[Review] Borgia Faith & Fear – Episode 2: Ash Wednesday

I’m going to keep today’s review short and sweet, given that I’m exhausted and feeling somewhat worn down. Episode 2 of Borgia’s second season is named “Ash Wednesday” and based around the symbolism of Ash Wednesday. For those not entirely sure of what Ash Wednesday actually is, it is the first day of Lent and the name itself comes from the practise of placing an ash cross shape upon the forehead of the worshipper in a gesture of moaning and repentance to God. This is shown very clearly at the beginning of the show when Cesare is taking mass. He places ash crosses upon the congregation’s forehead, except on Carlotta. He places an ash ‘C’ upon her forehead, and states it means “Christ”. Come on Cesare, we all know you are marking her as your own.

We see Cesare continue his mission to get Carlotta. Of course it fails and Cesare angrily stomps off to see the wounded Guy de Leval in his bedchambers. Cesare offers him wine, which Guy refuses to drink thinking that the wine is poisoned. Of course Cesare loses his temper and tells Guy that he isn’t worthy to drink his wine, and nor is he worthy of Carlotta. We also see yet more of Cesare’s instability. When Sancia is told to seduce Cesare so he will marry her and be able to take the crown of Naples she goes to his rooms. Cesare then attacks her with a fire poker, branding her forehead with the sign of the cross. This scene is particularly shocking as you see the range of emotions in Cesare’s eyes only for them to disappear and be replaced with a cold indifference.

We have another character introduced in this episode: Isabella Metuzzi. She arrives as Lucrezia is approaching the time for her child to be born. Isabella is brought in to try and convince Lucrezia that the best option would be for her to give her child over to Giulia Farnese. The reasoning behind this is so that Lucrezia isn’t tainted with having a bastard child, and so she can move on and get married. Isabella is actually Lucrezia’s half sister who has been shunned by Rodrigo for years – she says it is because Rodrigo disliked how she was unable to bare her husband children, that she was barren. We find out that this is a lie and that she has a son, but the only reason she told Lucrezia she was barren was to win the argument. Lucrezia is convinced, and as she gives birth to her child – a boy named Giovanni (the famous Infans Romanus who will get his very own post at some point) he is taken away from her straight away, leaving her completely hysterical.

This episode also deals with the attitudes of the Roman Catholic Church towards sodomy. We see a man publicly executed for the crime of sodomy, the Pope saying that as God punished the townspeople of Sodom for their crimes, so should they as sodomy is “the most grievous of sins”. The man in question is then executed with something known in the show as “The Pope’s Pear”. This was an actual method of torture and execution used during the Renaissance and even before, and known as the Pear of Anguish…

The Pear was inserted up the offenders anus and opened. This would rupture the lower intestine and cause a very very slow and painful death. The execution scene in this episode using this device made me shudder, and even though you don’t see much, you really get the idea of what was happening. You hear the man screaming, and the last shot is of blood dripping from his body. Nasty stuff. Following this we then see the cardinals sorting out the perfect way to get rid of Gacet. Gacet is accused of sodomy in front of the Pope and a large crowd. Gacet is arrested, but Bishop Flores (the man who accuses him) ends up digging himself into a hole and admitting that actually he lied about it. Gacet is freed, and Flores placed in prison in his stead. We then find out that actually Gacet is homosexual and has been having liaisons with Della Roverre. But we then find out that Gacet believes he is homosexual due to the thoughts he has been having, and Pope Alexander is all “oh well”. 
One of the final scenes of this episode involves Cesare having it out with the King of Naples over the agreed marriage between Lucrezia and Alfonso, Duke of Calabria. Cesare states that only a prince is good enough for his sister and the episode ends with the King agreeing to make his nephew a Prince, and Cesare departing for Rome as well as a shot of Giulia Farnese looking upon a distant Castel Sant Angelo, vowing that she will never stray so far from Rome again.
Another top notch episode. Amazing sets, beautiful costumes and fantastic acting from the entire cast. Standout this episode has to be Mark Ryder for the sheer fact that we are slowly starting to see him unravel to the malicious Valentino that is so well known.

3 thoughts on “[Review] Borgia Faith & Fear – Episode 2: Ash Wednesday

  1. I'm not sure I liked Fontana's approach to Sancha (or her brother, for that matter). She was no innocent, but not a schemer either. And neither was her brother and Lucrezia, as we know, did love him. Did Fontana decide the real story is too boring and wouldn't provide enough material for the second season?

    All in all, the first two episodes are not my favorite (but still better than any crap Neil Jordan came up with).

  2. As I was watching the scene you described as the punishment for sodomy, I thought they were cutting off his testicles. I came to this conclusion since they had marches the guy out with fake breasts. I can't seem to remember if they put some sort of face paint on him too. Anyway, it was pretty gruesome and it chills me to think of the cruelty and torture that went on at that time. Terrible to think that people could do those things to others, even if they might have done something wrong. Even worse if they were innocent.

  3. Hello, I came across your blog, whilst in pursuit of actual history and facts, surrounding the characters shown in Borgia, a series i recently discovered and have been devouring on Netflix. I absolutely am in love with the series (very easy for me, being a history buff) and your writing style and indepth knowledge too.
    I searched for this blog post, wanting to know your opinions on this particular episode and more information on a young Character! Price Ferdinand Von Habsburg, Nephew to Holy Roman Emperor King Maxmillian. I tried extensively searching this name, and trying to find more about him IRL and was wondering whether he is just clever fiction or reality. Any thoughts……..?

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