Mon
Aug 12 2013 6:44pm

The Borgia Apocalypse: A Recap of The Borgias Series Finale Screenplay (SPOILERS)

Today, Showtime and Neil Jordan released as an e-book the script that The Borgias series creator Jordan wrote to wrap up all the show's story lines—The Borgia Apocalypse. While Jordan had originally intended to film the series finale for television (and says he'd still be happy to film if Showtime ever changes its mind), The Borgias was canceled just before the Season 3 finale aired, making that episode, “The Prince,” the last that fans would see on screen. After much protesting by disappointed viewers, however, Showtime and Jordan apparently decided to give them more closure by publishing the screenplay for that aborted grand finale today.

So. What did The Borgia Apocalypse have in store for the (Un)Holy family, and particularly for the fan-favorite/super controversial pairing Cesare/Lucrezia? Keep reading for a full run-down, but if you plan to read it for yourself, beware of MAJOR SPOILERS for the script.

(Also ask yourself: Do I really WANT to know? Or am I OK with how things ended on screen? No, really, you should consider this before reading any further...)

Still with me? OK. Below are my notes on/reaction to The Borgia Apocalypse: The Screenplay.

********MAJOR SPOILERS********

I have to say, as a Cesare/Lucrezia fan? Overall I am now really glad I did not see this on screen, but more on that later. First, here is a detailed list of what went down in the episode. Forgive the info-dump format, and do let me know if I got anything wrong—I read this pretty quickly and wanted to start the discussion ASAP!

****Last chance: don't read if you don't want to know EVERYTHING goes down in the screenplay for The Borgia Apocalypse.****

—Lucrezia fears the one she loves most (she doesn't fear for herself but rather fears what he will do to others for her) and goes to a convent—with Micheletto's help—to do penance..and take a break/hide out from Cesare

—Cesare plans the disposal of Alfonso's body and the cover story is that he got into a brawl

—Micheletto returns to Cesare's service at the pope's request (and 'cause he misses Cesare, natch)

—Catherina almost gets her revenge on the pope via poisoned lip balm (sex was almost his undoing once again, shocker)

—Cesare interrupts her scheme, catches her, and cuts off her lips

—Rufio is captured for aiding the enemy, his former mistress, Catherina (“We all have our weaknesses; she was, and always will be, mine”)

—France's King Louis wants the pope to back his claim to Naples—France will hold the lands in the pope's name and share the spoils of conquest with Ferdinand and Isabella...and the French ambassador to the Holy See—Cardinal Guiliano Della Rovere! Della Rovere is to stay in Rome under France's protection, under full diplomatic immunity

—Della Rovere kisses Rodrigo's ring “gladly”, “humbly”

—Cesare and Alexander talk about their plans for succession and wonder if Della Rovere could be suspicious

—Cesare tells Della Rovere he should have killed him when he had the chance

—Cesare predicts he'll die in battle one day

—Micheletto and Rufio fight to the death (Rufio dies, because duh)

—Micheletto cannot tell Cesare where Lucrezia is but promises him she is safe

—Cesare tells Louis that he hates Naples because it humiliated his sister and her child

—Cesare wants poisoned water transported to Naples to poison their water; he succeeds and there are bodies all over Naples

—King Louis is horrified by what Cesare, who just says that war is monstrous, has done, saying: “This is beyond all the rules of war. All the laws of God.”

—While Micheletto sees fear in the eyes of people after what Cesare has done, Cesare sees betrayal

—Della Rovere conveys the king's upset about the deaths in Naples to the pope, who basically repeats what Cesare said, that this is war and Cesare spared French lives

—Sure enough, the sons of the great Roman families who've been working for Cesare are now considering betraying him—and bad news: they know where Lucrezia is and know that she is hiding from Cesare and that she is the only thing Cesare cares for in the world, so they plan to kidnap her

—Micheletto hears the plan and tells Cesare

—Micheletto rescues Lucrezia but lets the conspirators think he and Cesare are ignorant of the plot

—Cesare promises Orsini, Vitelli, Baglioni, et al. that he'll create a kingdom and they'll all get to rule a principality after one last campaign; they're not sure how they didn't get caught plotting to snatch Lucrezia, but they'll take it!

—There's blood everywhere in the convent (Micheletto killed the men who'd planned to take Lucrezia) and young nun Pia asks Lucrezia “What is this? This horror?” to which Lucrezia says, “It is my family...This horror has a name. It is called Borgia.”

—Cesare and Lucrezia talk about why Lucrezia was hiding from him; she admits she's afraid of herself, not of him; she can't resist him when he is near, and returns his touches

—Cesare says she could marry again for convenience and they could meet and love without scandal, but Lucrezia wants a love that will free her from this love. Knowing Lucrezia's weakness for children, Cesare says his wife is pregnant; Lucrezia is glad, a playmate for her child. Cesare seemingly gets Lucrezia's OK to marry her off to Ferrara for a marriage of convenience so that she can give Ferrara an heir but let Cesare keep her heart

—Cesare plans to kill Orsini, Vitelli, Baglioni, et al. but outside of Rome at his father's request

—Lucrezia asks Vanozza about Ferrara and agrees to marry the duke as long as 1) her mother negotiates the terms, 2) and moves there with her (I never saw Vanozza as being a great mother, as she always gave into whatever Rodrigo wanted, but whatevs)

—Lucrezia meets poet Pietro Bembo

—Cesare teaches Machiavelli a lesson in revenge

—Lucrezia tells Bembo she would marry anyone that would give her freedom from her family (my shipper feelings are really making me biased here, so I will leave this alone for now)

—Micheletto kills the men outside of Rome

—Cesare walks in on Lucrezia and Bembo kissing; Lucrezia tells Bembo that Cesare is jealous of any happiness she might have without him

—Cesare has Lucrezia invite Dell Rovere to dinner and names some of the reasons that she's the perfect person to extend the invitation (including an echo of his line in “The Prince” — “...you are and always will be...mine”);

—Instead, Lucrezia warns Della Rovere not to accept the dinner invitation “if you value your health”

—Lucrezia tells Rodrigo and Cesare that Della Rovere said yes but only if he chooses the venue

—At dinner, the tasters are dismissed; Della Rovere promises that if the Borgias help him become pope, Cesare can keep his lands and they can all retire to an estate

—Rodrigo has been poisoned; Cesare has been poisoned too

—Rodrigo asks for a confessor and pleads for forgiveness; monk tells him it's impossible for him because he is already dead (oops!)

—Lucrezia sees her father breathe his last and goes to tell Cesare, also very ill but on the road to recovery; Lucrezia advises him to either cultivate Della Rovere's favor or leave, as she's planning to do

—Cesare asks her to help him avenge the death of their father but she tells him to just look at what the throne of St. Peters did to them (truth)

—Time jump and we see Cesare flung from a horse by a spear after his fortunes have changed so drastically after his father's death; Micheletto is killed while running back to a dying Cesare

—Lucrezia arrives at Ferrara

—Portraits of the various characters recap how the characters lived/died in history, including Della Rovere, who did indeed become pope

All right, so, let's discuss all this! What did you think? Let me know in the comments.

My two cents:

Maybe it's just because of how the actors always played all their scenes, but it was hard for me to swallow, as I read this, that Lucrezia would ever be so desperate to escape Cesare (and to turn to her mother, who at the end of the day always seemed to side with Rodrigo over Lucrezia!). After all, Lucrezia initiated so much of what was between them in Season 3 (she jumped in bed with him after all), and, I mean, she plotted to have people killed herself (including the king of Naples!) when things weren't going her way, so she wasn't an angel either. Why did she so often run back to him if she just wanted to run away from him? Girl was CONFLICTED, that's for sure, and apparently more so than I thought. I think the truth is that I just wanted her to embrace her Borgia nature before Cesare's downfall forced her to reconsider her situation, but that's totally on me. Clearly I was projecting my wishes into hopes for the show. Ah, well.

Anyway, Lucrezia definitely proved she was the smartest Borgia! And her ending stayed pretty true to history, even if I feel that Jordan's version of Lucrezia wasn't heading that way organically. (I just feel the chemistry between Cesare and Lucrezia should have been less intense, their scenes a bit less epic, Cesare's feelings less requited, if Jordan really wanted me to buy this. That's all!)

I am glad the end was bloody, 'cause that's just how it had to end. Bring on the Shakespearean tragedy!

And hey, we saw the return of Micheletto and Della Rovere, and Catherina Sforza got to be a crazy badass again. That was all pretty cool.

Final thoughts? I'm happiest with the ambiguous last episode I saw on screen and will probably let that be my head-canon ending.

How about you?

 


Heather Waters is the site manager of H&H, and a 24/7 fangirl. Tweet her @redline_

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18 comments
jelek
1. jelek
My favorite historical family is the Borgias. Unfortunately they are not as popular as the Tudors or the Medicis. The Borgias just fascinates me...even Lucrezia who, if faithful to the history, was just a pawn and not a virago like Caterina Sforza.
Heather Waters (redline_)
2. redline_
@jalek -- Other than seeing the Borgias mentioned alongside families like the Medicis, I was not very familiar with them, so I very much enjoyed watching this series (even if it wasn't always very historically accurate) and then looking up more info about them online (thanks, Wikipedia!). They are fascinating indeed.

From the way she lived her life after her family's downfall, you do get the impression that Lucrezia was freer after marrying the duke of Ferrara and escaping the Borgia men.

In Neil Jordan's series, though, Cesare and Lucrezia were both used as pawns by their father and I felt like Lucrezia (who attempted to kill her own brother and had Micheletto kill the king of Naples for her) was coming into her own as one of the wicked Borgias, so the events in the Borgia Apocalypse script took me by surprise.
jelek
3. Angel_M
If this E-book should ever make it to the screen, I hope Neil tweaks Lucrezia's outlook. Her bitterness toward Cesare does not become her. I agree, in other versions of The Borgias it might play okay but here it just does not fit what has come before. More fitting would have been Lucrezia tenderly indulging Cesare's ideas for being together even if in her heart she knew she had to, somehow, get away. That church scene between C&L needed to be about 10 pages longer and while it was interesting that Bembo was introduced, fans care about C&L not L&B so that the one romantic scene was between C&B sucked.

What didn't suck was Micheletto! Oh, Micheletto! I loved all his scenes, especially the arena-like fight with Rufio and before that, his return, surprisng Cesare in the bath. Good Lord! Even though everyone knows M. is tortured by DellaRov and Cesare dies alone in Vianna, I think the ending Neil chose worked as it captures M.'s undying loyalty in a very dramatic way. It is the same sentiment that made him resist the torture and keep all of Cesare's secrets from his enemies.

There was a lot of other fun stuf. The Pope slapping Cesare over Alphonso's death. Cesare cutting off Caterina's lips. The French King all apalled at Cesare's viciousness. The little captains, thinking they were going to get one over on Cesare and their grisly demise.

One thing, I didn't get who poisoned Cesare and Rodrigo....
Heather Waters (redline_)
4. redline_
@Angel_M -- I believe we're supposed to assume Lucrezia poisoned Cesare and Rodrigo, actually, which is just...NO. But with the way she and Della Rovere were talking just before the dinner, I think Lucrezia is the only one it could have been.

I forgot about Rodrigo slapping Cesare; you know Irons and Arnaud would have played that beautifully. And I agree, I really liked the Cesare and Micheletto scenes. Theirs was a strange but lovely relationship, much like, clearly, Catherina and Rufio's.
More fitting would have been Lucrezia tenderly indulging Cesare's ideas for being together even if in her heart she knew she had to, somehow, get away.
Yes, agreed. Because you can't convince me she didn't love him just as much as he loved her, even if she could see more clearly than he could that they'd descended into utter darkness.
jelek
5. Dia
I understand Neil Jordan was in a hurry to wrap up a whole season into 2-hour-long script but everything happened so abruptly. It isn't just about how the table turned so suddenly, it's about the lack of character development, I guess. I mean I understand Lucrezia and Cesare's relationship would fall apart eventually but it's like a decade has passed between the last episode of 3rd season and The Borgia Apocalypse. As you said, Lucrezia was no angel and she obviously was a borgia herself even though she didn't seem to like it and it just seemed out of character for me that she would go all like 'my family is totally CRAZY!' as if she didn't know that before, duh. She even tried to kill her own brother while singing a lullaby to her baby! didn't she?
Cesare's fixation with butchering people up also bothered me . Not because I thought he was such a sweet, innocent character but he was always clever, smart though a little rash at times. His ambition wouldn't have achieved much if he didn't know what he was doing but his revenge and ambition seems senseless in The Borgia Apocalypse. It kinda demanded people to see how awful of a human being Cesare Borgia's supposed to be so that when he dies, we would think that he fully deserved it. The thing is, I wanted to see HOW he turns into this monster. Not how he dies a horrible death because he is one.
Well, since I loved this show a lot I'm sure I would have been heartbroken no matter how it ended though.
Heather Waters (redline_)
6. redline_
@Dia -- You hit the nail on the head--lack of character development is the real issue here.

Yeah, Cesare suddenly acting as crazy (and thus as dumb) as Juan was a letdown. In the show he did awful things but as someone who believed that the end justified the means / that serving the greater good was more important than anything, making him basically the face of that eternal ethical debate. But he didn't plot and kill and torture for the sport of it.
it just seemed out of character for me that she would go all like 'my family is totally CRAZY!' as if she didn't know that before, duh
I totally agree. And yeah, her relationship with Cesare was bound to end tragically, but if there's anything I took from three seasons of the show it was that they (seemed to) love each other unconditionally. SO MANY of the bad things Cesare did were to protect her (as Francois Arnaud said in an interview I read, Cesare basically lives for Lucrezia and for protecting Lucrezia--that's it), and she never seemed to mind that before. She HATED being married and depended on Cesare to be there when her husbands screwed her over, but now you're telling me she's going to POISON Cesare to run to a new husband? Get right outta town.
jelek
7. A STB Fan
Fans are not placated by the release of this script. Feedback clearly is showing that many fans feel that the script was rushed in response to David Nevins' thoughtless canceling of a series that was so obviously supposed to last for at least another season. The introduction, written by Mr. Jordan, says so much when he writes that he was creating a "40-hour film". If Showtime and Mr. Nevins think that the release of this "ebook" will quell the series' fans, the network and he are sadly mistaken. Quite the contrary. It has only served to embolden fans and renew their dedication to work towards seeing a full season of The Borgias. SMGO.TV has joined forces with the Save The Borgias Fan Campaign and other fan groups to help fans reach their objective.

Fans can join and support the effort. More information can be found at: savetheborgiasfc.com/united-with-smgotv.html.
jelek
8. Gilly Hynes
I agree with Redline above. The inconsistancies with the Cesare/Lucrezia theme in this script are hard to believe and so out of character for Lucrezia as written throughout Seasons 1-3. She only felt save when he was nearby after all and he only ever did eveything he could to love and protect her. It would have been better for NJ to write them as being in love, but agreeing she needed the cover of a compliant husband so they could continue their love affair together somewhere convenient to Imola in the Romagna near where Cesare was based with his army (how about Ferrara !!). When Cesare dies in battle in Viana the last words on his lips would be "Lucrezia" and she would somehow know by osmosis that he had died and would jump up and shout "Cesare! Cesare!" and that would be the end.
jelek
9. Alexx
Soo, I absolutely love the Borgias and I´m glad you wrote about The Apocalypse... Basic facts, but it´s enough information :)
Maybe I´m just too romantic, but I think Cesare and Lucrezia should get a chance at least in a serial, but that´s only my hope, I see...
Also, it´s pretty true in a historical way, so it´s okay with me. I´m a bit surprised about Lucrezia/Vannozza relationship. To me she was like a peacemaker in a family and she does choose Rodrigo over her children over and over again. Lucrezia is typical girl no matter a century. She doesn´t know what she wants. Loves her brother, desires him but runs away. The end which Gilly Hynes described woul be perfect, becouse they have very strong connection between themselfs indeed. I would like to see Micheletto in the serial, ´couse I missed him, he was great character, loyal a trustworthy. Not only servent, but friend. It was rarely for the Borgias to have someone who they really trust outside the family. I ´m also fan of his relationship with Lucrezia and that he chose her over Cesare and helped her hide in convent. It´s so shame that screenplay didn´t get a chance to be in proper tv serie.
jelek
10. PJS
Haven't read the e-book, just this synopsis and the comments....my main reaction....WTF??? Micheletto committed suicide after having to kill his lover....how is it feasible that he somehow was brought back to life?!?? That makes absolutely no sense to me....can someone explain how/why Micheletto was somehow resurrected?
jelek
11. JYSJ
@PJS what are you talking about.... He never committed suicide.... He only left and hid when he killed his lover. I think you should watch the last few episodes again...
jelek
12. Agnes Jeppesen
Oh my God, that would have been a terrifick conclution to this series. 'I'm personally so sorry for all the loose ends, the final episode in season three gave us.
I'm diffenatly a big Lucrezia and Cesare fan, and that's because of the chemistry between the two actors where so natural and that made me forget all about the controvercy and just ended me rooting for them both. i understand why they were so dawn to each other, with everybody betraying them with lies, others ambition and hatred for thier name, they probably couldn't find the right amount of understanding or compassion than with each other, so love between a brother and a sister tured to a love that forfilled every need they couldn't get from anyone els.
But I would have loved to see them pay the concequenses for thier actions, because as you saud(heather Walters) a 'Shakespearien ending with the moral of what happens when your ambiton takes over you, would have been dramatic and great final.
But does anyone of you actually know why Showtime agreed to cancel in the first place? what I understand of it is that it wasn't because of the fan-base, because we are many, but what els could it be then?
Sorry for my long comment, I am just so cross over the cancellation... I LOVED THIS SHOW SO MUCH!!!!
jelek
13. MjL
I loved this series purely for the entertainment. It satisfactorily fulfilled my chase for something Deadwood-ish; devilish but loveabe heroes who prevail against the odds. Being prepared to depart from fact from the beginning, I was not let down by the author's penchant for the main characters' success albeit with enough obstacles and disapointments along the way.
I guess you could say I'd be among those happy to not see the undoing of Rodrigo and Cesare, make up my own ending... especially at the hand of the one they let get away; Della Rovere, who history dictates, had to survive the Borgia ordeal.
jelek
14. zera
Normally I don't like incestuous relationships, but in this show - maybe it was thanks to the actors, the chemistry, the way they were written, I don't know - but it felt kind of right that they were so close that the lines between being siblings and being lovers blurred. As someone else here pointed out, I always felt like it was them against the rest of the world, each other being the only person the other could trust.
And Lucrezia turned out to be such a strong, cunning and self-confident woman, I could never picture her suddenly being afraid of Cesare or running away from him like that or trying to poison him.
Now I'm glad I didn't purchase the e-book. Thanks for posting the summary!
In a few weeks or so I'll try watching the other "Borgias".
jelek
15. Elle Smith Fagan
I was in the middle of a new life setup the past two years, and missed most tv entirely, so I finally enjoyed the entire story " alla prima" at Netflix - so the NOT finale infuriated me - just a bit!

Very unhealthy to do that to a faithful audience. I will never follow a production by this group again.


The production was grand except for that - actors and script really pulled me into the whole thing - not just the romance and not just the passion and not just the history- I bought the whole thing. Shame on you for not finishing up correctly. Quality all the way, then the failure? Yuk!

They had great good fun with values and morals - portraying, somehow, these characters as people with whom we could sympathize - quite a trick , to make evil seem good and even charming and just.

Still the show was great good fun - and thanksomuch!

We were entertained! Hugs all around .... elle
jelek
16. Adiel
The reason Lucrezia ran from Cesare, was because her husband found out about them. She was way to obsessed with him knowing in the last 2 episodes. He did die, but it not being a secret anymore was to much for her. She was afaid of being judged for what was happening between them.
I personally stuck around for those two to hook-up. I had to remind myself that they weren't really family, and that they are only actors. but would it have been so inticing if it wasn't so forbidden. I agree with the article, that I am happy with the ending that was shown on the screen.
It was beautiful, and intese, and made for good TV.
jelek
17. Corazones
Thank you so, so much for this post. I've just finished watching the series on netflix and devastated does not even begin to describe the way I felt when I found out it had been discontinued. I was painfully in love with the Cesare/Lucrezia dynamic and I've been having withdrawal symptoms for days! The chemistry between Arnaud and Grainger puts all other on-screen couples to shame. That said, reading your take on the screenplay ending has actually made me feel a lot better about the series ending. I'm in the same camp as you - I'd rather see the series end when the characters are at their most compelling than watch their personalities regress or decline in any way.
Heather Waters (redline_)
18. redline_
Thanks for the fantastic comments, everyone!

@Corazones -- I completely understand the frustration with how the show ended, as I felt the same. But after reading the screenplay for Apocalypse and as time has gone on, I've just really grown to love the last episode we saw with that dark, tragic Shakespearean ending.
I'd rather see the series end when the characters are at their most compelling than watch their personalities regress or decline in any way.
EXACTLY. Same here.
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