This review contains spoilers.
2.4 The Ends Of The Earth
When you’re going to divide your cast into small groups and separate them by means either artificial or storyline-driven, you have to have something for them to do and you have to have someone else for them to play off of. On shows like Game Of Thrones, they can get away with sticking Arya away from the main action, or leaving Daenerys in Essos, because they have other strong characters to play off. Arya has The Hound; Dany has Ser Barristan, Jorah Mormont, and a trio of dragons. Given that Da Vinci’s main cast is splintering into four little subgroups: Leo, Amerigo, and Zoroaster; Nico and Riario; Sixtus, Lupo, Good Sixtus, Lucrezia and her Asian bodyguard; and Piero Da Vinci and Lorenzo.
How you feel about the episodes depends a great deal on how you feel about the specific characters. For example, Papa Da Vinci and Lorenzo as a travelling pair. We don’t know a lot about Da Vinci’s father, but what we do know suggests he’s not going to be the best travelling companion. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case, as Piero is pretty funny in a bitter sort of way, if nothing else. Lorenzo is a likable rogue sort of character, and the two have a shared passion in Leonardo, so it will seems like it’s going to be a productive pairing of the two, who have spent years together. Enjoying the pairings helped elevate this week’s episode from kind of bland to occasionally amusing.
Charles Sturridge did a much better job this week with the fight scenes than what happened last week under the stewardship of another director. Lorenzo (and Piero) find themselves on the road, accosted by two priests selling indulgences – as if the Catholic Church wasn’t already villainous enough. The fight was cleaner, a bit more dynamic, showcased a lot more movement, and just seemed to work much better than last week’s fights. I’m not sure if Elliot Cowan is just a better stage fighter or if there’s just a stylistic difference in directors that makes the difference. The larger-scale fistfight as the slave crew begins to mutiny against Leo, Zoroaster, and Amerigo is also really well done, shot almost like one of those bar fights you’d see in a Fifties western (overhead three-quarters-style static camera, rather than a hand-camera).
The sequences with Lucrezia Donati and her father, the jailed Pope Sixtus, were also executed very well. It’s a bit heavy-handed to have Sixtus be evil towards his brother essentially from birth, but this is not a subtle show, and the moments are executed pretty well, particularly the attack and kidnapping of the true Sixtus as he visits his secret daughters. I always like when you inter-cut flashback content with present-day stuff. The more secretive stuff, sneaking around the Vatican, stealing the sword of the Ottoman from archives, killing a random guy… it all works well enough, but it isn’t quite as tense as they were hoping for.
One of the odder moments in the show is the stuff on board The Sentinel, Leonardo Da Vinci’s borrowed slave ship. There’s a debate on whether or not to put the chattel back into chains after they riot and try to kill Leonardo and company. Leo, rather than letting them get thrown overboard – a perfectly reasonable response to a mutiny – argues for their lives and recommends that they be put back into chains rather than killed. For whatever reason, this gives Zoroaster a great deal of problems. Knowing that Leo isn’t going to sell them into slavery and has tried several times to convince them that they’re not going to fall off the edge of the world, putting them in chains for everyone’s safety seems like a perfectly reasonable idea. Once you reach the new world, you let them go.
However this gives Zoroaster a lot of grief and he has an emotional outburst about Leo’s mission, the book of leaves, chaining the slaves, and all that. It’s good stuff from Gregg Chillin and writer Marco Ramirez, adding some much-needed depth to Leo’s fun friend, but it also kind of seems out of place. He’s weeks into this journey, alongside someone he doesn’t like all that much (Amerigo), and he’s just now showing some reservations because the people that tried to murder them are getting locked back behind bars? Perhaps there’s some issue between Zoroaster and slavery that I’ve missed, or perhaps it’s just an excuse for Zo to show his frustration to Leonardo, but it just seems like a random hill to die on, even if you are frustrated. Seems to me that it’d be more frustration not to pitch the mutineers overboard, personally; then again, I’m not as forgiving of folks who wanted to bash my head in than some. Plus, Vlad was an awesome character in the first season, and any chance to revisit him is worth taking.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan would probably love to watch the David S. Goyer version of historical Vlad the Impaler, especially if he stays as creepy as he was last season. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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