SPOILERS: 'The Borgias' Season 2 Premiere Puts Brothers In Arms
Jeremy Irons and Francois Arnaud talk about their roles in the historical Showtime series
Showtime's The Borgias, starring Jeremy Irons as the ruthless 15th-century Pope Alexander VI and Montreal actor Francois Arnaud as his equally scheming son, Cesare Borgia, returned for its second season on Sunday night after almost a year's hiatus. But the violence and debauchery is just as plentiful as it ever was.
The season two premiere of the Neil Jordan-created The Borgias, entitled "The Borgia Bull," foreshadowed an upcoming season that will explore rifts in the powerful family. Most notably, that between Cesare and his younger brother Juan, played by David Oakes. The tension between the brothers mounted last season, exacerbated by the fact that the younger Juan was chosen by his father to represent the family on the battlefield as their token soldier — a position to which the cleric Cesare felt more suited.
The brothers' hatred comes to a head in the premiere, leading to a sword fight that has to be split up by Cesare's advisor and hired assassin Micheletto (Sean Harris) before it turns fatal.
But not all sibling relations on The Borgias are marked by rivalry. Cesare, who has emerged as the central antihero of the series, continues to harbor not-quite-brotherly feelings for his younger sister Lucrezia (Holliday Grainger), who has returned to the Vatican after her failed marriage and the birth of her first baby.
Incestuously inclined or not, the morally ambiguous Cesare has quite the fan following. "It's a big year for Cesare," Arnaud told ZapToIt about his character. "He really comes of age. He grows into Cesare Borgia. He's not that angsty teenage boy anymore. He still struggles with his father, and he's involved in all that. He's very much ready to take control of the family now. As his father gets older, he's a little less able to make sound decisions."
The Oscar-winning Irons also finds it important to emphasize the contradictory sides of his own character, Rodrigo Borgia. "I don't want to make him a sympathetic man," Irons told Edmonton Journal. I want him to be an inconsistent man, a man where, one moment, you think, 'Christ, that's terrible,' and some moments you think, 'Oh, he's wonderful.' Like all of us, I want to try to create someone that is neither black nor white, but veering through the greys, sometimes hitting a bit of black and sometimes hitting a bit of white."
As season two progresses, the conflict between Cesare and Juan will continue to fester, though the battle-hungry Cesare will get a few unofficial chances to wage guerrilla warfare against the retreating French army. While Cesare grows into the historical role that made his name synonymous with treachery, Rodrigo will start to worry about how he will be remembered.
"Because he begins to worry about his legacy and the poverty of Rome, we also get to see the squalor, not just the beauty of it," said The Borgias executive producer James Flynn.
Catch The Borgias Sunday nights at 9 p.m. on Showtime.
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