The Assassin

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"The Assassin"
Characters - The Borgias Fan Wiki

Episode Title: The Assassin
The Borgias Episode #: 2 (Season 1 premier, part 2)
The Borgias Season: 1
Original Air Date: 3 April 2011
Writer: Neil Jordan
Director(s): Neil Jordan

Guest Star(s): Montserrat Lombard as Maria,Peter Sullivan as Cardinal Ascanio Sforza,Jalaal Hartley as Pinturicchio,Vernon Dobtcheff as Cardinal Versucci

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Episode 1.2 - The Assassin

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Name: Pinturicchio
Played by: Jalaal Hartley
Plot connections: Paints portraits of Giulia Farnese and later Lucrezia Borgia

Name: Maria
Played by: Montserrat Lombard
Plot connections: Servant in the palace of Cardinal Orsini, continues as palace chambermaid

Giulia Farnese
Name: Giulia Farnese
Played by: Lotte Verbeek
Plot connections: Pope Alexander VI'snew mistress;Lucrezia's gal pal;Vanozza's rival

Peter Sullivan
Name: Cardinal Ascanio Sforza
Played by: Peter Sullivan
Plot connections: Alexander promises Vice-Chancellorship to Sforza in return for his vote

Cardinal Orsini
Name: Cardinal Orsino Orsini
Played by: Derek Jacobi
Plot connections: Rodrigo's most vocal opponent, seals his fate by publicly defaming the pope

Simon McBurney
Name: Johannes Burchart
Played by: Simon McBurney
Plot connections: Papal Master of Ceremonies, Canon Lawyer for the College of Cardinals
The Assassin - THE  BORGIAS   wiki
Name: Micheletto
Played by: Sean Harris
Plot connections: Employed by Orsini to poison Alexander but switches loyalties.
Cesare Borgia, Bishop of Pamplona
Name: Cesare Borgia
Played by: Francois Arnaud
Plot connections: Ever ready to aid his father, the bishop protects him as the Borgia enter the dark underbelly of papal intrigue
The Assassin - THE  BORGIAS   wiki
Name: Pope Alexander VI
Played by: Jeremy Irons
Plot connections: Establishes his power and narrowly escapes a plot against him
The Assassin - THE  BORGIAS   wiki
Name: Vanozza dei Cattenei
Played by: Joanne Whalley
Plot connections: Accepts her demotion to chaste wife figure and ex-mistress as Rodrigo chooses another
The Assassin - THE  BORGIAS   wiki
Name: Lucrezia Borgia
Played by: Holliday Grainger
Plot connections: Thrives as a princess of the papal court
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Main and Supporting Cast

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Rodrigo takes a new mistress, much to the dismay of Vanozza. While Pope Alexander installs his beloved new mistress Giulia in the late Cardinal Orsini’s palace, his enemies are gathering against him. Pope Alexander VI appoints Cesare Cardinal of Valencia, allies with Sforza as Vice-Chancellor of the Curia, and seeks security by creating 13 new cardinals sympathetic to his rule.Della Rovere makes inquiries while Micheletto is firmly embraced by the Borgias as their loyal servant assassin.

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For the second episode we pick up at the banquet of Cardinal Orsino Orsini, thrown in ‘honor’ of the election of Pope Alexander VI and his acceptance of this result. He had previously accused Alexander of ‘simony’ but now wants to smooth things over for the good of the holy mother church.

Cesare and Alexander arrive at Cardinal Orsini’s palace and Alexander questions bringing a monkey with them, but Cesare assures him that the monkey will prove useful. Cesare immediately puts him to work tasting the wine brought to the table, to everyone’s amusement. The monkey has a little accident and Cesare excuses himself from the table under this guise to follow the wine server into the kitchen. He deposits the monkey onto a nearby table and finds the wine server mixing something with the handle of his dagger. After a brief scuffle and Cesare admitting that he was faster than expected, a dialogue begins between the two.

It is revealed that Orsini has employed the assassin to poison Pope Alexander. Cesare offers to double the assassin’s payment if he works for him instead, ridding the pope of this threat. The assassin drops his dagger as a sign of his acceptance of the offer and Cesare pins him to a wall, questioning his motive for this quick capitulation. The assassin states: “You will never meet another assassin like me.” At this point, the camera shows the monkey, helping himself to a cup of wine on a table. The assassin says someone as pitiless as Cesare needs someone as pitiless as him. Cesare releases him only to have the assassin push him back, quickly obtain both daggers and attack him with both at his neck. The assassin stops short of taking Cesare’s life and walks back into the kitchen.

The monkey is now lying motionless, presumed dead, on the table by the cup of wine earlier prepared by the assassin. The assassin picks it up and shows Cesare the results of his work, gently depositing the animal in a nearby bucket. Cesare takes the poison and pours it into the wine decanter, and hands it to the assassin, who is now presumably under Borgia employ. The assassin blends in with the many other wine servers, serves Orsini, and slips away. After Cesare has rejoined the table, Orsini begins to show signs of feeling unwell. Soon Orsini stands up foaming at the mouth, trying to speak of whom he accuses of this obvious act of poisoning but is unable to finish his sentence and collapses. Cesare ushers Pope Alexander from the room down to the waiting carriage. Alexander is outraged at this degrading attempt on his life and states they will take revenge on God’s behalf. The assassin meets Cesare in the alley and tells him not just the Pope but the entire family is in danger.

They arrive at the Borgia home just as Vanozza has put Lucrezia to bed. Outside, two men are climbing a ladder to enter the home when the assassin runs up and gets their attention, as they were expecting him. He immediately falls upon the nearest man and kills him. He then topples the ladder and falls upon the other hired killer, sustaining an injury in the process. Cesare witnesses all this and wonders at the assassin’s willingness to spare his family. We finally learn the assassin’s name: Micheletto.

Later, Juan brings Micheletto back to the papal palace to be questioned as a member of the household of Cardinal Orsini, who is now dead and presumed to be the mastermind of the plot to poison the pope. Cesare takes over Micheletto’s questioning and asks if he still wants to earn his trust. They discuss that Cardinal della Rovere must be sussed out as a fellow conspirator in the efforts to get rid of Pope Alexander and they solidify their newly forged relationship with Cesare flogging Micheletto’s back so that he will have evidence of his story: that he was tortured and released and now hates the Borgias and wants to help Della Rovere get rid of Pope Alexander. Cardinal Della Rovere takes the bait and begins with a gathering of like-minded cardinals to begin finding ways to rid themselves of Pope Alexander.

Giulia Farnese makes her first appearance; in the confessional box with Pope Alexander. She seeks forgiveness for terminating her pregnancy by a distasteful husband. She is no longer intimate with him and he has retired to a far off castle. Pope Alexander seems immediately taken with the young woman and her plight. She rejects the idea of entering a nunnery, though she is destitute and without family in the area. Alexander takes it upon himself to make her his ‘ward’ and installs her in the palace of Cardinal Orsini, though it is still disheveled from the previous day’s events. There is revealed to be a passage that leads from the palace to inside the Vatican walls. A flirtation ensues and Alexander encourages Giulia to make use of the tunnel when in need of spiritual comfort. Giulia points out that the tunnel works both ways and that “His Holiness must feel free to visit, if God’s love were ever to leave him wanting”. Alexander makes immediate use of the tunnel that night and his visit is observed by a lone female servant (Maria). Cardinal della Rovere and Johannes Burchart, the college’s canon lawyer, find that a pope can be deposed on charges of lechery, both public and notorious. They soon learn of Giulia Farnese’s installment in Orsini’s former palace and decide this is the opportunity they have been waiting for to take Pope Alexander down.

Alexander has commissioned a portrait of Giulia Farnese and Lucrezia happens upon her sitting. She inquires of the painter who his subject is and notes that she is beautiful and he is not doing her justice. Giulia introduces herself as being at Lucrezia’s service, gifts a seahorse necklace to her and with Lucrezia’s kiss on Giulia’s cheek, they become fast friends. During her tuck-in, Lucrezia mentions her new friend and the circumstances under which they met to Vanozza. The next day, Vanozza storms into the papal rooms announcing that Alexander has a ‘new *****’ and causing a stir which is noted by Della Rovere. She insists upon a portrait of her own, seemingly accepting that her time has passed.

Micheletto informs Cesare of the cardinals’ meetings and the efforts to depose his father. They decide this evidence must be silenced. Micheletto brings the young female servant to a gathering of the cardinals siding with Della Rovere and she describes the pope’s nightly visits to Giulia’s bedchambers and the activities that take place. She had earlier described to Micheletto that she had “seen things within these walls that would shock a brazen courtesan.” Based on this evidence, Cardinal Della Rovere prepares for his confrontation with Pope Alexander.

Lucrezia, inspired by Giulia’s portrait sitting, is now sitting for her own and Giulia is present to informally begin Lucrezia’s instruction in feminine wiles. Lucrezia wants to understand why her mother hates Giulia and Giulia explains that women do not control their own destiny, men do and thus, women hate each other. She continues, rather than hate each other or men, women must learn to protect themselves. Lucrezia asks what weapons does she have and Giulia answers, her beauty. Lucrezia: “Is that a weapon?” Giulia: “It can be deadly, when well used.” Lucrezia relishes their girl talk.

As Pope Alexander moves to insulate himself against the plot he has learned of by expanding the college of cardinals, Micheletto empties della Rovere’s home of all servants, save the young female who earlier presented her evidence against Alexander. Micheletto vigorously ‘courts’ the servant and della Rovere lays bare his charges of lechery against Pope Alexander and leaves to bring the girl and her testimony forth, spitting at the pope’s feet. He arrives home to darkened corridors – and the bloody body of the young female servant in his bed. He runs from the room screaming for help. Cesare comes to investigate and Micheletto explains Cardinal della Rovere’s secret lechery and apparent murder of the only witness against Pope Alexander. While leaving della Rovere’s home it is confirmed: with this act, Micheletto has earned the trust of Cesare Borgia.

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  • "What would Rome be without a good plot?" - Rodrigo
  • "Someone as pitiless as you, needs someone as pitiless as me." - Micheletto to Cesare Borgia
  • "I've seen things within these walls that would shock a brazen courtesan." - Maria to Micheletto
  • "They lick your hand one minute, bite your hand the next. Everyone knows what you do with the monkey that bites you...wring its neck" - Cesare
  • "I fear I may like the holiness as well, I am still young your holiness, and my body am sure, could find and give much happiness as my soul could find peace" - Giulia to Rodrigo

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Who died?
How did they die?
Cardinal Orsino Orsini Poisoned wine, on the orders of Cesare Borgia
Maria stab wounds, delivered by Micheletto
Micheletto's cohorts stab wounds, Micheletto

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  • Best Moment: Cesare chasing Lucrezia around the courtyard after she spies on him with a woman
  • Biggest Shocker: Micheletto kills Maria after 'courting' her

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  • Rodrigo did appoint 12 new cardinals (in 1499) to those who would pay the most for their offices
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How did this episode differ from actual events? Compare the facts with the fiction below!
  • Vanozza is referred to by Lucrezia as having Spanish beauty
  • Giulia's portrait is painted by Pinturicchio, she is holding a lamb to be made into a unicorn. Pinturicchio may have painted her as Our Lady in a room in the Borgia Apartments.
  • Giulia came to the Pope to confess her sins
  • Cardinal Orsini's name was "Orsino" Orsini
  • Cardinal Julius Versucci is fictional
  • Vanozza was of the Roman or Mantuan Cattanei, a noble Italian family
  • The famous portrait of a young woman thought to be Giulia holding a unicorn is actually by Raphael, c. 1505
  • The pope noticed Giulia while being courted by Adriana de Mila's son Orsino Orsini; the pope conducted the marriage rites in 1489.
  • Cardinal Orsini's name was Giambattista Orsini
  • Cardinal Piccolomini's first name is Francesco, later Pope Pius III

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