The Borgias season 3 episode 2 review: The Purge

The Borgia siblings are growing, ahem, ever closer in this eventful episode of Showtime's historical drama...

This review contains spoilers.

3.2 The Purge

Caterina Sforza, the Great Arachnia of Forli as Rodrigo dubbed her in this episode, is building a conspiracy against the Borgias but oh man, guys. A little bit of tact? Just a pinch? Because the meeting of the families in the ruins of Rome where all the old Roman families got “notes” was like an unfuny version of a sitcom. Wait- if you didnt send the letter than who did? Oh noes! I could’ve done without it and gotten right to the juicy bit where the Borgias try and track down the wolves in Cardinals’ clothing.

However, this is the 1400s so they go hey, I know what we should do? Lets drag Cardinal Deluca off to be tortured! Torture always works except, according to Micheletto, who appears out of the darkness like the death he carries, for the fact that it doesn’t. During the course of their conversation, Micheletto tells Deluca that he is familiar with instruments of torture from both sides, and that they are teachers – of how to lie. It makes me wonder even more about what Micheletto was and did before Cesare. So many clues, so few answers.

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Deluca does confess, though, as we all knew he would. He puts on the show the Pope needs and points fingers at all the major family heads in opposition to the Borgia pope. So the Pope begins solving his Caterina problem by defrocking Cardinals at about the same time Lucrezia’s trouble with her fiancé Alfonso begins. His relative, the king of Naples, is not going to let her bring her son with her when she marries because little Giovanni is a bastard. To say that’s a huge problem is an understatement and Lucrezia goes to Cesare with it. He promises to fix it because Cesare will allow no one to get in the way of her happiness. “We are the Unholy Family,” he declares, taking her chin in hand and dropping his face to hers. I don’t know that I’d call the way they meet but it was definitely far more than a mere exchange of sibling affection. It felt too much like kissing, the open mouthed kind made of shared breath that is better suited for a love scene than a conversation about dowries and bastard children between a brother and a sister.

Now, we could pretend that there is something else more scintillating going on, story-wise, or we can embrace the fact that the Lucrezia and Cesare romance/incest arc is one of the most interesting and longest awaited arcs the show has ever seen. I didn’t even imagine they’d go there before I saw the season three trailer and then I was afraid that it’d be a disaster. It is, after all, incest.

If it stays on the current course, I’m going to be proved so wonderfully wrong because oh sweet sainted sexy sister, it feels like the Borgia siblings have gone from 15mph on a residential street to 120mph on the Autobahn. Of course that isn’t the case. Lucrezia and Cesare have been simmering in their own incest juices since the Pilot. Despite the innocence and untempered devotion their love is born from, we’re approaching a boiling point that seems completely unavoidable, just like Lucrezia’s upcoming second marriage to an already frustrating Alfonso. She sprawls in bed, naked but for a sheet, and invites Cesare in to see her “wedding gown”. She beckons him to her and makes him touch and praise her starting with her feet and work his way up. Lucrezia could be the gutsiest broad on TV this week (except maybe for Daenerys Targaryen but she’s the Mother of Dragons so that’s not a fair comparison) because honestly, who has the nerve to do that? Lucrezia Borgia that’s who.

Their conversation is all innuendo wrapped in metaphor and breathless anticipation coating their genuine affection. Even before the door opens Lucrezia asks if he is “My brother who loves me?” and Cesare replies “The same”. Lucrezia draws Cesare in by wrapping the spider-silk rope of his love for her around his neck and pulling him into the tangled web of her gold sheets. The giggling girl peeking in at her brother’s trysts from the pilot has been replaced by a powerful, strong, self-aware woman who seems to have realized, finally, that there is a way for her to meet all of her needs – emotional and sexual – at once in her beloved brother. She has made her choice, right or wrong; now Cesare is the one to be corrupted. He asks if she is playing a game with him, clearly confused by desire and lost as I doubt he ever has been before in his life.

Yes I know incest is wrong in real life. I do not condone it any shape or form. However, on The Borgias, they’re killing it. Ugh, every scene with Holliday and Francois so much as in the same room is crackling with chemistry, where before it was merely buzzing. Now if only that pesky Cardinal hadn’t tried to kill Pope Alexander we could’ve stayed focused on those two. Oh well. Next week looks promising.

Read Rachael’s review of the previous episode, The Face of Death, here.

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