Da Vinci’s Demons: The Enemies of Man review

Da Vinci's Demons keep another papal tyrant at bay. Here's Marc's review...

It’s ironic that once-mortal-enemies Da Vinci and Riario are in such similar circumstances. Both men are away from their inspirations, their maestros as it were, Da Vinci far from the side of Lorenzo Medici and Riario away from Pope Sixtus. Both Da Vinci and Riario also have traveled far from their passion and their purpose, Da Vinci away from the art that will make him immortal and Riario away from the faith in God that gives his life meaning.

But the quest for the Book of Leaves have overruled everything else in their life, and as Da Vinci fiddled with the recording device (shaped like a head) containing the voice of his long dead mother, Riario confesses that without the Church, he is nothing, that he will return and hope for the Pope’s mercy. Boy, that’s like hoping not to get a massive coronary after eating McDonalds everyday for a decade. Da Vinci, always one to encourage anyone to follow a personal path rather than a religious one, tries to talk Riario into seeing the Pope for what he truly is, a Dark Lord of the Sith! Not really, but, yeah, kinda.

Da Vinci, Riario, Nico, and Zoroaster were greeted back to Florence by piss poor weather. But good old Zoroaster is happy to be home so he can drink, con, and fuck on proper European soil once again. Da Vinci had more intellectual pursuits to pursue and brings the head to Andrea. The globe hopping has been fun, but it’s great to see Da Vinci back in his lab, smack in the midst of the Italian Renaissance. Yet things have changed between episodes, and prepare for some whiplash. The Pope’s forces, led by the cyclopean Duke Federico, have taken Florence; Clarice Medici has been taken prisoner and painted up like a powdered whore as her palace is ransacked and profaned. Now, Da Vinci’s quest is clear. He must once again free his beloved home from papal tyranny.

Riario, lost and regretful, has his most powerful catharsis since he first appeared. The soldier of God’s will devoted his services to the real Pope, Sixtus’ prisoner. Riario is desperate to make right all he did wrong in Sixtus’ name, but there is no redemption, not from the real Pope, not from anyone for what Riario has done. It’s a well done show, a well written, complex narrative that can make Riario, once such a loathsome creature, into such a lost and pitiful soul. The arc of redemption for Riario is not yet complete, he longs to be a hero but no one will allow him to wield his sword for righteousness because he abandoned righteousness so many years ago.

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As for Lorenzo…oh, dear Lorenzo. The patriarch of the Medici family was forced to try to parlay for the safety of Florence with Sixtus while he was the Pope’s prisoner. Now, we have all watched Lorenzo, watched his skill at sword and at the bargaining table, fierce lover and patron and defender of free thought, but now, we have seen him turn the tables on the Pope. Lorenzo offers the King of Naples every Florent he has, if Naples will join Florence against the Church. Wow, Tyrion Lannister should have gotten Lorenzo to counsel him at the trial. In one well placed sentence, Lorenzo took away most of Sixtus’s leverage against Florence. Lorenzo, as skilled with rhetoric as Da Vinci is with brush and chisel.

Da Vinci’s ability to wield brush or chisel was in question as he was taken down to be tortured by the Pope’s best. Joining Da Vinci in the dungeons was Carlo Medici. Relief is palpable as the hooded masochists turn out to be Zoroaster and company. Zoroaster can’t have a Florence controlled by the Church, what of the debauchery? So, Da Vinci and his company needed to infiltrate a heavily guarded palace. Time to make with the brains.

It’s been awhile since we’ve seen Da Vinci in his lab, creating, inventing, and just being Da Vinci. Hard to do that in a malaria ridden jungle while being chased around by luchadors. Carlo and Da Vinci make for a good team, passionate men who do not like rules. One, a black man of bastard birth trying to prove himself worthy of the name Medici, and the other an accused sodomite, neither would benefit for Church rule, and both ready to do something about it. These too should be fast friends is what I thought, and then that ending blew my little trusting mind, oh, that ending.

More on the shocking betrayals in a bit, first let’s focus on some fun stuff. Da Vinci’s brain child this episode was a debilitating gas he dropped on the Pope’s faithful as they were acting as louts in the Medici palace, much easier to defeat Church thugs than Incan warriors any day. Da Vinci defeats the one-eyed Federico with one of an artist’s best friends, perspective, as he manipulates the warrior’s depth perspective to defeat him. Da Vinci captures the thug, but Clarice is not so merciful, and plunges a sword into his eye.

How come one eyed bad guys always die by being stabbed in their good eye? Is that a law? Anyway, it was good to see Clarice deliver the killing stroke after she was so demeaned in her own home. Gender equality in vengeance, that should be the way of things.  An Endor like celebration follows as a bit of gas, a plan by a bastard and a sword to the eye freed Florence.

For this, Da Vinci was seemingly rewarded. It seems mechanical innovation runs in the family, and as Andrea fixed the head, he discovered a coded music message beyond the recording of Da Vinci’s mother’s voice. As Riario looked for faith, as Clarice found it in the arms of Carlo (oh, the irony), and Lorenzo fell victim to it, Da Vinci found faith and solace in the voice of his mother, a mother who may very well be alive.

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Happy ending? Not so much, as the climax of the episode focused on betrayal. Just as Da Vinci’s quest is about to begin, just as Andrea finally believes in the Book of Leaves, a serpent slithers into Da Vinci’s workshop: A traitor, a man who appeared from the shadows and rose to a trusted position of power ready to strike. Carlo Medici. Who burns the lab, murders Andrea, and does what any devil does, he left faith in shambles. As Da Vinci’s world burns, the Enemy of Man has been revealed just as the Prince of Naples murders his father taking any hope away that Lorenzo can defeat Pope Sixtus. Both Da Vinci and Lorenz left lost and defeated by betrayal, as both descend into the darkest pits of despair imaginable. Faith has no place here, just demons.

Whew, that’s a great deal to take in. The only wrinkle of the episode is the go nowhere filler of Lucrezia’s subplot, one I’m sure will tie in to everything going on, but one that is taking an awful long time to get there. Everything else was woven together by the threads of faith and betrayal and even though it seemed like Da Vinci might finally win one, even though Florence has been freed, both Lorenzo and Da Vinci are both at the mercies of cunning madmen.

Next week and the finale can’t get here soon enough.

What I learned

It is possible to free Florence with a well placed balloon.

Nico may not have the strongest chin on television, but he has a brass set of balls.

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I really, really wanted to embrace Carlo as a hero. Nice work making him likable so the revelation of his true nature would be so shocking.

If you cross Clarice Medici, she will stab you in the face.  

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4 out of 5