This review contains spoilers and scenes of a sexual nature.
3.4 The Banquet of Chestnuts
Wow, so, congratulations to the Borgia siblings for earning the award for Most Awkward Morning After Ever. I watched it On-Demand and had to pause a few minutes in as Alexander gently teased his daughter about being a “blushing bride” right in front of Cesare, to hide my face in my hands and hyperventilate. The post incest-sex interaction was understated but so awful I very nearly had a secondhand shame-induced stroke.
Meanwhile Mr Lucrezia, aka Whiny Alfonso of Naples, talks to his cousin the king of Naples, who still won’t let Lucrezia bring her son there, about being married. The king is gross and pervy wanting to know what banging the infamous Lucrezia was like, because the king is awful and icky and deserves to be killed by Micheletto in some really unpleasant way (get on that, you murder-crazy cupcake you) and Alfonso makes the terrible mistake of telling his cousin that no, he didn’t consumate. Oops. Naturally he left out fact that it’s his fault for freaking out like a child and storming out, also like a child.
So of course King Icky is unhappy so he goes to the Pope and demands that the marriage be proven in front of him, because they didn’t have RedTube in the fourteenth century and exploiting your family for the sake of land rights and titles is a great excuse to get your kicks. Seriously history, every time I forget how disgustingly and horribly the patriarchy treats women in every generation, you pop up with something else to remind me.
It’s made worse because despite Cesare’s vocal, nearly violent protestations – Alexander allows it. Hey, it’s not his fault, there’s a precedent. Besides he’s having a rough time of it. Cardinal Vesuci stole a whole lot of land, money and other properties from the church and set a records room on fire before getting out of Dodge, and things with Guilia are on the rocks. He’ll have to send his son’s assassin after the rogue cardinal and start sleeping with a younger, prettier nobleman’s cheating wife. I know, times are rough for poor Pope Alexander, right?
Not for Lucrezia, who has to strip down and put out in front of an audience without her consent or Cesare who has to tell her about it. By far and away, the scene where he tells her the news is my favourite of the episode. She is furious. He is defeated. They are both so broken that she rages at him, slaps him across the face, pounds her fists against his chest demanding why Cesare didn’t do something “Where’s your honour? Where’s your strength? Where’s your love of me?” she screams. Both are in or near tears when he grabs her face in his hands and kisses her, another of those too-real kisses that we’ve been seeing these last three episodes only more despairing and no doubt tasting of tears. “I would’ve killed him where he stood. I would’ve cut his heart out of his body, but stayed my hand for the good of the family.”
That’s the theme of this show, everything is for the family and someone from the family has to be at the “event” to bear witness. She can have anyone there. Lucrezia, being the ferociously strong and terrifyingly manipulative force of nature that she is looks at him and says “Then I want you.” Of course she does. Who else could it be for a scene like that? She wants him there for her – the big brother she trusts to protect her and take care of her. She wants him there to punish him for not getting her out of having to sleep with her husband in front of King Icky by making him suffer through watching. She wants him there because she wants to be him in the sexual sense, as last week proved. Lastly, and perhaps most painfully of all, she wants him there because having the living embodiment of love and safety nearby while she is forced to expose herself and perform like two dogs in a street would be a whole other form of comfort to her that has nothing to do with machinations.
Practically, the whole thing goes off without a hitch. She’s gorgeous and experienced in contrast to Alfonso’s shyness both at the act and dislike at having to be exposed himself but they manage together. However, its something of a disaster for the siblings. “Eyes on me,” Lucrezia tells Alfonso over and over. Yet hers move to Cesare the farther in they get and, well, he’s devastated but he can’t do anything but meet her gaze. The structure of the editing in the shot makes it clear that the only reason Lucrezia really enjoys it is because of Cesare.
Things don’t exactly calm down after this. Alexander is trying to rally an alliance with the middle class of Rome. Meanwhile Guilia organizes what is basically a cardinals-only, nun-themed orgy, complete with prizes, to gain control of all the new hires ordained after the purge. Cesare is off to France and Lucrezia is to Naples, without her son, and the episode ends with everything in a hot mess which, lets be honest, is just the way we like it.
Read Rachael’s review of the previous episode, Siblings, here.
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