[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.

An Interview With Isolda Dychauk

Today I am very excited to have the lovely Isolda Dychauk here on Loyalty Binds Me for a short interview about her role as Lucrezia Borgia in “Borgia: Faith & Fear”. As I’m sure you’re all aware, “Borgia” is my favourite adaptation of the history of the Borgia family; so having Isolda here today is really very exciting for me. I hope you all enjoy what Isolda has to say!

Isolda as Lucrezia in Borgia: Faith & Fear
First of all Isolda, thank you so much for agreeing to do to this interview for me, it’s an absolute honour to have you here. What was it that attracted you to the role of Lucrezia in Canal +’s “Borgia: Faith & Fear”? “
The are a lot of things I love about the interpretation of Lucrezia. First of all it is an incredible honor to breathe life into a character, who really existed  It also is a great challenge to create this amazing development from a little girl to a liberated, strong women.”

Before you auditioned for the role, and even after you got the role and began to prepare, what were your initial thoughts on the historical character of Lucrezia Borgia?
“There are a lot of rumors about the Borgia family, especially Lucrezia. Most people think of her as the wife, which poisoned her husband or as the daughter, which slept with her father and her brother. Therefore in the beginning, I was trying to find some of the the ‘good sides’ of Lucrezia.”

Isolda as Lucrezia and John Doman as Pope Alexander VI (screencap from Season 1)

How did you prepare to play Lucrezia? Are there any particular books that you would recommend?
“To be honest, I didn’t read many books about the Borgias, partly because of all these rumors. For the first episodes my preparation has been the directions of Tom Fontana and Oliver Hirschbiegel.”

There are many rumours that have come down to us about the Borgia family. The one that sticks in most people’s minds is that there was a lot of incest going on between Lucrezia and the male members of her family. In the show we see these rumours taking shape – what are your thoughts on these rumours and do you think there was any truth in them?
“I certainly don’t think all of them are true. The Borgia has been a powerful and successful family, with many enemies. Therefore many rumors has been created only for the sake of harming them. I believe Lucrezia and Cesare had a very close relationship, I am not sure about the incest, though.” 

What particular moment of Borgia history particularly interests you?
“I don’t have any particular moments which I find more interesting than others. After filming for 2 years I love more or less everything about this period of time. Even though I’m glad I don’t have to struggle with the problems they had back then…”

Isolda (Lucrezia) and Mark Ryder (Cesare) – photo manipulation by me.

As I watch watching Season 1 of Borgia, I could tell just how close all of the cast were. What was it like working with such distinguished actors as Stanley Weber, Assumpta Serna and Marta Gastini?
“Working with this cast and crew has been a blessing. Each of them is wonderful in their own way. Marta and I are like sisters by now, I trust her with every thought I have, she has always the right words to help.”

In history, Lucrezia was described as an innocent pawn in the politics of her family. What are your thoughts on this, and how did you bring this into your portrayal of her?
“Season 1 is focused on Lucrezia becoming a woman, therefore there was not much politics involved. In season 2, she becomes Governor of Spoleto, which is her first step into politics. It was a huge challenge for her but she trusted her intuition and made the right decisions.”

If you could play any other character in history, who would you play and why?
“There are so many fascinating characters in history, I don’t think I can focus on just one.”

Promotional photo of Lucrezia in Season 2 of Borgia

Are there any other projects that you’re taking part in, that we can look forward to?
“There are a few films coming up, after we finish filming season 3, but it’s not official yet.”

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. I can’t wait to see Season 2!
“Thanks to you, it’s been a pleasure.”

Season 1 of “Borgia” is available to buy on Amazon, and Season 2 is now available to purchase from Amazon.fr (with English audio). Please do check them out!