Well, we’ve come to the end, folks. This shall be the last Borgias-related post ever (unless these people succeed, which would be great). Sigh. I shall miss it. I loved these crazy kids. Ah well, life goes on.
Naturally, the show’s focus was mostly on the Borgias themselves, and those closest to them, but, admirably, there were quite a few very interesting peripheral characters, both male and female, who were permitted to be interesting and complex. On the ladies’ side, we had a guilt-ridden wife who became a nun, a rather sad lady who went completely insane, and an adversary so badass, she actually won the respect of the men whose asses she was kicking. And they all did it while beautifully dressed, of course. Let’s have a look.
Ahh, Ursula. I wasn’t a big fan of her or her storyline, mostly because I think it dragged on waaaay too long, but she was pretty to look at, and it was rather nice that, rather than just being some eager sex object, she showed some real complexity of character. She was a desperate young woman when we first met her, married to a man with no sense of humour who was rather free with his fists. She unthinkingly begged Cesare for help, not realising how seriously he’d take her request. And after her husband wound up dead, she was completely wracked by guilt and channeled that into the church, in an attempt to atone for her part in the murder. But it was clear that, although she was definitely dedicated to her new religious life, she still felt a pull towards Cesare, and it was a challenge for her to fight it. But fight it she did. Bravo, Ursula. It’s hard to resist that luscious, luscious hair.
Anyway, the first time they meet, it’s at Lucrezia’s first wedding. With Lucrezia now married off, Cesare needs another pretty blonde in pastels to fixate on for a while.
And fixate he does. He basically starts stalking her. And Ursula, who’s clearly neglected by her husband, is initially pleased by all the flattering attention she’s receiving. She even seeks Cesare out, though in the scene where they admit their mutual attraction, it’s notable that the future nun is wearing a black veil reminiscent of the habit she’ll soon put on:
I honestly don’t know what to say about this outfit of hers other than the fact that it’s insane. All those colours together, the orange and red and the plum (which typically signifies sadness on this show) are a bit of an assault on the eyes. I’m taking this as a sign of her inner confusion. She’s just all over the place at this point.
When, at last, she gets confirmation that Cesare did in fact kill her husband, that’s the end of that. They have one final break-up scene before she hies herself to the convent:
Sad plum again. It’s also a more somber-toned callback to the lighter purple dress she was wearing when they first met. After that, it’s all habits, all the time, until she’s tragically killed along with all the other nuns in season 2.
Speaking of tragic women, let’s turn our attention to Bianca Gonzaga. This chick is head-to-toe sex. The first article of clothing associated with her is a scarlet-red stocking, which she leaves behind accidentally and is found by Giulia:
Couple of things here. 1, that colour looks amazing on her, so the costume choice was undoubtedly at least partially to make her look as attractive as possible. 2, she matches her husband, colour-wise, but their outfits still appear to be fighting each other. He looks like he’s wearing armour, while she’s showing a lot of flesh, and the horizontal striping on his coat is in direct conflict with the vertical patterning on her dress. 3, blue is a colour we see a lot on this show, and it means different things to different people at different times, but one thing it has meant, historically, is lust.
But what does she wear to seduce the pope right before the big, decisive battle against the French?
But let’s turn our attention to the lady who refused to be a victim: Caterina Sforza. Man, this woman was awesome. And yes, she was in real life, as well.
She didn’t start off in opposition to the Borgias. Quite the opposite: it was she who was sent to broker an alliance between the two families by arranging her cousin’s marriage to Lucrezia. And, like all the other suitors, she wore Borgia red:
…with plenty of gold, highlighting her family’s wealth. But she’s not really into dressing up, especially in this type of colour. Like other more martial-minded characters, like Cesare, Micheletto, and Rufio, she prefers unfussy black, occasionally with masculine detailing:
Black and yellow for Lucrezia’s second wedding. Like a queen bee. Or, as Cesare later puts it, like a tigress. Keep in mind that this is the point where she’s rubbing her power and her new allies in the Borgias’ faces, reveling in the hold she has over them. There’s little doubt that Cesare forgot, which is probably part of the reason he made her wear this when he finally took her prisoner:
A dress fit for a captured tigress. Also a callback to that earlier gown. It may hearten some to know that the real Caterina Sforza was soon released from prison, went to Florence, engaged in a bunch of legal battles with her Medici in-laws, and spent the rest of her life with her grandkids and experimenting with alchemy.
Just a quick note on a few pretty minor characters, because why the heck not?
First, a look at the French court:
This is very different from what we’re used to seeing in Italy. The queen and most of her ladies wear blue or shades thereof. As we’ll recall from our time with King Charles, blue is a common tone for the French to wear. It brings them all together and makes it seem like they all belong together. Even the men wear blue. Cesare, in his usual black, stands out, as he’s meant to. Interestingly, Charlotte, the woman he eventually marries, is in a similar shade to what we saw Ursula in the first time she showed up. Also, note the Borgia red accents. In an odd moment, this exact same dress shows back up on the queen in the scene where she screams at Cesare after learning she’s to be set aside. A rare costuming mistake on this show.
And now for something completely different:
Remember that nice prostitute who showed Paolo around? Ok, maybe you don’t, but this might jog your memory. She had a pretty fun costume that served a couple of purposes. 1, it made Paolo’s drab peasant wear really stand out. 2, it clearly set her apart as an ‘other’, just as another character who wore these colours was set apart:
And on that colourful note, I think it’s time to sign off. Thanks so much for reading the recaps and these crazy roundups. They were lots of fun to do and gave me a chance to look back at the show, relive some good moments, and say a little goodbye. I’ll miss you, Borgias. You were crazy at times, but you were always compulsively watchable and the strength of your writing and acting really elevated you above the usual Sunday-night-bodice-ripper. May you live on in our reruns and DVD box sets for many a year to come.