This review contains spoilers.
2.10 The Sins Of Daedalus
Every season, American television shows end on some sort of cliffhanger in the hopes of creating enough fan interest to get renewed for another season. Even successful shows, like Da Vinci’s Demons, fall into this pattern because at the end of the day, even when you know you’re coming back for a third season, you want to keep the fans talking. You want the fans to be on the edge of their seats, waiting to see how this situation unfolds, because a good finale leads right to a killer season debut. (See this season’s debut episode for more on that.) This is a season finale leaving on such a cool moment that it actually made me angry.
In the port city of Otranto, an army amasses. Incensed by the treatment of his son the prince, the Ottoman Sultan has turned his attention on the homeland of the Catholic Church, whose leader has so disgraced the Ottomans after an offer of peace. That Sixtus is the false Pope would probably make no difference to the Ottomans, nor are they aware of this even if Lucrezia spills the beans to everyone important on the show at once. Twenty ships full of the finest fighters lurks in the waters off Italy’s shores, just waiting for the word to attack.
That’s a pressing problem for any kingdom of that era, as the Ottomans have the fervour of Islam and the might of an empire behind them, let alone a collection of fractured city-states who are more content to war amongst themselves for a few miles of land than to band together to face a serious threat to their sovereignty and lives. However, it’s just such an event that gets the warring parties, Lorenzo Medici of Florence, King Alfonso of Naples, and Pope Sixtus of Rome, to put aside their differences and… well, not work together so much as simply stop trying to kill one another for a few hours. Who killed whose father, or who tried to have who killed kind of pales in comparison to the survival of Italy as a country. Of course, it’s noting compared to the search for the Book of Leaves, and it’s up to Leonardo to save Italy if only so he’ll be able to take his trip for Constantinople.
Of the developments on Da Vinci’s Demons this season, the one that seems like it’s going to be the most interesting is the conflict between the Sons of Mithras and the Labyrinth, who appear to be dedicated to evil but who might be on the right path when it comes to the Book of Leaves. The Sons would use its power for good and share it with the people, but given the way no two Italian cities can get along, perhaps giving ultimate power to imperfect humans—as suggested by the man indoctrinating Riario into the Labyrinth—is a horrible idea. Of course, it could also just be propaganda to go alongside Riario’s Clockwork Orange-style eyeball torture, but it’s a question worth considering for the show’s viewers.
One of the reasons why this was such an engaging element in the episode was because it was executed so well. There were some very cool stylistic touches in the setting in which Riario gets brainwashed, and the actual execution of the hallucinatory Riario-eye-view of the scene is done with some impressive in-camera effects alongside some digital sweetening. It’s a simple scene of a guy yelling questions, but it’s done in a very stylish way. The digital effects on the battlements of Otranto are less effective; the ships look fake, and at some points you can kind of see a green screen outline around characters as they talk (possibly a weird lighting issue, or possibly just a bad angle on my screen).
Ditto the CGI blood and stabbing during an otherwise well-blocked fight scene featuring Zoroaster and Leonardo squaring off against three of Carlo Medici’s goons. No show really does this right (not even The Walking Dead, and it’s literally all they do aside from making heads explode), but it’s particularly bad in this week’s episode. The more difficult elements, Da Vinci vision or crazy hallucinations the show does well, but something fairly simple—something that can be replicated on stage plays using a pump bottle of corn syrup blood and a collapsible blade—is made unnecessarily complicated for reasons beyond my understanding.
The show’s more traditional dramatic elements work much better than some of the effects. The script from Corey Reed and Marco Ramirez ends up being very solid. The events of Vanessa’s storyline are a bit convenient (every pregnant woman goes into labor at an emotional conflict on television), but it’s nice to see Nico owning his heritage—a nod to the true heritage of Machiavelli—while standing up to Claire Orsini, correcting her on the status of Florence as a republic and reminding her that she harboured a killer in her home and bed. It’s a great moment for Eros Vlahos, who has come a long way as an actor and with the character, who has quietly become the second or third most interesting member of the ensemble. He makes a good pairing with Vanessa, and since he’s Machiavelli, he’ll make a great adviser to the new ruler of Florence.
With the weight of two big twists, the third season of Da Vinci’s Demons is going to start off with a bang, perhaps literally from Leonardo’s quad-gun filled with proto-artillery rounds. His mother being a prisoner of the Ottomans is an interesting wrinkle, as is her assisting them with their plans. Will Leo be able to do what’s best for Italy given that information? And what of Vanessa’s rule over the Medici household; might that be a Claire plot to make her take the blame for Carlo’s theft? While the second season kind of petered out toward the end, it certainly started strong. Season three looks to be no different.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan looks forward to seeing how the whole “shooting at his own mother” thing plays out for Leonardo Da Vinci. See you next spring with another fun trip back to the Renaissance! 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.