The Assassin is the second episode of season one, as well as the second episode of the series. It was written and directed by Neil Jordan.


Plot synopsisEdit

Cesare enlists Micheletto to spy on Cardinal Della Rovere, who seeks to find a legal way to depose Rodrigo as Pope. He is advised by scholar Johannes Burchart that a Pope who engages in "public and notorious lechery" could be deposed. Rodrigo begins an affair with Giulia Farnese, provoking the outrage of his former mistress, Vanozza, and threatening to provide Della Rovere with just the evidence he needs. On Micheletto's information, the Pope corners Burchard and demands his support in expanding the College of Cardinals to shore up his position. Cesare sets Micheletto to work preventing Della Rovere and a witness from presenting evidence against the pope.[1]

Plot summaryEdit

Immediately following the murder of Orsino Orsini, Micheletto Corella informs Cesare that there is also a plot against his family. They arrive at Cesare's home to save his mother and sister, Vanozza and Lucrezia. Juan arrives at the palace of Cardinal Orsini and directs his soldiers to arrest Orsini's household staff. Later, Cesare meets with his father, the Pope and Della Rovere, who tells them Orsini was killed by poison. Soon after, Juan brings Micheletto into the room, having arrested him outside the gates. The Pope recognizes him as one of the servants pouring wine during the dinner, and Juan orders he be tortured for information. Before Juan can begin his interrogation, Cesare tells him that he will do it instead. Cesare tells Micheletto that he will release him, and to spy to Della Rovere.[2]

After briefly torturing Micheletto, Cesare discusses Orsini's murder with the Pope. Rodrigo tells Cesare that he is being made a Cardinal, and Cesare begs him to reconsider, and give him control of the Papal armies, but is denied again in favour of Juan. In addition, Rodrigo tells Cesare that he intends to find a husband for Lucrezia, in order to make an ally of an enemy. Meanwhile, Micheletto arrives at Della Rovere's home, where he gains his trust by showing the Cardinal his wounded back. In the Vatican, the Pope hears the confession of Giulia Farnese, a noble woman in Rome. She confesses that she ended her pregnancy, a sin which "only the Pope can forgive". The Pope allows her to reside in Cardinal Orsini's now empty palace while she performs her penance.[2]

With the aid of Micheletto, Cardinal della Rovere assembles a large group of Cardinals and tells them of his plot to depose the Pope on accusation of corruption and simony. Unbeknownst to the Cardinals, Micheletto is eavesdropping on their conversation. Later, Micheletto brings Johannes Burchart to Della Rovere, who seeks his advice on deposing the Pope. The Deacon Cardinal tells Della Rovere that the only way to depose and Pope is to prove public lechery. Meanwhile, the Pope makes use of an underground tunnel constructed by Cardinal Orsini, between his palace and the Vatican, has sex with Giulia Farnese, and commissions a painting of her. Lucrezia meets Giulia while she is being painted, and they quickly become friends. When Lucrezia tells her mother of her encounter with Giulia, and that the Pope had commissioned a painting of her, Vannozza meets with him the following day to accuse him of taking Farnese as his concubine.[2]

Micheletto meets with Cesare to report on what he overheard in Della Rovere's home. Cesare informs the Pope of Della Rovere's plot to depose him, but Rodrigo is prepared to overcome it. Micheletto speaks with a young maid working in Orsini's palace, who claims she witnessed the Pope entering Giulia's bedchamber. The Pope visits with Burchard to discuss expanding the College of Cardinals by 13, and puts him to work on finding a precedent for an expansion of that size. In another meeting of Della Rovere's Cardinals, he tells them that they must prove the Pope's notorious and public lechery, and brings in the young maid to tell them what she witnessed. Micheletto reports the maid's story to Cesare, who tells Micheletto to kill her. During Consistory, the Pope tells the College of Cardinals of his intentions to expand the College, which includes making Cesare a Cardinal. This is met by accusations of lechery by Cardinal Della Rovere, who storms out of Consistory. He retires to his home, where he finds the young maid murdered on his bed.[2]


Jeremy Irons as Rodrigo Borgia
François Arnaud as Cesare Borgia
Holliday Grainger as Lucrezia Borgia
Joanne Whalley as Vanozza Cattaneo
Lotte Verbeek as Giulia Farnese
David Oakes as Juan Borgia
Sean Harris as Micheletto Corella
Simon McBurney as Johannes Burchart
Colm Feore as Cardinal Giuliano Della Rovere
Peter Sullivan as Cardinal Ascanio Sforza
László Konter as Cardinal Colonna
Vernon Dobtcheff as Cardinal Versucci
Bosco Hogan as Cardinal Piccolomini
Attila Árpa as Assassin 1
Montserrat Lombard as Maria
Jalaal Hartley as Pinturicchio
Olivér Tót as Della Rovere's Cook


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  • Rodrigo mentions that Lucrezia is fourteen years old. Due to the episode being set in 1492, this makes Lucrezia two years older than her historical counterpart who was twelve at the time.


  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3
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