This review contains spoilers.
2.6 The Rope Of The Dead
Da Vinci’s Demons is a show that loves to play with the concept of reality. In particular, it seems to hang onto the idea of a Jungian-type collective unconscious, a sort of pseudo/actual spiritual real in which everyone is connected on some sort of deep level. Leonardo and Lorenzo, who are blood brothers after that transfusion, seem to share some sort of deeper connection in this week’s episode, which features both our major characters (and most of our minor characters) at serious risk of death from various torments. Beaten to a pulp or hallucinating due to a combination of snake venom and ayahuasca, Leonardo and Lorenzo are apparently on a shared spiritual quest. One’s trying to recover the book that can either destroy or save the world; the other’s trying to save their beloved Florence, a beacon of light and democracy in a world ruled by petty tyrants.
There’s also the necessary bending of reality that Da Vinci’s Demons seems to rely on as a major component of its show reality. As part of his marriage (?!) ritual with Ima (Carolina Guerra), who apparently holds the keys to Da Vinci gaining access to the Book of Leaves, he has to undergo a ritual. He’s bitten by a poisonous snake and fed hallucinogenic soup so he can slip between worlds and go on a spiritual quest, during which he’s confronted by several dead folks from his history. Meanwhile, Riario has a night in which to kill three men and pass a final test to get the antidote. Otherwise all the Anglos (also Zita and Zoroaster) will end up with their heads on the chopping block to appease angry Incan gods.
Meanwhile, Lorenzo has to pass a test of his own to appease King Ferrante of Naples, and it’s about as impossible as Leo’s trip through the spirit realm. Lorenzo has one arrow, and he has to shoot a bolting horse before a noose around his neck snaps tight and rips his head off. But before that, he also has to endure the torture of Duke Alfonso (some whipping and choking and the occasional headbutt) and the hallucination of his late brother Guiliano, speaking of dead people from the past.
Guiliano serves as the bridge between both hallucinations (and it’s nice to see Tom Bateman back). He’s a good plot device to unite the two separate groups, and another reminder that they’re in the same shared universe even if one of them is thousands of miles away. Mirroring their respective journeys, and their respective struggles against death, is a pretty clever move by writers David Goyer and Matt Fraction. By working the Turk into the scenes with Lucrezia Donati as well as Leonardo’s hallucination, it’s an extra connective layer. It also looks really cool on screen, with good use of musical cues to keep Leonardo tethered to the real world and to keep the audience aware of the danger he’s in.
However, the most ingenious move is probably using Riario’s A-plot (since he’s connected to Da Vinci’s vision quest) to provide some much-needed, crazy action. It’s a little dark at times, but it’s also spectacularly gory with some very clever decisions by Riario, and it’s really well shot by director Jon Jones. I loved the corn field fights, with the most visually clever moment from Jones being Riario’s subterfuge. Using a dead guy as a distraction, then leaping up from the dirt to strike was a great plan, and it was even better executed.
I have to admit that Tom Riley is able to pull off a good Da Vinci, both the younger version and the older version. Seeing him in his old-age makeup is a pretty convincing version of a slightly older version of the Da Vinci pictured in “Portrait of a man in red chalk,” Da Vinci’s most likely self portrait done when he was about age 60. He’s also pretty good at talking to himself, all things considered. It’s a clever moment for the actor to have a little fun with his character, both with the energy of youth and through the wisdom of age.
There have been a couple of down episodes this season, but this isn’t one of them. It doesn’t quite pull together all the way, but it’s together enough to be really entertaining. In particular, I like that the show advanced the plot forward in some pretty crazy ways, while also sticking true to the supernatural template set up in the first season with the effects being achieved through near death or hallucination. Anything you can do to tie all the disconnected elements together is necessary at this point of the season, and elements like this will go a long way to keeping everything tight.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is intrigued by the idea of the Vault of Heaven and the Book of Leaves, as well as the hinted bromance between Leonardo and Riario. Even though Riario seems resistant to it, he’ll cave. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here.