Lucrezia (Holliday Grainger) is nervous at the thought of her impending wedding, but brother Cesare assures her, “You’ll always have me” Her father, Pope Alexander VI (Jeremy Irons) won’t let her mother (Joanne Whalley) attend the wedding, as she was once a courtesan. But his current mistress, Giulia Farnese (Lotte Verbeek) may attend. His morality is relative.
Both Lucrezia and Cesare (François Arnaud) call their “holy father” out for barring her mother, but he has no intention of changing his mind. He is only concerned with all the different factions and noble families that will be descending on Rome for the nuptials.
The Pope and Cesare work out the seating arrangements
Cesare and his deadly right hand Michelotto (Sean Harris) hire another assassin to take care of Borgia enemy Della Rovere (Colm Feore), hoping he won’t be as easily recognized as Michelotto was last week. Meanwhile, Della Rovere is now in Florence, with the Duke and Florentine ambassador, Machiavelli, still trying to raise an army against the Borgias. He tries to convince them that an invasion of Rome would save Italy, prompting Machiavelli’s response, “Is there such a place as italy?
The Pope answers this question in a nice scene, with Irons explaining to his youngest son (and the audience) the division of power both geographically and by ruling family in the Italian city states. He uses a map to help illustrate the status quo and his hopes to consolidate much of the power in Rome. I love maps — they are so helpful in giving the bigger picture.
Machiavelli suggests Delle Rovere should look up the monk Savanarola, who is more than a little freaky and full of scary visions of dire consequences for the Borgias — exactly what Delle Rovere wants to hear. Delle Rovere heads off to confess his future sin of organizing an invasion to march south to Rome “Can one spill blood to rid the world of a greater evil?” He quickly sniffs out Cesare’s assassin posing as a monk, and proves as ruthless and murderous as the Borgias when he stabs the confessor in the eye through the confessional screen. Two strikes, Cesare.
The Pope’s eldest son Juan, looking like he stepped out of a Raphael painting, arranges to have a bawdy play performed at Lucrezia’s wedding. He takes it upon himself to direct the play, making it even more risqué. It’s a disaster in the making.
Giovanni Sforza in profile
The Sforza’s arrive in an Uccello-like tableau for the wedding. Lucrezia walks down the aisle of St. Peter’s alone, flanked by the Pope’s mistress, her brother Juan, and other courtiers, with her father the Pope watching from the sidelines. She joins Giuliano Sforza (great choice for actor, Ronan Vibert, another profile right out of a Renaissance painting) at the altar, with brother Cardinal Cesare performing the ceremony. It’s all in the family. Almost.
Lucrezia’s mother is home alone, bereft. Moments after the ceremony, Cesare tears off his robes and rushes to fetch his mother and bring her to the reception. He gets his mother out on the dance floor, where he makes a new conquest — whose snobbish husband insults his mother and storms out with his beautiful wife in tow. It is clear there will be duel on the horizon. Pope Alexander may have underestimated how many people still feel they do not belong at the top of the social strata.
The Borgias creator Neil Jordan presents another painterly view – Lucrezia’s wedding feast
Juan’s entertainment goes over big — with the Borgias. Sforza quietly seethes in anger while Lucrezia has fallen asleep at the table. Cesare carries Lucrezia to bed and it’s clear he really doesn’t want to leave her. The reception devolves into debauchery and Cesare returns to share some wine with the silent groom.
The next day Lucrezia is off to Milan with her new husband. “I trust you slept well?” “Like a child, my lord.” “Like a child. I have no doubt.” Lucrezia is the sacrificial lamb in her father’s bid for power and her new husband exacts punishment on his day-late wedding night.
How long will it take Cesare to find out how his sister is being treated by her new husband and try to exact revenge?