This review contains spoilers.
7.8 The Fall From Heaven
Lorenzo the Magnificent seems to be surrounded by people who are more able to be leaders than himself. By virtue of his birth, he’s the leader of Florence, but is he the best leader of Florence? As we saw last week, Claire and Carlo seem more able to guide the Medici Bank than Lorenzo. Guiliano was the more popular member of the Medici family. Lucrezia is more able to negotiate the politics and secrecy needed by a leader. Leonardo is Leonardo. This week, it’s Duke Alfonso’s wife, Ippolita Maria Sforza (Jeany Spark) who shows up our fearless, mostly-helpless leader with a daring scheme of her own.
With Piero Da Vinci and one of King Ferrante’s own close advisers kidnapped by scenery-chewing French pirates, it’s up to Lorenzo to save the day. Well, it’s actually up to Ippolita to save the day. Lorenzo goes to negotiate with the pirates, attempting to buy them off – when they figure out just who Piero Da Vinci’s son is, the price mysteriously goes up since the famous artiste has killed some relatives of various pirates who happened to be heavies for the Pope. That’s when Ippolita shows that she’s the true brains of the operation and whistles, bringing out her guards who had apparently snuck on board the ship and were waiting to jump out and arrest the pirates. Pirates captured, she hands Lorenzo a sword and tells him to save Florence. Lorenzo benefits from the hard work of others yet again, slaying the pirate leader and earning Ferrante’s favor with a new body for his corpse museum.
Interestingly enough, Leonardo is also out-shone by the cleverness of his companions Nico and Zoroaster. Sure, Leonardo’s invention of the parachute saves the day as the boys flee the Vault of Heaven and the deadly, infuriated Incan people, but it was the clever thinking of Zoroaster who actually facilitated the escape, and the clever thinking of Nico that actually allowed Zoroaster to escape. It’s a smart bit of scripting, and it’s nice to see that Da Vinci’s crew is actually developing Nico’s role into the Machiavellian character he’s going to eventually become. It’s one of the best moments in the episode courtesy of writers Jonathan Hickman and Corey Reed, who get the credit for this week’s episode.
After having been captured last week, Leonardo and Zoroaster face the chopping block, quite literally. Down in the bowels of the pyramid, Zoroaster and Nico toil away butchering llamas for their meat or something else equally gross. Zoroaster, inspired by Leonardo’s use of a secret phrase, gets the idea to slip over to the room where jars of fat are contained and light said fat on fire. (Apparently llama fat explodes if you burn it?) In order to do this, Nico first informs the guard that Zoroaster is trying to escape, then he promptly stabs the guard to death while the guard is distracted with Zoroaster. That’s definitely a move worthy of the author of The Prince, and it allows the gang to flee into the Vault of Heaven; since fleeing through the jungles is a losing proposition, why not just fly over the jungles?
The second season of Da Vinci’s Demons started out really well. The first episode back was a strong, sustained, focused bit of film making, and there were several other episodes that were commendable during the season. However, the latter half of the series seems a little unfocused, a bit meandering. It’s almost as if they ran out of ideas for Leonardo and company in the New World and don’t have much in the way of ideas to make Lorenzo’s time in jail/captivity terribly exciting, so they’re trying to stretch out the stuff they do have a bit too much. Granted, in the real world, Lorenzo spent a two years or so as a guest of the King of Naples, so I’d imagine that the show won’t make things last as long as they have in real life, but it’s going to eat up a good chunk of this season, if not also the next.
However, one of the problems with the episode was the ability of Pope Sixtus to be, well, everywhere. He’s in the midst of an action sequence involving Lucrezia’s man-servant and a bunch of Turkish bodyguards, and then he’s in Naples to taunt Lorenzo Medici. Don’t get me wrong, the action sequence is pretty strong in the hands of Peter Hoar, but I’m not sure how Sixtus manages to get around so quickly, unless there’s some passage of time I’m not aware of between the two events. I’m not sure you can travel from Naples to Rome on horseback (or carriage) that promptly, but perhaps I’m wrong about my geography (Google Maps says it’s a 45-hour walk).
After a strong start, Da Vinci’s Demons seems to be losing some steam and reverting to the mean that it had in the first season. Passable entertainment occasionally executed very well, and occasionally meandering. It’s hard not to meander when you’re travelling across oceans, and the show has tried to keep things interesting (and work in a lot of history in the process), but it hasn’t always been successful. Good, but not great. However, with every season finale comes an uptick in the action, and I’m looking forward to getting back to Florence and resuming an exploration of Da Vinci’s talented madness.
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