Well, I’ve been waiting for this show to unleash the anticipated carnality, and this episode finally brings the goods. It’s not at all without consequence, of course, but that’s part of the fun. The Borgias indulge in earthly desires as the political winds of change cast about, bringing a showdown with the French closer and closer.
Cardinal Rovere has been a somewhat disappointing opponent to Rodrigo Borgia thus far, but he finds himself some truly disturbing allies in the French. This may come to some surprise to those with only a modern view of the geopolitical state of play, but the French were once a legitimate world power. There’s a reason why they were locked in a centuries-long struggle with the British (among others) for control over the Western world.
In my opinion, that is one of the weaknesses of the series. Beyond the helpful map and exposition earlier in the season, there has been little attempt to give the audience a clear picture of the politics of the day. And given that the church of the time was neck-deep in politics, far more than today, it’s not a minor point. I suppose some will simply accept the conflict as presented, but I prefer a little more context and depth to political and military subplots.
In contrast, I still think Lucrezia’s plot thread is the most enticing. The more we see of her slowly developing appreciation of sins of the flesh, mated with her innate instability, the better the character becomes. And because her actions are seen in context, along with the affairs of her father and two brothers, it’s clearly all of a whole. We can recognize how that immorality has become ingrained in her psyche.
This is the best look we’ve had at Juan Borgia, and he’s a bit closer to what I had been expecting out of the series from the start. Juan is so sensitive about his own status and perceived bloodline that he cannot even consider the thought of marriage to the delectable Princess Sancia, because she is illegitimate. He will, however, happily bed her (just about anywhere), which is surely to cause friction later down the road. (In the meantime, two Borgia boys get to benefit from her wanton ways!)
The most mundane of the subplots is reserved for Cesare, who still can’t seem to figure out whether or not he wants to be a cold and calculating student of his father’s game or a man of conscience. Instead of playing out as a compelling character study, it simply feels inconsistent. That he can’t see the consequences of his actions, or even hide them better, does play into history somewhat, but I am still much more interested in seeing him transition into his political future. Unfortunately, I have the feeling that will take at least the first season.
Final Rating: 7/10