Like many Showtime series, The Borgias has hit its stride in Season 2. Instead of waiting through a lot of build up to war, we find ourselves knee deep in lies, heresy, poison and guerilla warfare. The body count continues to rise as the series finally distinguishes itself from Showtime’s last major historic drama, The Tudors. The writers have also done an excellent job of interweaving some of the darker aspects of the Church, including a subtle precursor to Opus Dei, the Catholic institution noted in The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.
The first Season of The Borgias focused primarily on the internal war within the College of Cardinals. Rodrigo Borgia’s feud with Giuliano Della Rovere eventually led to a war with France. Now, Della Rovere may be out of the Church, but a new power has come to the forefront. Friar Savonarola has moved on from prophecy to take the mantle as the leading anti-Pope faction within the Church.
In “Day of Ashes,” we saw Savonarola commanding several followers to engage publically in the practice of “mortification of the flesh”, one of the secret practices the modern Opus Dei is said to adhere to. We witnessed several people whipping their own backs as penance. Why say a few Hail Marys and Our Fathers when you can beat yourself, right? Even though Della Rovere was able to bring the French army to Rome (to little success), it’s clear that Savonarola commands even more respect. To the public, Savonarola isn’t a cardinal who was accused of murder and more-or-less kicked out Rome. Instead, he’s a prophet of God who preaches on the end of days.
It’s a purer form of gloom-and-doom that attracts the most militant of followers and incites mob mentality. We saw that first hand when the commoners were stoning the sodomites. Then, one child accused Cesare of being a sodomite. Even though the boy had only a few other children for backup, fear was still written across Cesare’s face. He couldn’t hurt the child, and he knew that in a few moments the older members of the anti-sodomite mob would come running over for blood.
The mob scene had a second significance. In Episode 2.5, “The Choice,” we learned that Micheletto had a secret lover who was a man from his past. The mob scene was a way of foreshadowing Micheletto’s future should his secret be revealed. Although Micheletto didn’t speak during the mob scene, we saw a conflicted look on his face. Perhaps it was a moment of self-hate for rejecting his lover or a moment where Micheletto wanted to stand up for the men getting stoned. Based on “The Choice,” one would think it was the former.
As for Della Rovere, he has taken on an apprentice of sorts. The young friar, who volunteered to assist in destroying the Borgia pope, probably didn’t realize the full scope of what he was signing up for when he accepted Della Rovere’s request. The ousted cardinal had the young friar take multiple doses of the cantarella poison so that the young friar could build up his tolerance and eventually become the Pope’s food taster.
According to Della Rovere, “Both heaven and hell is in it.” Unfortunately, after the last dose, it looks like the friar discovered hell in cantarella.
Rodrigo is looking to God for some form of penance for his sins. He has been praying for someone to wash away his deeds and has taken on a Lenten diet of anchovies. Once he learned that Cesare killed Giovanni Sportza, the Borgia Pope has decided to look for a new alliance by marrying away Lucrezia once again. He has inlisted the help of Lucrezia’s mother to find an appropriate suitor.
Our anti-hero Cesare continues to covet a position at the head of the Papal armies. However, as Cardinal he’s been forced to lead more clandestine attacks. His guerilla team of cutthroats, lead by Micheletto went after the Medici gold. Cesare is still wearing his Zorro mask as he commits these covert attacks so that his identity isn’t “officially” revealed.
Notable Moments and Reflections:
- Any moment with Machiavelli is a treat. Cesare’s latest interaction with the Medici ambassador gave us some of the best dialogue of the episode.
- I continue to enjoy the new triumvirate of Lucrezia, Giulia Farnese and Vanozza Cattaneo. They’re game of political chess with the Cardinals has been great and I hope to see more backlash from the Cardinals in the future.
- You have to love Friar Savonarola for tossing the Cardinal hat and later saying that he would wipe his “ass” with the Pope’s requests.
- Cesare really feels like Zorro leading Robin Hood’s Merry Men. Nuff Said.