Tuesday , April 23 2024
No one can stand up to the Borgias as they conquer all — kings, cardinals and ex-husbands

TV Open Thread: The Borgias – “Nessuno”

“Nessuno” means no one, nobody, in Italian. And the final episode of Season One of The Borgias is full of absences. As King Charles VIII of France (Michel Muller) and his troops enter Rome, there is no one to be seen, the city seems deserted. Cardinal Della Rovere (Colm Feore) has only one goal in mind and nudges Charles, telling him that only a college of cardinals can depose a Pope.

But the King no longer considers Della Rovere his top advisor. He calls the cardinal a clown and then asks his new favorite person on the planet, Lucrezia Borgia (Holliday Grainger), if she can arrange an audience with her father, the Pope. The always charming girl escorts him into the Papal Palace, where he finds Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI, dressed as a friar.

The King seems awed as he enters St.Peter’s and is in the presence of the Pope. Irons plays the humility card to the hilt. “The papal robes are such a weight on our shoulders.” Charles confesses that he has fought too many battles, killed too many people. The Pope comforts him, “We are all of us naked before God.” And then they strike a deal — Naples.

As her father’s wheeling and dealing is going on, Lucrezia encounters another robed figure — Cesare (François Arnaud). Cesare wants revenge on her husband, but Lucrezia doesn’t want him to be a hero. She almost drops to the ground in a faint as she drops the bomb on him — she’s pregnant, and not with her husband’s child. Cesare takes Lucrezia to a convent, to be cared for while she awaits the birth of her child by his ex-lover, Sister Martha (Ruta Gedmintas). Those Borgias, always an angle.

Back in the saddle and in his resplendent robes again, the Pope convenes the college of cardinals to chastise them for abandoning him in his hour of need. He had asked his lawyer Burkhardt (Simon McBurney) to find a precedent requiring the cardinals to appear before him in sackcloth and ashes. The humbled cardinals do just that, as the Pope asks them, one-by-one, to “unburden their souls” (and their pocket books) in penance.

The negotiations between the Pope and the King continue. Charles requests a papal legate, Cesare, to accompany him to Naples. The Pope agrees and crowns Charles in St. Peter’s as King of Naples. Through all of these negotiations Della Rovere seems to somehow escape retribution from either side. An angry Cesare, correctly sensing that he is little more than a hostage, rides off under protest with King Charles and his troops. But he listens to his father, who has advised him to take along his right-hand death man, Michelotto (Sean Harris).

Charles arrives in Naples to find a filthy and deserted castle. No one alive can be seen. “What is this pestilence?” They find a pile of bodies in almost every room. The plague has come to Naples. Did the Pope know when he gifted Charles with his new kingdom what he might find there?

Cesare doesn’t want to stay with the French another moment. Around the campfire with a few French soldiers Michelotto demonstrates “death by cheese cutter” and he and Cesare take off and head to Sforza country. Returning from hunting, Lucrezia’s brutal husband Giovanni Sforza (Ronan Vibert) is bagged by Michelotto, who tells Cesare, “It would be easier to kill him.” But Cesare has his reasons not to want to dispose of his brother-in-law just yet.

They bring Sforza back to Rome to discuss the annulment of his marriage. Lucrezia accuses him of impotency, which Sforza strongly denies. In a humiliating scene, Sforza is asked to give a public display of his prowess in front of the Pope and everyone else in the Papal Palace (like a scene from a more ancient Rome — where’s Caligula?) It’s hard not to feel a little sorry for the awful Sforza, as two whores are brought in and recline on a bed, with the Cardinals giggling in the background. There is no one, nobody, who will speak for him. Sforza reluctantly admits his impotence, as it is clear that the Borgias will stand for no other verdict and is ridiculed on his way out of town. Nobody crosses a Borgia.

The final scene shows the whole Borgia family arriving, one-by-one, at the nunnery to await the birth of Lucrezia’s child. The Pope and his former lover Vannozza dei Cattanei (Joanne Whalley) reminisce about the births of their four children, as a wary Giulia Farnese (Lotte Verbeek), his current mistress, looks on. The baby is a healthy boy. The family gathers around Lucrezia in a fractured Madonna and Child scene. With no one opposing them, the Borgias seem set to continue their conquering of Italy.

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