vatican, priests walk around with collection plates during a service run by a couple of bishops and Pope Daddy (you gotta love those hats, right?). Forget the hats though, because who is skulking through the crowd in a plain brown monks robe? Cardinal Della Rovere. He approaches an unnamed Friar and brings greetings from the nuns of St. Agnes. The two arrange to meet up later at the Dominican Stitch ‘n’ Bitch.

Back in his changing room, Pope Daddy begins stripping off his garments and jewels when Cesare comes in to tell daddy about his “daughter’s father” who has been found dead. In Rome. Pope Daddy is more upset that dude came to Rome than that Lulu’s baby daddy isn’t Sforza. Cesare says Paolo failed to see Lulu and the baby, and so he took his own life. Lies, lies, and more lies. Beautiful deception, indeed.

Cesare is worried about Lulu and baby, telling Pope Daddy that she won’t allow her child near her. As terrible as Pope Daddy is, you can’t say he doesn’t love his children or his grandchild. He goes directly to Lulu’s chambers to find the baby still crying in the nanny’s arms. Lulu lies on the bed looking inconsolable. Pope Daddy says had they known of Paolo being in Rome “we would have sent him home.” Then we get some lovely words about suicide being a sin and burning in hell.

Pope Daddy gets serious with his girl. She needs to take care of her baby. But she won’t budge; when Daddy pushes her to speak of what they can do, she replies, “Ask Juan.” Damn. Lulu ain’t stupid.

Cesare finally admits to Daddy that he arranged a meeting for the young lovers. Pope Daddy then asks if Juan had a hand in this and Cesare’s face says it all. Daddy is not happy. He wants to keep his family solid and have his grandbaby cared for.

Della Rovere’s at a Dominican monastery with our mystery Friar. They’re in the dining hall and he’s got his monkey on his arm. (Thank you to the reader who reminded me last week of Cesare having a monkey last season for the same reason. So after being poisoned by Cesare, he’s following his example.) The two men of god share dinner and discuss the “methods” they might use to get rid of Pope Daddy.

Ooh! It’s family game night. Pope Daddy arrives just in time for a vicious game of Uno at Vinozza’s house. Juan and Cesare are at the dinner table and Daddy tells Juan to confess if he had a hand in Paolo’s death. He replies, “Then I confess.” Cesare looks devastated—whether this is by the idea that Juan would hurt their sister or at the idea that he won’t get to beat a confession out of him, I’m unsure. But when Pope Daddy pushes him to name what he’s confessing, he says he confesses that he didn’t play a part. (Lying liar who lies!!!) Things get bitter. You’d think somebody just made the Jenga tower fall when Pope Daddy storms off after warning Juan.

Back at the monastery, Dellar Rovere tells the Friar that all the cardinals are on Pope Daddy’s payroll. But Della Rovere’s got a plan and he’s looking for some brothers to join him. (It’s like the Bloods and the Crypts up in Rome these days.) IF he can get partners, they can find a way to “murder the Pope of Rome.” I was actually surprised he was so direct about it. The Friar says if Della Rovere can find a way, he’ll have the support of all the Dominicans in the place.

Pope Daddy kneels at Lulu’s bedside, trying to get her to act. He speaks of her light, how she brightens everything around her. (Doesn’t she? Holliday Grainger’s skin is amazing.) But her light is gone; she’s so dark right now. She looks up at her papa and asks for one thing, “Permit my Paolo a Christina burial.” Daddy says that’s impossible because of the suicide. Then Lulu produces the note and explains that Paolo could not read or write, not even his own name.

Lulu’s got a bit of fire growing in her now. Pope Daddy asks where is the murderer and she replies, “Too close for comfort.” He’ll not have war in the family, but she’ll have her Paolo “saved from the fires of hell.” Pope Daddy strikes a bargain his—grandbaby must be fed.

Poor little Giovanni is still crying in his cradle and nanny is crying too, she’s so upset. Cesare is beside the cradle as well and agrees to perform the rite when Pope Daddy comes in and says Paolo will get a proper burial. Then Daddy picks up little Gio and takes him to his momma. He says Paolo will get his burial and she lights up. It’s hard to tell who is more relieved at this point, her or the baby feeding greedily at her boob.

Jeremy Irons does a great solemn face, and it’s working overtime this week. He’s sitting on his throne being all Broody McBrooder when Juan comes in to apologize for his sister’s loss. Not that he’s admitting anything.

But who cares if he’s admitting anything, because Pope Daddy lays the smack down. Juan WILL choose a bride. From Spain. And he’ll move back to Spain to be with her and become the Borgia Pope Daddy has always hoped him to be. (I somehow don’t think that last part is actually going to happen.) Then Pope Daddy gets up and leaves while Juan cries on the throne because he’s a loser.

In a small graveyard, Cesare performs the burial rites while Lulu and Gio watch. She says she has no more tears to shed, but lowers Gio for a kiss from Daddy. (At this point my hubby was grossed out by the idea of an open casket without modern-day embalming. I figured it couldn’t smell any worse than Rome, though. Right?)

Micheletto’s gone down to Naples. Remember knife guy last week going to work on Alfonso? He was indeed the taxidermist. As the man works a needle through the skin on Alfonso’s face, Mitch says he admires the dude’s kill. Yuck. But hey, he’s good at more than stuffing dead bodies. It seems he’s the Borgias’ informant in Naples. He tells Mitch that the Sforzas are planning to team up with King Charles.

And there they are. Giovanni and his cousin Catherina (yet another tough woman on this show!) are speaking to one of King Charles’ men about forming an alliance. The Sforza’s assistance in exchange for use of the king’s cannon. (I guess Catherina’s balls aren’t as deadly as those chained cannonballs.) Charles takes a jab at Sforza’s impotence, but Catherina is not distracted. This Amazon Princess has war on her mind.

At the Vatican, Lulu’s rocking her baby’s crib to the lullaby of some very loud and ambitious sex. Just upstairs from her Juan is going at it with some random woman on a bed surrounded by portraits of potential wives. (Classy!) Lulu grabs a candle and calmly walks upstairs to Juan’s rooms, enters, and says, “Forgive me brother. Had I realized… Perhaps you could spare a thought for your nephew,” who is trying to sleep downstairs. Without missing a beat, Juan says Bernadetta (after asking her name) has helped him decided on a bride. They’ve selected a cousin of Isabella.

Juan asks for Lulu’s blessing and she replies that he’ll need her forgiveness first. He asks for what and she pauses then says, “For being yourself.” (God I love this girl.) She then sets the candle down on a table so that it will burn through the rope holding up the heavy cast iron chandelier over the bed.

With Lulu returned to her room, we watch the flame burn while Juan and Bernadetta get busy again. Downstairs Lulu rocks her baby and sings softly to him. Upstairs the rope burns and starts to break while Juan and Bernadetta keep rolling back and forth between who is on top and then there’s a scream. It seems Juan was on the bottom when it came down. And he’s trapped under all the weight while Bernadette bleeds out on top of him, clearly in pain and not dead yet. (I’m going to skip the Monty Python joke here.)

Cesare comes in and lifts the chandelier enough to get Juan out and calls for medics. Juan looks around and sees the burned rope by the candle. He’s got blood all over his chest (which would be hotter on Cesare or Micheletto) and he’s finally caught a clue.

In her room, Lulu finally lays down on her bed looking at least mildly satisfied.

The next morning Charles is looking at the now complete “Last Supper” and directs the taxidermist to adjust Alfonso’s head so he’s looking at his “savior.” Charles may be in a wheelchair getting rolled around, but he’s not been made any kinder by it.

Taxidermy dude meets up with Mitch again and says Charles has ordered the evacuation of Naples. Mitch knows he only has a few days to travel back to Rome with a warning. (Can’t they train some of the pigeons Pope Daddy was all upset about last week?) He hangs a bag of coin for the man and then when the guy goes to grab it, Mitch spins around and flings a knife that pins the guy’s arm. Mitch reminds him he is being paid for silence.

It’s another Family Game Night at momma’s house; Vanozza and her children are gathered for dinner. Lulu offers to serve Juan and as she pours him wine, she sweetly threatens to drop in on him in Spain one day. (I’m thinking this is NOT a lie or empty threat.)

Juan speaks of them being outsiders when they came to Rome. Of being insulted for being Spaniards. But they triumphed “because of the warmth” they have amongst them. Lulu and Cesare are the bad children who want to roll their eyes, but they do join in a toast to their mother, which she changes to a toast to family. They make the Manson family look downright cozy.

Another day and Juan is departing for Spain. There’s flag waving and gathering and festivities and then Mitch comes riding into Rome looking like death warmed over. He clearly rode there nonstop. Cesare takes word from him to Pope Daddy that Charles intends to “rape Rome” and he’s coming with his cannons. It will take a week to ten days at most for the army to make the trip. Pope Daddy says they’ll fight fire with fire.

Vittorio is given orders to oversee the work to creating 100 cannons using all the foundries in Rome to place atop the wall of the city. She looks a little surprised, but I’m super pleased by Pope Daddy giving another “man’s job” to a woman (even if the public doesn’t know Vittoria is a woman).

The Cardinals are in an uproar. How will they win? There’s bickering and blustering and then there’s a small BOOM and poof of smoke behind them. Cesare has fired a small cannon and tells them they’ll win “with gunpowder.”

But not so fast. Vittorio has bad news—even with all the foundries working they need one month at each place per cannon. Cesare gets pissed and flings the mini-cannon to the ground and it shatters. Vittorio explains it was made of plaster for the cast to then be poured with metal. Plaster is cheap and fast and available. They’ve got a new plan.

Back at the monastery our Friar brings news to Della Rovere that Charles is making for Rome.

Back in Rome, Cesare comes in to see the progress made and seems impressed. The cannons look real. He compliments Vittorio on his artistry and learns they’ve got 95 more on the way from local foundries. As Vittorio admires his own work, Cesare looks at his face and finally catches a clue—“You’re a …” “Yes. Forgive me.” She assumes Pope Daddy told him but then realizes that’s not it. “There’s nothing in this damn city that’s as it seems.” Truer words…

(I love that as he leaves Cesare seems as impressed by Vittoria as Pope Daddy. Yay! This is my second happy with Cesare moment of the night.)

Cesare and Pope Daddy are in daddy’s chambers. Pope Daddy paces. They’re stressed about the coming of the French army. They look out the window and horse-drawn carts are in the square bringing cannons to the wall. Cesare reminds Pope Daddy that he can be trusted.

The eternal city of Rome “will not be deflowered.”

In the countryside, the French army has gathered. The Sforzas are there and Catherina Warrior Princess is decked out in armor. She wishes to bathe in the Pope’s blood along with Charles, and I marvel. That woman is something else.

The cannons are being lifted to the wall and when one is chipped, a guard realizes that they’ve got a toy. Mitch stabs him and throws him off the wall, then tells the watching men that they will pretend the cannons are as real as his knife. They agree because they’re not stupid.

The army is on the move and Charles asks how long it will take to bust through the walls of the city. He’s ready!

Back in the city the Cardinals question what Cesare knows about war and he says he knows enough to know it will not come to that. He’s certain. I’m getting fidgety and excited watching. I love seeing Cesare in charge; with Juan gone my boy gets to command the papal guard.

Mitch is on top of the wall and gives Cesare the okay to head out to meet the French. He rides forth, meeting the Sforzas. The first to speak, of course, is Catherina. He tells her his walls may prove stronger than she expects. And then Charles makes his way up to the front. He wants entry into the city. Cesare says he’s “indeed welcome… to march on past Rome.”

Charles wants revenge. And he’s confident his cannons will knock down the walls. Then Cesare says maybe his cannons will make their statement first and the flags atop the wall drop to reveal cannons all around. Charles looks impressed and maybe a little nervous. Catherina (wisely) wonders how they managed that. The general in charge says their battle line is still forming. They’re not at all ready for a fight. Especially not under these conditions.

Cesare compliments Charles, saying chained cannonballs can cut through people like a knife through butter. He then observes that Charles seems unwell and suggests he should make his way home to France. Giovanni looks pissed, Catherina looks more pissed, and Charles’s general looks like he wants to retreat. And then Charles gives word to ride on past. Catherina’s even more stonefaced, but she’s not stupid.

Bells ring in the city and Cardinal Sforza says the bells are the sound of their salvation. Cesare rides back into the square to cheers from the people. It’s a glorious moment and upstairs inside, Pope Daddy is nearly in tears of thanks. Cesare then comes in to meet Daddy, Lulu, and Giulia (who was otherwise absent this week) to say they should melt down the bell and make real cannon. He crashes a plaster ball to the floor.  The shock on Pope Daddy’s face (along with those of Lu and Giulia) is priceless. And then they all smile and rejoice.

Next week there shall be more planning of war. But what really catches my eye is Lulu in the Cardinals’ room. Cannot wait.