Throughout The Borgias, the long-running conflict has been between Pope Alexander VI and Cesare Borgia over the path Cesare's life should take. Since he was made a bishop at the age of only 15, it's clear that his father wants him to be a master of church politics and intrigue rather than a soldier. The role of a warrior was bequeathed to Cesare's meat-headed brother Juan, now thankfully absent from the show in exile and disgrace for murdering the common-born father of his niece.
Cesare has always chaffed at his position in the church, and over the course of the series he has proven again and again to basically be a 16th century version of Batman... if Batman finished off his bat-business with stab wounds. He even has his own Boy Wonder, Michelotto Corella, and it's him I want to gush about for the moment.
In the series, Michelotto was an assassin sent to murder the pope, but he switched his allegiance to Cesare after Cesare bested him with a sword. In real life the two had been friends from childhood, even going to the University of Pisa together. Regardless, Michelotto has two character traits that serve him well as the pet badass of someone who is already an unbeatable badass himself. One, he is a merciless, ruthless, efficient killer. Two, he is fanatically, almost touchingly devoted to Cesare. The result is a feared retainer that needs no one to wreak holy havoc at the behest of his employer.
Which is why the idea of him recruiting a posse is terrifying.
After Cesare's masquerade involving fake cannons managed to repel the French army from the gates of Rome, the smarting King Charles decides to swing by the convent of St. Cecilia to rape, loot and pillage. One of the sisters there is a former lover of Cesare's, who fled him after he had her husband killed. He remains in love with her and is a generous benefactor of the order, even though she refuses to reopen affections with him.
The French troops raze the convent, and Michelotto is tasked with bringing the sad news of Cesare's sweetie's demise. Michelotto recognizes a scarf left at the scene as belonging to an elite order of especially violent French troops. The kind of people who cut off ears and wear them as necklaces. With vengeance on his mind, Cesare asks Michelotto if he knows of any more "stray dogs" like himself. Michelotto admits that he knows a few, even from the great families.
It's chilling to watch Michelotto walk through Rome, slowly being joined by men every bit as hard-looking as he is. Upon meeting Cesare, he invites them to reclaim honor and wealth by helping him capture the order that sacked St. Cecilia. He arms them with every cutting-edge and innovative piece of armament he has, and they ride masked into the night to ambush the offending troop.
Their prey walks right into an incredibly stupid trap, a mysteriously abandoned wedding feast that they promptly sit down to enjoy. The stray dogs come from all sides like an army of Batmen and soon more than half are dead and the rest to be tortured by Michelotto with a pair of pliers and an extreme definition of the Purple Nurple.
Eventually, a healthy round of torture reveals that King Charles stores the gunpowder for his famous cannons in barrels marked "fruit," and the stray dogs ride once more to avert a battle between French and Italian forces that is sure to end in mutual massacre. While the Pope places his hope in God providing rain, or barring that the two forces will be so weak after the fight that the French threat will no longer be dangerous and the Italian states will be easy to rule after being decimated, the stray dogs sneak into the French camp and detonate the gunpowder. The battle is all but lost from this point.
The next morning comes another of the many conversations between the Holy Father and his son about who Cesare is meant to be. The pope reminds him time and again that he is a man of God, not of war. Yet Cesare proves just as often that his abilities as a spy, a soldier, an assassin, an intriguer and, most of all, as a goddamn Batman are just too good to waste wearing cardinal red. Once it was just him, a sword and a whole lot of cleverness. Then Michelotto came along and he had a partner who was every bit as good as he.
Now they have a posse. I would not want to be the next man to cross Cesare Borgia.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.