Wished you watched The Borgias this season? Caught a few episodes and were totally lost? Need to remember the highlights, but don’t want to spend time wading though painfully long dissertations? And just plain don’t want to rewatch the hour-long episodes? Well, I’m here to give you the short, annotated version by episode of the 9 episode season – with pictures, quotes, youtube links, and more!
Download the full blow-by-blow here; or read in installments. Episodes 1 & 2 below.
The Borgias season begins with Rodrigo Borgia begging, borrowing, and simonying his way into the most holy of holy offices.* With the help of his eldest son, Cesare (pronounced Che-zA-ray), outside the Vatican, Rodrigo is able to buy just enough votes from the college of cardinals during conclave to become Pope^. While he does become the living embodiment of God on Earth, he does make some serious enemies in Cardinals Dei Cattanei, Orsini, and della Rovere who viciously oppose a Spaniard becoming pope, and one powerful ally in a Ludovico Sforza.#
We learn quickly that while Rodrigo is the head of the family, Cesare is most certainly the brains. A reluctant man in the cloth, Cesare desperately wishes a different life for himself; however, his strong loyalty to his family chains him to his pre-determined life. Cesare is the type of man who can see the larger picture. Thus, while his father sees the throne of St. Peter’s as the culmination of his life, Cesare sees past his father coronation to the problematic life which will soon surround them. Before and during his father’s election to the Papacy, Cesare fiercely protects his family: always watching over this hot-headed and foolish brother Juan, and lovingly nurturing his little sister Lucrezia.**
Once Rodrigo is crowned Pope, Cardinal Orsini (who royally puts his foot in his mouth) throws a banquet in his honor. At the banquet, where all the Cardinals are present, Cesare notices some suspicious activity (which had something to do with a monkey metaphor) and goes to investigate, while prowling the kitchens he meets Micheletto, who will become the Papacy’s assassin for hirer. Ready to prove his loyalty, Micheletto betrays Orsini and gives the cardinal the poison intended for the Pope, killing him; he also takes Cesare to halt the attack on the rest of the Borgia family later that night. (Later he is whipped, at his own request, to prove his loyalty.)
As Pope, Rodrigo is also confessor to a select group of individuals: first his son, who in explicit terms tells his father everything he had to do to make him Pope and states that the fact he can do these actions must mean he is not meant for the cloth – Rodrigo refuses his request to leave the church; second, is Giulia Farnese (pronounced Julia Fon-nay-say): a rare beauty who fled her husband’s house after having an abortion. Rodrigo—for lack of a better term—takes pity on her and gives her Orsini’s villa which is connected through secret tunnels to the Vatican. And with whispers of Rodrigo and Giulia’s relationship funneling through the Vatican and Rome itself, della Rovere sees his time to act. Which backfires, and there’s that whole dead girl in his bed that makes him flee Rome thing at the end too.
*This includes paying in gold, property, and food; threatening others, and bargaining top offices in the new Papal government.
#Ally might be a strong word. The Sforzas have a great deal of land and are connected throughout Italy, but really what Rodrigo needs is Ludovico’s vote.
**Do I subscribe to the Cesare/Lucrezia love fest? Okay, yeah. Please tell me one person who doesn’t? It’s more that these two look so pretty together and Arnaud always has this face when looking at his sister that makes these two a pairing.