"The Beautiful Deception" is one of the biggest examples of this, meaning one does feel that the show has settled, that things are moving forward, the writing has more tautness and less soap and the pace has tightened with more going on. Up to this point of 'The Borgias', "The Beautiful Deception" gets my vote as the best episode of the twelve, in a show where even the weaker episodes were solid, and as far as Season 2 goes it's one of the best too.
Some great exchanges can be seen here, there is a lot of intrigue between Caterina and Charles and Caterina and Cesare, while the sympathetic and forceful chemistry between Rodrigo and Lucrezia and their dialogue together is telling. Rodrigo's warning to Juan is one of his best lines of the entire show, and although it could have been funny if said by someone else Jeremy Irons says it with a lot of venom and you can tell that Rodrigo means it.
Lucrezia's character and development has come on enormously as has Holliday Grainger, really felt her anguish in her grief and although the traits that made her such a fascinating historical character in reality were present from halfway through the first season, Giovanni's treatment of her being the catalyst, the vengeance and scheming is brought to the forefront here in one of the show's most sinister scenes. Loved Cesare's, the most interesting character here, steel in his scene with Charles (brought out with great confidence by Francois Arnaud), his tenderness towards Lucrezia and have always loved his scenes with Rodrigo.
Juan by now has become truly detestable with few redeeming qualities. David Oakes embodies this. Jeremy Irons brings his usual gravitas and distinctively melifluous voice to Rodrigo, especially good in his chemistry with Grainger and his reaction to Juan's confession, that was shocking and exciting to watch. Gina McKee is both sensual and cunning, living up to Caterina's nickname.
Visually, 'The Borgias' continues to have very high production values with "The Beautiful Deception", that was never a problem and continually one of the best of the good things about the show. The exquisitely designed and richly coloured costumes and scenery and interiors are wow-worthy, and the beautiful photography rivals period dramas on film. The music still has the beauty and intensity that were present in the previous episodes. Meanwhile the opening titles sequences and main theme still give me the chills. one of my favourite opening titles sequences of all time (film and television). The main theme is incredible, the sheer intensity, grandeur and drama (already sending chills down the spine and induces goosebumps before the episode's even begun) makes it one of my favourite main themes for any show. Matched by splendidly and cleverly designed visuals.
My only complaints are the dull and unnecessary Della Rovere subplot which doesn't really go anywhere in this episode and a pretty too over the top love scene.
Otherwise, an excellent episode and one of the best ones of 'The Borgias'. 9/10