The Borgias

Just when Pope Alexander was ready to forgive Cesare, he drank the wine and ... (Showtime / June 18, 2012)

Showtime's "The Borgias" ended its second season Sunday with a couple of confessions, a poisoning and one sadly missed opportunity, says series star Francois Arnaud.

"I think that the sad thing about that ending is that Rodrigo was about to tell Cesare that he did forgive him," said Arnaud, who plays Cesare Borgia, the son of Rodrigo, aka Pope Alexander VI (Jeremy Irons). "And I think Cesare needed to hear those words.

"And now he probably never will."

In "The Confession," Cesare told his father that it was he who killed Juan (David Oakes), Rodrigo's troubled other son and Cesare's reviled brother. In a touching scene at episode's end, Rodrigo finally opened up about why he favored Juan over the more dutiful and capable Cesare.

"You are our own doing; what you've done is our doing also. We've brought you to this," the Pope tells Cesare about his killing of Juan. "You say we granted every favor to him, but our favors fell on him so easily of their own accord. You are too much like me. A man feels less favor for his own image reflected."

When Cesare asks for his forgiveness, Rodrigo falls to the floor, the victim of the poison fed him by Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere's (Colm Feore) assassin. The season ends with the Pope writhing in pain before totally shutting down. But is he dead?

That's not a question Arnaud was willing to answer, even though he admits the show, which was renewed for a third season earlier this year, can't really go on without Pope Alexander. Yet when I asked him if he thinks the Pope will grant Cesare forgiveness in Season 3, he replied with laughter, "What, if he's not dead, you mean?"

Arnaud talked more about the finale, the "new" Cesare--who will no longer be a cardinal, finally--and what we can expect in Season 3, of which he has read two scripts.

"I can tell you that I wasn't disappointed with the first two episodes of Season 3, definitely not," he teased. "It takes it all to a whole new level."

Read my pre-finale interview with Francois Arnaud here.


When we talked before the season you said Cesare becomes what you thought he was from the very beginning. I would like you to expand on that, if you could.
I think you can see that, especially after the confession in the finale, he's completely taking charge now, he's not making excuses for what he is or what he wants. I particularly enjoyed that scene with Vanozza and Lucrezia right after I confessed to the Pope. I say there will be a funeral, there will be a betrothal party, shut the fuck up, basically. [Laughs.] I'm the one who decides now and I don't need anybody's approval.

And I think that's the new Cesare, it's the Cesare you can expect for a little while longer. In Season 3 as well, I think, from what I've read. I think there's a point where he just can't take it anymore. And that scene in the finale with Lucrezia on the bed where she asks me to marry her to Alfonso, I think he's just coming to terms with who he is and I don't think he's ashamed of killing his brother. He's ready to stand up for his actions and to be a leader.

Why do you think Rodrigo just doesn't get it about Juan? He seemed surprised even when Lucrezia says, "A lot of people wanted to kill him." Even after so many screw-ups, he still has this unbending love for Juan.
Well, I can't say I completely know, but I think there's a clue in that last scene with the Pope and I in the finale just before he gets poisoned, when he says, I can't remember the words exactly, but he says it's harder to love someone whose more like you. And a man can't love his own reflection or in the mirror. I think that's why he wasn't able to love Cesare as much as he deserved, maybe. And he created this idea of Juan that was in no way reality. It's like everybody else saw him as who he was and Rodrigo chose to see every single event as a mistake, a misstep [laughs] and not as part of something more global about that person that was obviously just a mad dog.

Do you think that Rodrigo's going to come around with Cesare?
What, if he's not dead, you mean? [Laughs.]

Yeah, if he's not dead. I feel we can't have a Season 3 with no Pope, right?