This review contains spoilers.
2.1 The Blood Of Man
At the end of last season of Da Vinci’s Demons, I complained quite a bit about the nature of the cliffhanger ending. After all, there wasn’t a guaranteed season two yet, and ending shows on a cliffhanger can kind of be a downer with no guaranteed resolution. Fortunately for Da Vinci and company, Starz picked the show up for a second season, and the cliffhanger will be resolved.
Of course, we can’t jump right into finishing off the Pazzi rebellion. This is the season of the show-opening flash-forward, so like Hannibal, Da Vinci’s Demons kicks the episode off with a tantalizing glimpse of the show’s future in South America, then we jump right back into the mad craziness of Florence, which is in the throes of a pretty fierce uprising. On one side, you have the Medicis and their loyalists, and on the other hand, you have the Pazzi Conspiracy, the waiting troops of Duke Frederico of Urbino just outside the gates, and the power of the Papacy itself. It seems lopsided, but only one of these sides has the services of the great Leonardo Da Vinci.
One of the positive aspects of Da Vinci’s Demons is its attention to style. It’s a very stylish-looking show, and it takes great pains to be as inventive with its shooting style as it can be within the constraints of its budget and its reliance on CGI. Some of it, like the dizzying crane shot of Lucrezia Donati and Zoroaster, work really well. Other shots, like the opening Google Earth drop into medieval Florence work less effectively, due to the constraints of the digital effects. Still, the thing that works best about the show, the steampunk visualizations courtesy of Da Vinci’s imagination, really look good. The show makes great use of these elements, particularly in this episode, and having a renowned autodidact as a central character really makes the conceit work better than it has any right to do; fictional Da Vinci has taken a lot of cues from actual Da Vinci in that respect.
Good cinematography is always appreciated, but the way that The Blood of Man excels is in its handling of fight choreography and crowd scenes. Given that it’s all about riots and chaos and violence, Da Vinci director Charles Sturridge does a very good job of crafting interestingly chaotic conflicts. Crowds running wild through the streets, running into Medici guards, a battering ram being employed, fires and arrows and broken pottery raining down, a chase through the sewers, collapsing tunnels… all it’s missing is Brick killing a guy with a trident. It’s all kind of goofy, but it’s also ridiculously entertaining; as always, Leonardo’s nightmare/hallucinations are fascinating to watch and a great example of how style can create substance if you’re committed to be weird.
However, it’s kind of reaching quite a bit. Rather than giving folks a chance to re-immerse themselves in the Da Vinci universe, screenwriters David S. Goyer and Corey Reed just start throwing characters at us left and right, in the hopes that the cast will have been familiar enough for you to remember just who is who. Outside of the major characters, like Leonardo, Lorenzo, Lucrezia, and Riario, I have to admit that I had difficulty remembering specific names, though I did remember descriptions, like “the girl who used to be a nun who got knocked up by Lorenzo’s brother” and “evil Pope” and “Leonardo’s friends beard guy and Lommy Greenhands.”
That doesn’t make the show any less entertaining. The episode is pretty evenly divided among characters, though they’re all focused on the central events at hand, except for Riario, Nico, and Zoroaster. It’s a pretty significant event, after all; I like the take on Claire Orsini the show has offered up, and Lara Pulver is especially appealing in this week’s episode as the take-no-prisoners matriarch determined to save her family’s bacon and by extension Florence itself.
I thought it was strange for the show to go for the Pazzi Conspiracy so soon, but it’s clear that they’re going to stretch it out for a few episodes yet, and that’s a great idea. That allows the show to play to its strengths as an entertainment piece full of swordplay and bloodshed, and it keeps the mysticism of the Sons of Mithras storyline in the background. Da Vinci doesn’t need so much mysticism (though it is a positive aspect of the show’s creative take on history) when he’s busy inventing blood transfusions.
Da Vinci’s Demons starts in the UK on Friday the 4th of April on Fox. Come back next week for set visit interviews with David S. Goyer and more.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is back and ready for another dose of Da Vinci and Friends. Here’s hoping the show is ready and willing to keep the pace high and the weirdness violent and frequent. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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