I wish I could’ve just written a recap of the third season finale of The Borgias. However, with Showtime’s recent cancellation of the papal sudser, this post must deal with how effective “The Prince” served as a series finale.
First, let’s discuss the plot. The episode finally saw Cesare (François Arnaud) ascend to the role of powerful military leader like he’d always wanted. He received unofficial permission from Machiavelli allowing him to bring the Papal Army through Florence at night on their way to Forli.
Rufio (Thure Lindhart) spied the army and told Caterina Sforza (Gina McKee), who thought it meant they had 10 days to prepare for a siege. What they didn’t know was Cesare had previously placed his camouflaged French Army in Forli. Caterina’s castle was already surrounded.
Cesare arrived with his second army, and they began pounding Forli with cannon. Meanwhile, Caterina despaired inside, and decided not to be taken alive.
Cesare had been saddened and anxious over going into battle without Micheletto (Sean Harris), his trusted right-hand man. Micheletto was still too ashamed to return to his post, but did make a cameo. He surprised Cesare in his tent, and gave him valuable intel.
Micheletto had grown up in Forli and knew where there was structural weakness. He told Cesare if he kept bombing the North Tower, the whole castle would come tumbling down. Micheletto then made his apologies, and left as promptly as he’d arrived.
Cesare adhered to the advice, and thus began one of the best sequences of the series. Cesare waved a white flag, and asked Caterina to surrender. She laughed in his face, and then had her soldiers attack. Cesare retreated, but not before placing the white flag in front of the North Tower, a marker for his cannon.
Caterina and her men laughed at Cesare’s armies’ incompetence, as cannon ball after cannon ball “missed” them. Soon, the laughter turned to shrieks as the tower came down. It allowed Cesare’s men to enter the city, but he stopped the bloodshed before a massacre could occur. Cesare also saved Caterina after she tried killing herself in a grand act of martyrdom.
He cleaned her up, put her in a fresh gown, and brought her to Rome in a gilded cage. Cesare entered the city in a grand Triumph, to the disgust of Caterina. Ever defiant, the POW still refused to kiss The Pope’s (Jeremy Irons) ring. Rodrigo sentenced her to a jail cell befitting her station.
Rodrigo also filled in Cesare on his grand plan. The Borgia men already wanted to cut out a chunk of Italy for their own dynasty. Still, Cesare was floored by Rodrigo’s audacity when he told Cesare he wanted to change the Papacy into a heredity monarchy. Cesare would succeed Rodrigo as Pope and King, followed by his own, not-yet-conceived son. These men and their ambition!
Lucrezia (Holliday Grainger) knew the Borgia ambition all too well. She knew her husband, as a Prince of Naples, stood in their way, if France was to get the province. She went to her father to seek assurance Alfonso (Sebastian de Souza) would not be harmed, but Rodrigo refused.
Alfonso was unraveling, and his overindulgence in alcohol disgustedly reminded Lucrezia of her brother Juan. She again admitted to Cesare he was the only one she’d ever truly loved. She couldn’t understand why their love felt so natural when it was incest.
After his victory over Caterina, Cesare determined it was time for Alfonso to go. Rufio had been taken prisoner, and Cesare visited him in the dungeons. He asked Rufio to replace Micheletto. Rufio killing Alfonso without getting caught or throwing suspicion onto Cesare would be his audition.
At first, I thought this was a trap. I was sure a vengeful Cesare was going to inflict some horrifying punishment on Rufio for what he’d put Micheletto through. That wasn't the case. Cesare just really needed the services of a personal assassin again.
However, things did not go as planned. When Cesare went to Lucrezia’s looking for his sister, a drunken Alfonso surprised him. Alfonso attacked Cesare again by grabbing the commander’s sword, and trying to kill him. Cesare attempted to subdue him and wrestled for his sword. Alfonso ended up with a sword through his body.
Unfortunately, a horrified Lucrezia saw the end of the scuffle, which was her brother mortally wounding her husband. Cesare tried to explain, but Lucrezia was too preoccupied with tending to Alfonso. The doctor was brought in, and told Lucrezia that Alfonso would die. He’d probably suffer for days.
Alfonso begged Lucrezia to use one of her poisons to put him out of his misery. She was appalled at the thought of murdering him. He said she must, if she ever had any affection for him. She was a Borgia, and could do it. Lucrezia administered a poison.
An anxious Cesare waited for Alfonso to die. When he went to his room to see how close to the next world Alfonso was, he saw what Lucrezia had done. Panic overtook him, as he raced to Lucrezia. She lay still on the bed next to the corpse of her husband. He feared she killed herself, but she soon stirred. She was just in shock.
Cesare climbed over Alfonso’s corpse, and cradled Lucrezia in his arms. He stroked her face lovingly and murmured, “You will be naked, and clean and bloodless again. And mine.”
This was a good, well-crafted season finale. As a series ender, however, it felt unfinished. There were too many questions left unanswered. Did Lucrezia forgive Cesare, and resume their incestuous relationship? Did anyone else in their family ever discover their affair?
Obviously, Rodrigo failed at securing a Borgia monarchy and making-over the Papacy. The series showed Caterina being subdued, but what of the other main villain of the series, Cardinal Della Rovere (Colm Feore)? A major “Big Bad” for seasons one and two, he only appeared briefly earlier in this season. The Borgias never put him in a gilded cage. He even went on to become Pope!
The Borgias was originally crafted as a four-season program. The natural ending would have most likely seen Rodrigo dying, and maybe Cesare having to deal with Della Rovere as Pope before his death four years later.
All season long some version of the line, “Rome isn’t just the Borgia Pope, it’s Cesare Borgia too” has been uttered. Jeremy Irons is a legend. However, I would have even been down for five seasons, with the final season just revolving around Cesare without the Papacy to back him up! Let’s be real: François Arnaud is pretty darn dreamy. Plus, he’s incredibly talented. I’m going to miss seeing him on TV.
I wanted to see The Borgias end with The Borgias family coming to their end. The way it should have been. I know I’m not alone. We’ve invested three years. We all deserved a proper conclusion! This cancellation really stung, especially due to Season Three being so fantastic.
I’m going to keep my fingers crossed a wrap-up movie somehow does come together. If this is the end of most Unholy Family of Rome though, I’m glad we were able to take a glimpse into their intrigue as long as we did.
Photo Credit: Showtime