This review contains spoilers.
1.7 The Hierophant
One of the weirdest tropes in any television show or movie or what-have-you is the fact that the hero, when in possession of a magical device that can slay a powerful villain, inevitably finds him or herself leaving said magical doo-dad behind after slaying. Samwell Tarly (Game of Thrones season three spoiler warning for anyone not up-to-date with HBO’s masterpiece) after slaying a White Walker with a dragon glass spearhead, flees the scene with Gilly in tow but fails to retrieve the dragon glass. Leonardo Da Vinci, in possession of the fabled Spear of Destiny that pierced the side of Christ and is capable of besting any opponent no matter how skilled or well-armed, uses it to dispatch a nearby foe but unsurprisingly abandons it during his flight in this week’s episode of Da Vinci’s Demons.
It’s a very interesting wrinkle in an otherwise pretty boring episode. It’s fun to see Leonardo come face to face with something he can’t understand via scientific means. Perhaps he’ll just have to take something on faith for once. It’s an intriguing countermeasure to the show’s desire to be rational and to deny the existence of the supernatural to have Leonardo come face-to-face with the miracles of the Book of Leaves and the other blessed treasures in the Vatican Archives during a breaking-and-entering mission to recover the missing half of the key. Even when confronted with things that he doesn’t understand, Leonardo still wishes that the secrets he witnesses during his limited audience with Pope Sixtus IV weren’t secrets but public knowledge.
It’s fun to see the Pope get an exchange with the famous Maestro Leonardo, and it’s pretty well-scripted from writers Corey Reed and Sarah Goldfinger. James Faulkner’s Pope Sixtus is more than a match for Tom Riley’s Leonardo, and it’s fun to see the latter square off with someone as clever as he is, or at least close to it. However, that doesn’t last nearly long enough before Leonardo is running through the halls of the Vatican being pursued by thugs. Leo never really seems to take the Pope’s enticing offer seriously, which makes it kind of a wasted scene.
This was an mixed bag episode of Da Vinci’s Demons. Rather than being fairly dialogue-heavy, as the show has been most of this season, it was actually very light on conversation and pretty heavy on atmosphere. There seemed to be more of an adventure element than the historical fantasy that has dominated, which both helped lighten the show up a little bit but also sap a little bit of the interesting nature it has had recently. The last two episodes were pretty solid affairs, but this week’s was kind of boring unless you’re a big fan of underwater (or I guess undersewer) exploration in a primitive diving suit.
Like a lot of things on the show, the diving suit idea is better on paper than it is in practice. With so many of the shots being underwater, it gets kind of boring to watch Da Vinci slosh around while breathing through a tube; ditto Zoroaster and Nico hanging out in a boat at the surface, pumping a bellows in between night watch visits. That’s not director Michael J. Bassett’s fault; there’s not much you can do to make that interesting. But when he does get some action sequences, things remain flat. When Da Vinci is fleeing armed men the show doesn’t get exciting in the least, because we have a vague idea of how he’s planning on escaping and he mentions it specifically in the show well before getting into a position where he needs to escape, and there are no well-choreographed fights as seen previously in the season. Even the surprise reveal that comes from the escape process isn’t terribly surprising (though there is one surprising moment in the episode that I won’t spoil). Even when given action, it’s not shot in a particularly compelling way.
That’s a shorthand problem for the show in general. It has a lot of good elements, but can never fit them all together in a consistently entertaining way. There’s brilliance there, but it seems like the show can’t quite decide what to do with itself. Hopefully, the end of the first season can mean that things are weeded down and we can get a more consistently entertaining, trashy fun show next season.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, The Devil, here.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan can only hope that next week’s finale of Da Vinci’s Demons can be more entertaining than the penultimate episode. Time for that wolf man cameo, I guess! Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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