The Borgias (2011–2013)
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The Face of Death 

Thanks to Lucezia's remedy for cantarella, Rodrigo makes a miraculous recovery to everyone's surprise, but there is a Sforza plot to kill the Pope's family.


Kari Skogland


Neil Jordan (creator), Guy Burt




Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Jeremy Irons ... Rodrigo Borgia
François Arnaud ... Cesare Borgia
Holliday Grainger ... Lucrezia Borgia
Joanne Whalley ... Vanozza Cattaneo
Lotte Verbeek ... Giulia Farnese
Sean Harris ... Micheletto
Thure Lindhardt ... Rufio
Gina McKee ... Caterina Sforza
Peter Sullivan ... Cardinal Ascanio Sforza
Colm Feore ... Giuliano Della Rovere
David Dencik ... Cardinal Orsini
Sebastian De Souza ... Alfonso of Aragon
Peter Stebbings ... Cardinal De Luca
William Ruane ... Papal Physician
Barna Ilyes Barna Ilyes ... Dominican Monk (as Barna Ilyés)


With Pope Alexander poisoned but still alive, Cesare takes charge of the situation. It takes him little time to learn that Della Rovere was behind the assassination attempt but his mother suggests he think of what they will do if Alexander die. He seeks Cardinal Sforza's assistance in learning who aspires to being Pope. Della Rovere is arrested but manages to escape. He also learns that there is a second plot, this one concocted by Caterina Sforza and her new henchman. She means to kill all of the Borgias. After Alexander recovers he doesn't understand why, on the verge of death, he did not see the face of God. Written by garykmcd

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Release Date:

14 April 2013 (USA) See more »

Filming Locations:

Korda Studios, Etyek, Hungary See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

16 : 9
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Did You Know?


Papal Physician: [after Lucrezia has instructed the Papal physician on how to force the liquid charcoal down her poisoned father's throat] But this is witchcraft!
Lucrezia Borgia: [Pointing a dagger at the physician] This is physic!
Cesare Borgia: Do what she says... every detail... and if his soul departs. I shall insure it does do so alone!
See more »

Alternate Versions

The UK release of this episode was cut, the distributor was required to remove sight of cockfighting. In line with the Cinematograph Films (Animals) Act 1937. See more »


The Borgias Main Titles
Written by Trevor Morris
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User Reviews

"I saw the face of death"
4 August 2019 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

Am immensely fond of 'The Borgias', a gorgeously produced, often powerfully scored, compelling and mostly well acted show, with many unforgettable individual scenes. Where the writing and pacing took half a season to settle but had mostly little problems with them when they did, though there were exceptions and there definitely could have been less of the Della Rovere subplot. Season 2 was a good deal better than the first season where it was more consistent in quality, not many seasons for a good number of shows where all the episodes are great.

Season 3 starts off with an electrifying bang in one of 'The Borgias' best episodes. Watching the previous season's finale "The Confession", one would think that this season opener would struggle to equal that episode's quality. Although there was not a bad episode of 'The Borgias' (personal opinion) beforehand, "The Confession" was in a completely different league to every other episode seen before, no matter how many impossible to forget scenes there were in the previous episodes. Struggle to equal this did not, for me "The Face of Death" was every bit on "The Confession's" level.

What immediately grabbed my attention and made my hairs stand up on the back of my neck was the opening, masterful and truly powerful in every way and a masterpiece of acting, character chemistry and editing. It saw everybody working together for a major cause, all on each others' side, and serving a big role in it, for pretty much the first time in 'The Borgias' where before there was continual tension in the family and one would never think everybody would work together in this way. We even see dubious characters being trusted in their role and their action, when before it would not have been heard of (i.e. Micheletto).

Everything about "The Face of Death" was captivating, especially the beginning but everything with the Sforzas intrigues and has tension, also advancing things and setting things up for what is about to come, without being dragged out. The way the Borgias care for each other and Rodrigo here and the lengths that are gone through to keep them protected is tense and touching. Much happens but it doesn't feel too much in terms of how much happens or the impact it has, to the point that it becomes exhausting. Rodrigo may be a scheming and deliberately inconsistent character, but hardly found myself rooting for his death (far from it, the show would feel very strange without him) as he is also a great one and always one of the more interesting ones.

While the episode is generally setting up for what is to come in the season, plot and characterisation advance and it doesn't feel like filler. All the performances are strong, with relatively underused characters from the previous season serving a major role here (i.e. Vanozza). Lucrezia has come on such a long way and while she was already starting to become more like the bat out of hell historical figure she is famous for last season that felt established in Season 3. Jeremy Irons and Gina McKee fare strongly here, as do Holliday Grainger and Joanne Whalley, but to me the best performance came from a darkly intense Francois Arnaud. Peter Sullivan also does a great job as the increasingly interesting Cardinal Sforza, who you are not sure whether to trust. The writing here shows the big improvement since the show began, something that grew throughout the show's run and a growth that doesn't stop here.

Visually, "The Face of Death" is top class. The opening ties with Juan's burial in "The Confession" as the best looking sequence of all the episodes of 'The Borgias', in every regard but particularly the editing. The sumptuous costumes and equally stunning interiors and scenery still remain and beautifully complemented as ever by the photography. The music is beautiful and intense, while placed appropriately and never being too loud, and the main theme for 'The Borgias' will never fail to induce goosebumps (not many shows evoke that reaction from me). The opening titles sequence is one of my favourites of all time, whether film or television, those images stay with you forever.

Concluding, 'The Borgias' is at the top of its game here. 10/10

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