Da Vinci’s Demons’ ups the stakes with the latest episode by bringing in Dracula to its fictional (but historically set) world, as Leonardo must free a man from the famed vampire. That’s a pretty good hook for an episode, and tonight’s ‘Demons’ is one of the best so far.

Picking up where “The Tower” left off, the episode opens with Leonardo asking “Is this madness?” to Al-Rahim. He has no idea how he could see himself hung upside down in his childhood, and Al-Rahim suggests he is a man with a destiny who’s been watched by great men for some time. Al-Rahim tells him to find the book of leaves for answers. Lorenzo watches gladiators fight in the hopes of hiring some mercenaries, while Clarice talks with Giulino. She wants a date for the upcoming revels (and lays the flirt on), but he is on the hunt for the spy. She also has to drink a horrible concoction in the hopes of getting pregnant.

Al-Rahim says the map to South America is written in code, and tells Leonardo the name of a person who might be able to help him it. The problem: he’s being held by a warlord. Leonardo goes on horseback to find the man, and finds the mapmaker on the road, though it’s a vision. He then wakes up already on his quest, they’ve been on the road for days, they’re already at the destination, and the warlord is nicknamed “The Impaler.”

Lorenzo meets with a mercenary in a bathhouse. They plot to annex the north area above Florence. The merc says he has the men, Lorenzo says he has the money, and while the merc flaunts his gigantic male organ he agrees to join up. Leonardo approaches the warlord’s castle, and is surrounded by Vlad the Impaler and his men. Leonardo points out that he’s known as Dracula, and suggests he wants Vlad’s help for Florence.

Back in Rome, the pope meets with Girolamo and Lucrezia. She tells the pope about Lorenzo’s attempt to strengthen his military, and possibly attack Rome. This makes the Pope furious. Da Vinci dines with Vlad, who is a freak and hates the Turks with great passion. Vlad raises a glass to Lucifer, and explains that he made a deal with the devil, and has no soul. Giulino questions a barkeep that Leonardo once slept with, and though his questions lead nowhere they start to kiss when Captain Dragonetti busts in to enforce the curfew. Giulino wants to see his list of curfew breakers as he thinks it might lead him to the spy.

Leonardo shows off a magic trick to Vlad, and Vlad entertains his guests by having two attack dogs kill a Turk. Leonardo then gives drinks to everyone in the court. Left alone, Leonardo bonds with Vlad over their appreciation of bats and rats, and Vlad confesses that he knows he’s mad, but explains it would impossible for him not to be after the life he’s led. Leonardo then has a vision that shows him how to find the mapmaker.

Giulino goes through the curfew books when Clarice comes in and can see he's making process. Leonardo goes back to his room, and tells his men he poisoned everyone at the dinner (including them), and gives them the antidote. They go to the mapmaker’s cell and find him in a giant ball with spikes, and then Zoroaster stabs the person in Vlad’s bed. It takes a while to remove all the blades from the mapmaker’s ball of pain, and the mapmaker then reveals it wasn’t Vlad in the bed. Vlad then dramatically jumps down and attacks Leonardo. He says he cannot be poisoned and as he’s about to kill Leonardo, Zoroaster hits Vlad with a cross. This gives Leonardo enough time to throw explosive powder at Vlad, but it doesn’t kill Dracula as he charges Leonardo. Fortunately, the mapmaker stabs Vlad, and Da Vinci is able to push Dracula out the window.

Lucrezia leaves Rome after talking with Girolamo, who – after she leaves – says she should be followed and killed because of Da Vinci. Leonardo is able to leave Vlad’s castle with the mapmaker, though Vlad’s body is nowhere to be seen. Lorenzo meets with his leaders to talk about his plans, and suggests his brother Giulino should be married to Camilla in an effort to strengthen his kingdom. Once alone, Clarice and Lorenzo then try to conceive a child. Leonardo tends to the mapmaker’s wounds but they’re fatal. The mapmaker tries to give Da Vinci directions to the key he seeks. There are keys in Rome and if he finds them, he’ll also find his mother, who is still alive and has the book of leaves. He also reveals that on his skin is the key to decoding the map. Leonardo must remove his skin to get it, though. Then the mapmaker dies, and Leonardo mourns the loss and the abundance of evil in the world.

‘Da Vinci’s Demons’ draws a lot on history, and this take on Vlad the Impaler/Dracula was made amusing by guest star Paul Rhys. The character is a freak, and it’s a juicy portrayal. There was also more male frontal nudity in this episode than most years of whatever’s on – say -- Showtime, and in the scheme of things that’s only fair. Most shows like this just offer naked ladies, so it’s funny to see so much male junk.

What made the episode pop (besides Dracula) was that the show had fallen into a formula of Da Vinci solving a mystery or puzzle every episode, and this didn’t have him figuring something out in the last minute. He was on a quest and he finished it, with the show doing a good job of keeping the rest of the cast busy plotting for the future. How much of their plots and schemes are resolved in the final two episodes of the season are unknown, and as the series already has the green light for a second season, we may see more of that next year. But so far, so fun.