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The Borgias Recap: “The Face of Death”

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The Season 3 premiere of The Borgias picked up with the immediate aftermath of Rodrigo’s (Jeremy Irons) poisoning. Cesare (Francois Arnaud) and the rest of the Borgias family, as well as the clergy, rushed Rodrigo to the Vatican doctor.

The physician relayed it was just a matter of time before the Pope’s soul “left this Earth.” Lucrezia (Holliday Grainger) was more proactive.  Employing a new technique she’d read of, Lucrezia pumped her father’s stomach. 

It was touch and go, but Rodrigo pulled through.  He woke, disgusted.  Apparently, he'd been aware of his surroundings, while lying seemingly unconscious. He'd heard all the cardinals plotting and praying for his death. 

He later confessed to Vanozza (Joanne Whalley) that while he laid on the precipice of death, God did not appear to him.  Might the Pope of Rome experience a crisis of faith?

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While the Pope’s fate hung in the balance, Cardinal Della Rovere (Colm Feore) came striding into the Vatican.  After spewing some insincere concern over the Pope’s death, he immediately began trying to secure votes for his rule of the papacy. The look on his face when Cardinal Sforza (Peter Sullivan) informed him the Pope still lived was priceless!

Cesare and Michelotto (Sean Harris) quickly determined Della Rovere was behind the assassination attempt, but didn’t know where he went into hiding.  Suffice it to say, when Cesare returned to his father’s bedside and saw Della Rovere there, he tried to kill him.  His mother kept him from doing so, lest Rodrigo die and the surviving Borgias need allies.

After it was clear Rodrigo would pull through, Cesare had Della Rovere imprisoned.  He made it clear the fallen cardinal would be tortured for any further information about plots against the Borgias — before he was killed.  Della Rovere still had many allies. He was rescued by another duplicitous cardinal. 


Caterina (Gina McKee) put her own anti-Borgias plans into action.  Rufio (Thure Lindhart), the Sforza’s version of Michelotto, was dispatched to get her cardinal cousin on their side, in return for the papacy.  Rufio told Sforza to make sure Rodrigo died, while at the same time a group of assassins would kill Vanozza, Lucrezia and baby Giovanni. 

Michelotto figured out what was about to go down because of Giovanni's sketchy nanny Sforza’s were using.  Sforza was also unable to bring himself to kill Rodrigo, and confessed the plan to murder his family to Cesare. Together, Michelotto and Cesare were able to intercept the plot and save the Borgias family.  Further demonstrating his loyalty to Rome, Sforza informed Cesare he must be very careful of the assassin Rufio. 

  Foiled, Caterina vowed to use another tactic. She set out to form an alliance with all the Italian families of Rome who hated the Borgias. 


Random Tidbits:

– How unsettling yet adorable was deadly assassin Michelotto with the baby?

– While it looked like Rodrigo was about to forgive Cesare for killing Juan in the finale, the wound proved too fresh when he awoke.  I hope he and Cesare can work it out.  It’s pretty clear the bad boy Borgia just wants Daddy to love him!

– Jeremy Iron’s delivery of “That bitch!” when informed Caterina tried to kill his family, was the best part of the premiere, hands down.

– Della Rovere’s gall at rolling up into the Vatican after he thought he’d killed Rodrigo was the definition of “gangsta,” no?

– An anguished Della Rovere collapsing on his jail cell floor, flailing all over the place and crying — definitely not gangsta. 

– Lucrezia sent her fiancée away, when her father’s fate remained unclear, yet still expected he would marry her if she was no longer the Pope’s daughter?  Right…

– Giulia Farnese is such a pointless character.  Largely absent from the entire episode. No one even cared enough about her to try and assassinate her!  #TeamVanozza

– This was probably one of my favorite episodes of the series.  The pace didn’t drag and everyone had something to do, plus there were a ton of funny moments. 

What did you guys think of “The Face of Death?”

Photo credit: Showtime