This review contains spoilers.
2.7 The Vault Of Heaven
If you’ve seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, you’ll be familiar with this week’s episode of Da Vinci’s Demons. In that particular Indy adventure, he had out use his father’s journal to outwit a series of traps laid for him (and the Nazis that followed him) to prevent the unworthy from seeking the holy grail. There was a doorway that decapitated people, a series of steps that would collapse beneath someone walking across them, and a well-camouflaged path over a bottomless pit. Strangely enough, The Vault Of Heaven takes these same puzzles and reuses them, with only a few minor tweaks: there’s an Incan disco ball and some magic triangles, a keypad with a hundred different keyholes and a rock that disappears into the wall (like the one in Star Wars), and a person-masher instead of a person decapitator, but the tricks are familiar enough even with their very minor differences.
It’s not terribly surprising that Da Vinci’s Demons had to borrow those elements, as that’s pretty much the mental image anyone gets when they think of an old temple filled with booby traps that our genius artiste and his intrepid friends/enemy have to negotiate. Rather than Arabs, we have Incans to serve as the occasional redshirt. Rather than the Holy Grail, we have the almost-as-magical Book of Leaves, with Leonardo serving as Indy and Riario as Donovan. I guess that makes Ima Elsa and Zoroaster Sallah? Either way, the show does justice to the conceit, if only because Leonardo is able to invent some contraption or another to solve one puzzle, then uses his knowledge of math to solve another, and, amazingly, turns to the skills of his companions once again to solve yet another issue (this time Zoroaster’s knowledge of lock-picking proves crucial).
Peter Hoar does a good job this week at balancing the A plot (Leo) and the B and C plots, which are also pretty heavy on the action. The whole of the episode seems very fight-centric, and Hoar does a pretty good job at shooting and blocking the fight scenes. The surprise emergence of Renaissance ninjas interrupting the post-coital cuddling of Carlo and Claire Orsini was a pleasant, if odd, surprise, and the fight both here and when Lucrezia and her traveling companion fight their way into the camp of the Ottoman Sultan’s son were clean and not as cluttered as the show has been in the past. I’m sure the emphasis on action comes from the script’s writers, Marco Ramirez (who wrote The Devil) and Brian Nelson (who wrote Hard Candy and 30 Days of Night).
Hoar also does an able job with the traps throughout Leonardo’s plot. The scene where Riario and Leonardo are betrayed by Ima is good, as Hoar has Carolina Guerra act more heartbroken by Leo’s betrayal than angry that he betrayed her. She’s more upset that he’s never had feelings for her (due to his continuing love for Lucrezia) than that he went poking around in the Vault of Heaven without her. It was a good decision by both the actor and the director to make it more disappointed than furious, especially after Riario’s earlier angry threatening of Zoroaster.
Da Vinci’s Demons, as a whole, can go a little angry with its tone. Even when it’s not angry, there’s still a lot of yelling and aggressive noise. To have someone underplay that for once is pretty nice, even if it’s not a nice development for Leonardo and friends to gain entrance into the Vault of Heaven only to be captured by armed natives after a brief struggle. Sometimes a cooler head, like Carlo’s almost casual murder of a plotting Medici Bank employee who probably set up the assassins, works better. It both eliminates a threat and it establishes that Carlo is as much a Medici as Lorenzo or Guiliano – perhaps a better Medici than the others despite his race and bastard status.
One complaint, though. It seems like an odd choice to have Claire essentially locked up at the same time both Leonardo and Lorenzo are also essentially locked up as well. Add in Vanessa being a prisoner within the Medici mansion, well… it seems like everyone in Da Vinci is behind bars or otherwise detained for some reason or another. I’m sure it won’t hold (except for maybe Lorenzo and Piero’s vacation) but it’s a lot of artificial confinement, and it’s not the most exciting bit of narrative to trudge through. I’m sure the show will find something entertaining to do with it eventually, but I wouldn’t say I’m thrilled about it.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is kind of a fan of the new Carlo. Killing guys in the hallway and hooking up with the wife of his half-brother (or cousin, I think) is a series of boss moves. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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