This review contains spoilers.
2.2 The Blood Of Brothers
If you’re someone famous who lived during the time period around the reign of Lorenzo Medici, specifically 1478 or so, then just accept the fact that you’re going to be on Da Vinci’s Demons. That’s just how it works. Whether you’re a famous artist, Vlad Tepes of Wallachia, or the guy the American continents are named after, if you’re anywhere around Leonardo and company, you’re going to end up being on Starz. That’s just the way the show operates, and I think that fast-and-loose use of history proves to be beneficial.
For example, the character of Nico wasn’t a major player in the first series, but since his kidnapping by Riario, I can only assume he’s about to become more important to the show’s general plot. After all, he does get to hang out with the villain, and that’s always a step up from being the third sidekick of the hero. Here’s another fun tidbit about Nico: he’s one of history’s most noteworthy political theorists. Nico is short for Niccolo, as in Niccolo Machiavelli. It hasn’t become important in the show (yet), and I’m not even sure the show has mentioned Nico’s full name at any point, but the fact is he’s Machiavelli, and it appears that he’ll get to learn at the feet of Da Vinci, Medici, and Riario before this is all over.
Da Vinci’s Demons has written itself into a hole, and it seems like the show is already trying to figure out a way to pull itself free. Count Riario, who is the main villain and the muscle for Pope Sixtus, has left Italy. On the Basilisk, Riario and a kidnapped Nico and some little servant girl are very slowly making their way to the New World to hunt down the mythical, legendary Book of Leaves. Leonardo Da Vinci, as we’ve seen, is going to give chase at some point because this season’s cold opening has them both facing down some angry Mesoamerican tribes. However, most of the show’s characters aren’t going to be floating across the seas alongside Leo and Riario. You can’t have Florence without the Medicis and I doubt Clairice Orsini is looking to go away anytime soon and leave Florence to Urbino and the Pope to divide up.
So, the show has a somewhat viable solution. You introduce a new bad guy in the King of Naples, Ferrante (Michael Marsh) and his son Alfonso (Kieran Bew), you leave Vanessa the former nun turned mother of Giulino’s illegitimate baby with the Medici family for safe-keeping, you connect Verrocchio and Lorenzo, you let Lucrezia be a free agent again, and there you go. Leo and Zoroaster make friends with Amerigo Vespucci (Lee Boardman), who in this universe is a collector of rare maps and a master of ships.
Of the new characters, Amerigo seems like he’s going to be the most fun. After all, he gets one of the show’s most memorable introductions, what with faking his own death and all. Leonardo seems to take an instant shine to him, judging from the way he reacts with thrills at pretty much everything Amerigo does, much to Zoroaster’s chagrin. The two apparently have a history and he’s immune to Amerigo’s charms, even if Leonardo seems smitten. It’ll be a fun bit of humour, assuming Amerigo continues to be part of the show after the next few episodes.
Of course, by splitting up characters and adding new characters (and fleshing out some background characters a bit more), you’ve got a very busy show. Rather than having the focus that last week’s episode had, this week’s episode is kind of all over the place. We get bits and pieces of various scenes stitched together by writer Jami O’Brien, and for the most part it works, and it advances the plots in fits and stutters, but it doesn’t really flow all that well. Leonardo’s scheme for turning the crowd back to the Medici side is clever enough, but it feels like the climax of the episode, not so much something in the middle.
The execution is also lacking, coming off as a bit cartoonish. It’s fine when Leonardo does it, but when they continue the steampunk illustration as Lorenzo is speaking, it pushes things a bit too far over the top for me. Once is enough; I don’t remember the show continuing the conceit past the planning stage this long, and if they did, it was a more interesting illustration than sound waves radiating out from Lorenzo’s head. It’s all kind of a bit pedestrian, and director Peter Hoar’s background (aside from a Doctor Who episode mixed in with all the Mistresses and Grange Hill) doesn’t suggest a ton of visual flair in his playbook – not that the episode gave him the chance to show off all that much.
In whole, it was kind of a lacklustre episode of Da Vinci’s Demons. Most of it worked okay, but there was nothing special about it. It simply was. This early in the season, it makes sense that they’re still trying to get on their feet and progress beyond the ripples thrown up by last year’s shocking assassination attempts. It’s just not as interesting as it should be; this is more like a shuffling of papers at the Medici bank and not a page from the Book of Leaves.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan can’t wait for Leonardo Da Vinci to invent the time machine and stop Thomas Edison from claiming the crown of world’s most famous inventor. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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