‘Da Vinci’s Demons’ Review: “The Magician”
We’re now four episodes in on ‘Da Vinci’s Demons’ and the show has proved that it’s definitely worth watching. Though it fits into the rough mold of most pay-cable shows by featuring action and a soupcon of nudity, Tom Riley's Leonardo Da Vinci is a fascinating character, and the season (which is now half over) is building well. Tonight's episode "The Magician" continues the adventure and intrigue.
The episode opens with a young Leonardo Da Vinci getting his first art commission -- a story explained by Verrocchio -- which led to Leonardo working with Verrocchio (and reveals a cameo from Sandro Botticelli). Meanwhile, Da Vinci is trying to paint Lucrezia, but is distracted by the statue behind her. She calls him out on it, and he says some things that get her sexually excited, but he can’t keep his eyes off the statue. He calls it a puzzle that he can figure out.
The Pope plots to build a new cathedral with great art, and wants to pay for it by looting Florence, so he sends Girolamo on a mission. Lorenzo Medici was tipped off to suspect Bechhi in the last episode, and so he continues to complain about him to his brother, while Girolamo kills a village for not knowing enough about Abraham. He spares one to send a message to the Medicis. Girolamo reveals that Florence controls the supply of alum, which dyes all the clothes in Italy. The town they slaughtered mined the alum, so they’ve hurt the Medicis.
As Leonardo crafts more repeating cannons, he’s summoned to the palace, alone. Lorenzo is having a meeting that reminds of the famous 'The Untouchables' table scene ("Enthusiasms"), as he talks about loyalty and vision. He reveals the alum mine was attacked, and that it’s an act of war. In this case he kills the messenger, as it was he who read and broke the seal of Girolamo’s message. Lorenzo and his brother Giulino argue over how to proceed. Giulino thinks Lorenzo’s getting too vicious, but Lorenzo waves him off.
Verrocchio and Lucrezia watch the public execution of the messenger, and cringe. Giulino meets with Bechhi, and Bechhi says that he’s innocent, but Lorenzo won’t listen to the truth. He admits there is a traitor, and suspects the traitor will get to Lorenzo when his guard has dropped. Bechhi also thinks Guilino is the only one who can root out the spy. Lorenzo and Da Vinci discuss their weapons, but Leonard thinks he can win through a simple distraction, but Lorenzo just wants the cannons. The two go to a field to meet Girolamo, who offers a list of demands, which includes having Da Vinci work for the Pope. Girolamo also reveals he knows how many cannons they have, and the size of his troops, who should -- casualties aside -- be able to take the city easily. They have twenty four hours to comply.
Leonardo is sketching a pomegranate when Clarice comes to ask why he’s not working on more guns. She returns some of his sketches, which leads to a discussion of the statue that attracts Da Vinci’s eyes. She gives him some clues about it, but then sends him off to make guns, and then gives him the statue. Guilino meets with Lucrezia to see about who the spy is, and wants her to campaign for Bechhi. Though they need help with the cannons, Da Vinci is distracted by the statue, and bemoans the endless nature of war. In a moment of passion, he then blows up his workshop.
Lucrezia goes to church to confess, while a horse filled with propaganda enters the town to spread the word of the attack. In a bar, Da Vinci gets into a verbal fight with Captain Dragonetti, and as Leonardo stumbles home, he envisions the violence that may happen. He struggles to figure out something when Lucrezia comes to him, which leads to a sex scene (of course). They then discuss pomegranates, and she hopes he kills Girolamo. He’s then confronted by Lorenzo, who’s furious about the destroyed guns. Lorenzo throws a pomegranate, and Leonardo has an idea.
Leonardo goes with Lorenzo to the field where both are to be surrendered. Lorenzo is about to surrender when Da Vinci interrupts and suggests it’s Girolamo who should surrender as he’s devised a cluster bomb and has a giant crossbow to deliver the payloads. Girolamo accepts defeat by quoting something the mystic said to Da Vinci in the first episode, which makes Leonardo curious. Afterwards, Leonardo reveals his giant crossbow doesn’t work. Lorenzo suggests they can’t keep bluffing Rome forever.
Someone dressed as a priest comes to Bechhi’s cell, and knocks out the guard. It’s Lucrezia, and Bechhi figures out she’s the spy. She then kills him with a poisoned knife. Guilino thinks he was poisoned, while Lorenzo thinks the traitor is dead by suicide. Captain Dragonetti is tasked with arresting someone as Da Vinci dresses to go to the court. But though a party is being held in his honor, Leonardo's distracted by a painting that reveals he needs to go find the vault of heaven, which has the book of leaves. Lorenzo gives him a medal, and is applauded for his brilliance. Da Vinci then pitches his expedition when he’s arrested for sodomy.
Though much of this episode was about moving the pieces around, the central concern about pomegranates gave it a build to Da Vinci's latest clever act, and that's kind of how the show defines itself -- It's like a detective show in that every episode seems to present a problem that Leonardo has to solve. Along the way, someone's probably going to get killed, and there will be nudity. That's not to say the show is too formulaic, but after four episodes it's definitely mapped out how it plays with the long term goals, while also giving each episode a hook. And on that level the show is a lot of fun to watch. The cast is game, and it never feels stuck in the mud (at least not yet).
But what did you think? Join us next week for the fifth episode of the season "The Tower."