'The Borgias' Season 2 Premiere: Recap and Review of 'The Borgia Bull'

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The long wait is over: The entire Borgia clan is back on Showtime, and we couldn't be happier. The Season 2 premiere aired Easter Sunday at 10pm (but had been made available to watch online last month.) When last we saw "The Borgias," the entire family had gathered at the birth of Lucrezia's illegitimate child in a surprisingly tender moment that differed greatly in tone from the rest of a blood-soaked and lusty season.

"The Borgia Bull" opens with a young boy pouring poison into a vial of wine. Cardinal della Rovere enters the room and takes the wine away to be used during a religious service. He drinks the wine, and by the time he places a communion wafer upon the tongue of the last member of the congregation, we understand that Cesare Borgia has orchestrated this latest in a long string of poisonings. Cesare wants della Rovere to work for the Borgias, but della Rovere hasn't changed his mind since the Season 1 finale.

Micheletto, one of the most underrated characters of the show, appears in the next scene. And within seconds, he's doing what he does best -- murdering people with deadly skill and cat-like grace. He may be underused, but perhaps the fleeting nature of his on-screen time is what makes Micheletto such an intriguing character.

In a surprising moment of comedy, we see Jeremy Irons scrambling to get one lover out the door as his established mistress Giuilia Farnese returns earlier than expected. It was unexpectedly funny, and it's nice to establish early on that the wonderful Lotte Verbeek will be back for more of her tantalizing charms. Also great fun was watching the Pope use his baby grandson as a means of blowing off the French ambassador. Is there no member of his family the Pope won't use to gain the upper hand?

The episode really finds its groove in the scenes where Cesare and Juan are at each other's throats. As the Pope tries to get his revenge on the powerful families who betrayed the Borgia clan in Season 1, he struggles to keep Cesare and Juan from attacking each other, snarling at them to remember that they, too, are family. Tensions are high between the brothers this season, and their animosity has really escalated. The sword fight between them, while broken up a bit by another scene involving the Pope on a hunt, is fraught with tension throughout. And the horse race between the brothers is also a great way to showcase their hatred of each other. If history is anything to go by, we'd guess Neil Jordan is setting us up for a finale where Cesare might just get pushed over the edge and kill off his annoying younger brother.

And of course, the strange love between Cesare and his sister Lucrezia continues this season, as well. In fascinating scene where the two stand over Lucrezia's son, Cesare speaks of impossible love, and how bad relationships can become addicting. And who would know better than he?

Perhaps Giulia, who is finding it increasingly hard to connect with and please her lover, the Pope. But she gets some help from Cesare's mother, Vanozza, and from a female artist who catches Rodrigo's eye. It's this artist, in part, who inspires the Pope to plan a "bread and circuses" event to endear himself to the populace (and give him an outlet for some bad behavior.)

Besides Giulia Farnese, a whole host of minor Season 1 characters are back for this season: the French King, Prince Alfonso of Naples, Ursula Bonadeo, Paolo, Catarina Sforza, and more. That means the groundwork has already been laid for plenty of murder, sex, and scheming. And if the premiere is anything to go by, "The Borgias" has found its stride in Season 2. More than just a rote period piece, this season is exploring complex themes of authority, sexuality, and jealousy. Like the Pope himself, this season of "The Borgias" appears to be at the height of its power.

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