The Borgia Bulletin 3×10 (The Prince)

The finale is here and…I feel satisfied.  This show always excelled at season endings and this one is no exception.  It covered everything immediate and brought the characters to a place where I am alright leaving them, although I’d rather not.

 

SPOILERS:

Dear Machiavelli: The man is an oracle.  I dearly want a Machiavellian tarot deck now.  Think about what it would be-THINK OF IT.  All the Borgias would be present, of course.  The ordinarily peaceful cards would involve orgies.  The cups suit would be vials of poison.  Pretty much anything you do with it would bring the answer, “I shouldn’t have asked that, should I?”  It’d be a thing.

Dear Rodrigo: This-this-is why I love you.  Yes, Cesare needs to do the actual carving and fulfill his ambitions, but once you accept that he’s there, your planning and confidence blow even him out of the water.  This is the way I believe that it worked, with your twin ambitions and different abilities complementing, building, and scaring the hell out of everyone including each other.  This is it.

Dear Cesare: Ah, to be young and devious.  Francois Arnaud got to showcase the range of his talent here, from vulnerable and wishing his mother could fill in for his best friend to creepy tormenter to possessive lover.  There was everything in that.  You showed everyone just exactly how in charge and fearsome you could be, even though we don’t get to see you filling out that position, you let us already see and enjoy it.  Thank you for that.

Dear Michiletto: I understand.  Your affair not only ended in killing your lover, but in proving that you were not, in fact, the most trustworthy companion ever.  You let down your master, yourself, and your lover.  No matter what, your hometown will fall and your family have a good chance of dying.  You came back to ensure that your work was finished, because “loyalty was his only code.”  You are not dead, though-you are a ghost wiling away in the shadows.  You can go wherever you want, take whatever you want, and disappear whenever you want, and you deserve that.  In my head you wander until you meet up with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, tossing coins that turn up heads and arguing about everything.  You’ll take one as a lover, convince them it’s okay to be unsure of their names, and kill off the cast of Hamlet all by yourself.  It’ll be epic and haunting.

Dear Lucrezia: Your arc has differed the most from what I expected and wished for your character.  I expected to see you growing in triumph, killing for the good of the family, and using your tie to your brother as leverage.  In spite of that…you have completely won me over.  This version walks a fine line between different tropes, but weaves them together seamlessly.  And Holliday Grainger sells the hell out of it.  I cannot not buy her emotions, her disillusions, her determination.  There is a part of me that really wants to be upset at how defeated she winds up here, how dependent, and yet….it was just too good not to love.

Dear Alfonso: I was so afraid they wouldn’t get around to killing you!  Thank you for being such a wonderful foil for everyone else.

Dear Vitelli: Well done, you!  You’ve got craft, foresight, initiative, and commonsense.  I foresee you going far.  I’m sorry I won’t get to see you setting yourself farther up from the pack by slyly setting them up and taking their castles until Cesare finally poisons you.  It’d have been fun.

Dear Caterina Sforza: You really ought to know all the weaknesses of your chosen fortress, milady.  That being said, in all fairness, you had only Rufio instead of Michiletto and one cannot badass everything themselves.  Although, the fact that someone was touching your wardrobe seemed an odd thing to show your claws at.  The defeat was exquisite.

Dear show: The camouflage cloaks rocked!  The music throughout the whole thing was just the right amount of suspenseful-enough buildup I was literally on edge, but not so much that it wore out over time.  The camerawork, particularly in the confessional scene with Pope Alexander VI and Lucrezia was just beautiful.  The bloody smudges on her at the end were perfect.  I know you had more to give.  You will be sorely missed.

 

The Borgia Bulletin 3×9 (The Gunpowder SPOILERS)

Okay, it’s “The Gunpowder Plot,” which is hardly a spoiler-always plots with this show!  May it plot to return from cancellation!

 

I can’t even write letters to the characters with this-this is The Borgias at their most raw and brilliant.  This episode is full of ways to play your heartstrings, from Michiletto’s love-and-death scene, to Cesare and Lucrezia’s wild reunion, to Rodrigo’s venom and fear about himself/his son.  Everyone is picking up their grudges and opportunities, there’s no stone unturned. Rodrigo strikes back after Cesare had him cornered.  Lucrezia does indeed take matters into her own hands (And we find out who Herb Woman is-clearly, she’s Flora from Sleeping Beauty).  Even Michiletto and Alfonso take their personal grievances and decide it’s worth acting on them.  (The symmetry between Cesare’s duels with Alfonso and Juan, yet with completely different endings, is almost too clever.)  This episode is full of reasons why The Borgias has more to offer, why keeping them on would bring dozens of payoffs, why these characters are badass and touching and momentous, why the writing deserves time to conclude all of its plotting.  Even following the yellow dirt trail and seeing the princess once more kept hostage struck weighty notes in this episode.

 

Dear The Borgias: I have loved every minute.  May your costumes stay gorgeous and your actors be recognized.  If at all possible, get yourself an encore.  I almost hate to watch the last one because I hate knowing it’s the end.

The Borgia Bulletin 3×7 (Lucrezia’s SPOILERS)

Glorious, bloody brouhaha.  Bring it, Borgias!

 

Dear Rodrigo: Again, I love the hat!  Also, how you make Vanozza laugh about Farnese now.  It’s all very full-circle.  Send Giulia some honey as a wedding gift.  (Also, apparently her husband she was staying away from and needed punishment for avoiding originally died sometime?)

Dear Cesare: I LOVE how without saying it you still Told Dad Off for not giving you more power and trust in the first place, because then he could’ve kept some control and now you’ve got another leader-type to satisfy better.  How nice of you to warn Machiavelli.  Was expecting you to point out that last time you guys had Benito it didn’t help with Caterina at some point, though.

Dear set people: Last episode we heard that giant statue was of a bull, why was there a horse head this time?  Eh?

Dear Lucrezia: Never trust people who care too much about their lap dogs.  It’s just a good rule of thumb.  On the other hand, we can totally overlook that lack of a nemesis thing for awhile, cause now not only have you got one, but he’s another king of Naples you get to fight with!  Excellent!

Dear Alfonso: Stop whining.

Dear Rufio: Don’t you dare call yourself Michiletto’s double, you are not good enough for that.  Fuck you.

Dear Michiletto: What were you about, letting Cesare just wander into an obviously infested house?

Dear Frederigo: Thus far, you are an excellent nemesis.  Do not let me down.

 

Borgia Bulletin 3×4 (Banquet of SPOILERS)

This is like the happy hour of Borgia episodes.  There’s plenty of dark, alcohol-type, feelings and nefarious shenanigans about, but nothing goes too far, the plotlines are focused in tidy little dishes that aren’t really full entrees yet, and everyone knows these are the lighter ploys before someone really throws all their money on the table.

 

Dear Costume Department: The lighter fabric covering bosoms before leading up to a little collar is interesting.  It makes me want to talk about how to cover their emotions, the Borgias are creating walls around themselves, but walls that are so explicitly tied to their emotions that it’s impossible for anyone to miss the connection and therefore it doesn’t really hide anything.  I may be reading a lot into that, but it’s what I got-particularly when Lucrezia’s being congratulated in that dress on her gratifying wedding night.

Dear Jeremy Irons: You are talking to your daughter about how great her sex was, which can in no way be construed as checking she’s okay after her wedding night because everyone knows she’s not a virgin, and chortling at discovering her sex life was transformed, and still somehow-SOMEHOW, you sold me on being touchingly paternal in this scene.  HOW??  Also, your flabbergasted yelling when you find out about her lack of sex cracked me up.

Dear Alfonso: Okay, I do feel sorry for you now.  Exhibitionist sex is bad enough, without it being a) the only way you can get your wife to have sex with you and b) your first time.  Frankly, I was impressed that you managed so easily, considering your virgin status.  On the other hand, she did help you and a cousin watching is faar from the situation she was in.  I think you really just mellowed me out with your awkward talk about her liking sex “the usual way.”  Also, “Like brother and sister”?  Wow, you’re great for setting other people up to force awkward things.

Dear Cesare: French Ambassador guy seems cool.  Maybe you can subtly suggest to him that you’d like a French princess who looks exactly like your sister.  I bet he’d manage it-hey, it’s no skin off his back and it’ll give him more pointed things to say over wine.  In fact, you two could have a wonderful time trading pointed (but not barbed, he’s not a threat) remarks over snacks.

Dear Lucrezia: Please, please, please draw blood for the exhibitionism.  What I’ve been missing since Juan died is for you to have an enemy to deal with.

Dear Versucci: Smart man!  If you’re really going to hide your stolen money from the Pope, the best thing to do IS give it to the poor!  They’ll never think of that.  I do wonder how you navigate around in fields and rocks so well.  I thought you’d been living well at the Vatican for years-did you also steal maps?  Did you tour around a lot in youth and have a great memory?  Do you ask directions at every stop to the next place?

Dear Vatican Librarian: I’m so glad you are back!  So-did you “enjoy that”, as the Pope thought you would?

Dear Giulia: I didn’t expect you to be such a…presence in your night.  Couldn’t trust anyone else to be the auctioneer?  I’m glad you finally did your inevitable duty, but this storyline didn’t do much for you as the solution to getting leverage over all Cardinals in this Vatican was obvious.

Dear Cardinal Farnese: Poor, overwhelmed boy.  You had a very interesting look on your face at the end-were you just shocked at the others’ behaviour or were you a little sad you missed out on the fun?  Cause it kindof seemed more like the latter to me.  What do you think?

Dear Other New Cardinals: This is how we know you’re new-you paid no attention to the man behind the partition!  On the other hand, you know it’s dangerous to refuse Borgia invitations and you did know the Pope wanted money for the Crusades, so one can see how you might have felt that so long as you did spend the money for the right cause you’d be okay.

Dear Sforza Stealth Man: You reminded me of those weight guessers at carnivals, only with guessing the exact moment sex begins.  Is this a special talent of yours?

 

 

Borgia Bulletin 3×3 (SiblingSPOILERS)

It has arrived-hat inevitable incest scene!  I must say, I thought the show did an admirable job of making it believable and sympathetic that Lucrezia and Cesare end up turning to each other for this need as well as all others, rather than making it a symbolic roast of their characters or simply more gratuitous sex.  Well played, show-I appreciate it a lot.

 

Dear costume department: Have I told you how I love you lately?  I’m particularly drawn to Catherina Sforza’s hair today.  I don’t even understand those braids.  I was never particularly fond of that style of hat, but by God you went for it, which I don’t think I’ve really seen before, and I thank you.

Dear Alfonso: If a question mark is the worst people think of you, you are a lucky man in this show.  The middle is a good, safe place to be sometimes.  In any case, running off and sulking all night on your Wedding Night is unacceptable, even if you’re not trying to marry a Borgia.  Really.

Dear Vesucci: You very narrowly miss my wrath-at first I thought he was setting the library scrolls on fire, which is Never Okay.

Dear Micheletto: You did not get enough screentime.  Your response to someone accusing you of thievery is possibly my favorite thing of you ever.

Dear French Ambassador: This is great fun.  You have the best job ever, travel to luxurious locales and rag on your king’s wife.  I am pleased that you seem to appreciate this, as soon you’ll have to deal with less amusing topics.

Dear Cesare: I think it’s time to get another PANTHER and gift it to Catherina’s little wolf who decides this is the place to insult you.

 

This is clearly a winding-up episode, done well.  Enjoyed this course a lot, thank you, the garnish and crunchy toppings were particularly delicious.  Now bring on something even meatier!

 

 

The Borgia Bulletin (The Confession) Finale spoilers!

*claps hands in glee*  I am incredibly satisfied right now.

 

On Cardinal Sforza: Every time they let this guy act I like him more.  I know my Rome and Papal family well enough to know where to search, thank you.  I will just pick up that slack.  Good on him!

 

On Savonarola: New question: why bother with the rack when clearly his biggest horror is being caressed by a sodomite?  I’m sure someone somewhere could be paid enough money to sodomize him, especially since the threat alone might suffice.  Or, you know, there are artificial ways of doing it that might not be as morally horrifying, but could have helped perhaps.  I know it might be a tad awkward to explain to Cesare, but the man is often busy elsewhere-Micheletto could do it on his own power, at least the artificial kind.  Nevertheless, didn’t matter in the end so long as Machiavelli’s there to point out the obvious, wasn’t the pose of the people with burning torches picturesque, and isn’t it wonderful to get such a huge weight off Micheletto’s ass?  Yes, yes it is.  I was a trifle disappointed the Pope’s offer of clemency wasn’t phrased in the form of, “Just say this…and all is forgiven.”  Then the audience would’ve known that Savonarola had no chance in any case, so no matter what he did from that point on there would have been a least a smidgeon of doubt as to whether he would have ultimately given in or not.

 

On Lucrezia: Her game has been amped again!  This time she chose the more traditional route of posing as an underling.  I don’t believe for a moment that she did it purposely to gage Alfonso’s true feelings for her as opposed to her status and wealth, but it worked out anyway.  Besides, making quick decisions and acting well enough to stick it out are both excellent qualities for anyone in power, particularly a Borgia to be in accordance with their reputation.  I did rather wish that Alfonso recovered better after Lucrezia’s grand reveal, but if fits her reasoning about his goodness/sweetness.  Her reasoning works for her character and I think Holliday Grainger did a good job of portraying this as both natural progression and a Borgia girl’s assertion of will.  Also, the way the costumer gave them highly complementary costumes that were close to matching but avoided matchy-matchy was marvelous.  Also, cute.  There is one thing that could have made that whole thing better, though…PANTHER.  I miss panther.  Hopefully we will find out what happened to it next season.

 

On Giulia Farnese: That is dedication.  Pretty sure not many mistresses would agree to a midnight jaunt to all the off-brand corpse spots.  Of course, Giulia’s found the position she wants to be in and she is going the distance to stay there.  This scene also made me go ‘aww’ though-she so clearly didn’t want to be there, but was still clearly both willing and caring for Alexander VI.

 

On Cesare: Look at you!  I love derobed Cesare.  It was your turn to step up and take charge and you went for it like a panther for its first decent meal off-ship.  Your mistake about Lucrezia asking you to marry her and offering to run away and live simply was adorable.  You play the blurring of that incest line for all it’s worth wonderfully well, don’t you?  Your exchanges with your father held up to Jeremy Irons-always a feat, but even more so in this episode.  Kudos to you.  Hopefully you’ll soon get non-clerical garb that fits in at parties like Lucrezia’s engagement now.

 

On Vanozza: Calm, sensible, and fiery truth-caller.  Really, how did it get this far without me realizing how much I like you?

 

On Antonello: Good.  Now that you’ve done your job this plot can boast real movement!  Also, perhaps Colm Feore will get to actually do something again third season.

 

On Pope Alexander VI: Oh, Jeremy Irons, how are you this compelling?  From clinging to hope to undergoing all levels of disillusionment and betrayal, you were perfection.  The scene with you picking up Juan and seeing him as your precious little boy wrung my heart.  I did wonder for a moment that no one was set to guard you between your chambers and the lawn as it seems like something Cesare or Cardinal Sforza would do even if that wasn’t the norm, which it would be, but then we wouldn’t have got to see you burying your favorite child.  That scene, Jeremy Irons, is priceless.  You wept, you dug, you finally began your hardest journey: saying goodbye to something that truly matters to you.  I bow down.  My favorite scenes were the confrontations with Cesare, Lucrezia, and Vanozza, but damn if you didn’t pull me into this one so it’s hard to stop imagining it, too.

 

The music in this episode was spot on.  I loved the part with just Cesare walking through the Pope’s suite of rooms so for the first time it really demonstrated just how small those rooms are.  The ensemble cast pretty much all got their chance to play in this episode, which I love.  The confrontations between family members struck such delicious chords that I’m still vibrating and happy.  And Jeremy Irons…you were better than all PANTHERS tonight.  I will miss my show.