‘Da Vinci’s Demons’ Review: “The Blood of Brothers”
With tonight's 'Da Vinci's Demons' the series is segueing into the heart of its season 2 intrigue as Da Vinci is trying to catch up to Riario in their quest to get to the new world and find the book of leaves. But he's got to get out of Florence first, and before he can do that he has to save the city. So, yeah, there's a lot on his plate.
The episode starts with Lorenzo still threatening to kill Leonardo, and Leo explains the transfusion. Lorenzo then finds out that his brother has died. He wants to go home, but it's perceived as too dangerous a risk. The city is in chaos, with many looting and killing those around them. Lorenzo admits that he never wanted to be a leader, and feels that the city is lost because he has no heir. Vanessa then reveals that she carries the child of his brother. With a little hope restored, Lorenzo is re-energized.
Zoroaster and Lucrezia bob up from the water. She passed him a hairpin when they kissed before hitting the water, so they're safe for now. Riario is on his ship and chats with Nico, trying to sell Nico on the idea that he's a better master and to help him in his quest. Pazzi and his people are still trying to foment revolution by burning an effigy of the Medicis, which Leonardo and Verrocchio spy, and Leonardo comes up with a plan to amplify speech that involves brass. Clarice is approached by the managers of the Medici bank, and confess that their investors are panicking, and without proving Lorenzo is alive, they want to take over. Clarice sends them off.
Having set up his brass speakers (as it were), Leonardo gets Lorenzo to give a speech. Da Vinci's plan works, and Lorenzo gives a powerful speech about how Florence has always embraced democracy, and it works. Clarice then sends out Dragonetti to apprehend the conspirators, and as the people cheer for Lorenzo and put him on a horse, many of the opposing forces are killed or captured (like Francesco Pazzi). Revolution thwarted... for now.
Back in Rome, the pope meets with King Ferranti and his son. The Naples king is tasked with destroying Lorenzo's inner circle, and they plot to take over Florence by applying unrelenting pressure. Da Vinci meets with Lorenzo, who wants Leo to stay in Florence instead of heading off to fetch the book of leaves. Da Vinci pleads his case that it's a mission he got from Lorenzo's dead grandfather, but Lorenzo won't provide fiscal support. Clarice meets with her brother and Francesco Pazzi and tells them both they'll be executed, while she plots to wipe out the Pazzi name. Lucrezia and Zoroaster dress to head to the city, while Riario speaks to his new female companion about his skin map. She notes that the map has numbers which provide a longitude and latitude. She then tries to seduce him by talking about Solomon and taking off her clothes. Riario succumbs.
Leonardo talks with Verrocchio about his visions when Zoroaster shows up. Zoroaster explains that Riario got the Basilisk, and Da Vinci freaks out, but Zoroaster says that Lucrezia can help. She tells him about Amerigo Vespucci, and tells him that she wants the pope dead more than anything else, and that's why she's been involved in the machinations she has, and the two mourn the life they could have had together. Clarice and Lorenzo oversea the executions of her brother and Francesco Pazzi, who are hung. Leonardo and Zoroaster bicker and Zoroaster reveals he'll go on this quest to save Nico, but doesn't care about the Book of Leaves. Leo arrives to find Amerigo's daughter is at the door, telling him that the man is dead. But Da Vinci sees through Vespucci theatrics, and Amerigo emerges from his coffin to help Leo. The plan: head to Pisa, steal a boat.
Clarice meets with Vanessa, and is not impressed but takes her in. Lorenzo buries his brother, and in doing so looks at the sword given to them from his grandfather, which he plans to put in his brother's tomb. But in inspecting the sword, he realizes it is connected to what Leonardo said earlier. Leonardo shows up at the palace and says goodbye to Vanessa when Leo's told by his father that Lorenzo wants a word. Lorenzo reveals the secret of his grandfather's sword, which has two blades. Lorenzo gives his approval and one of the blades to Leonardo for his journey -- though no money.
So, this episode of 'Da Vinci's Demons' was all about setting up the rest of the season, which means sending Tom Riley's Da Vinci on his way to America. Where last season was more episodic, and more drawn from the HBO template of gratuitous nudity and violence, this season seems to struggle with both. As for the former point, it's exciting that they've embraced an eight hour narrative over eight episodes, but this second episode may turn out to be one of the weakest of the season. As for the latter point, when characters appeared nude here it felt more like items from a checklist than something motivated. Still, nudity, I guess.
This wasn't so much a bad episode as one that had to do a lot of work to set up all that's coming. As I've seen the next episode, I can say it's worth sticking around. The positives, as always, were Da Vinci's big invention (here the brass sound reflectors) and watching Pazzi get his. When it comes to shows like this, you never know how long they might string along a character's death, but this was to the point, and his expression right before he was hung is a brilliant character choice. "Meh."
The main concern going forward is how the show is going to keep the story in Florence going in a way that's as interesting as Da Vinci's quest to find the Book of Leaves. It would be odd but not unprecedented for the show to abandon the majority of its cast while Leonardo goes globe hopping, but it also seems unlikely. How much fun those machinations turn out to be is unknown, but Leonardo won't have as many familiar faces to bounce off of in the future. That could go either way, but this season is off to a promising start that it hopefully can deliver on.