This review contains spoilers.
3.5 Anima Venator
Da Vinci’s Demons has been kind of problematic for me throughout its third season thus far. It seems like everything is different, all the ideas of the first two seasons are just scrambled up to make everything a muddled, grey mess. Are the Sons of Mithras the bad guys? Are the Labyrinth bad guys? Sure, when you look at the surface, it’s the bad guys like Carlo Medici and Riario involved in the Labyrinth and the Sons of Mithras have Leo’s old ally Al-Rahim AKA The Turk (Alexander Siddig) and the true pope, Francesco (James Faulkner). However, one side is fighting to defend Italy and the other wide is actively assaulting and killing the people of the peninsula and by extension the Catholic Church.
Stuck in the middle are Florence and its famous son, Leonardo Da Vinci. Leonardo doesn’t really know what side he should support, though the Sons have his stolen designs and the Labyrinth is mostly full of evil people. Da Vinci might be aligned with the evil Sixtus, but as Vanessa (Hera Hilmar) and Nico (Eros Vlahos) warn him, that’s not a safe place for him because once the Turks are rolled, Florence will be next. Da Vinci is both the fulcrum of the world and our way into the conspiracies, even as his friends are our way into his particular world. So much of the show is based around Da Vinci that his confusion begets our confusion, and the show’s insistence on not being focused on The Big Issue is problematic.
I don’t particularly blame this confusion on credited scriptwriters Kevin and Matthew McManus. They take their directions from the guy running the show, and that’s why the show gets involved in a mostly-needless B plot involving Lupo Mercuri (Nick Dunning) having a torture chamber and Lucrezia (Laura Haddock, making the most of what she’s given) getting captured while Mercuri tries in vain to find someone willing and able to read the Book of Leaves. It helps reinforce the vision Da Vinci has after crushing a full pipe of opium, but at the same time, it’s one of the least interesting portions of the episode if only because, from the very beginning, it’s clear that Lupo is up to something no good, and he’s definitely not interested in helping Lucretia get her hands on the last bit of the Book.
One of the downfalls of this amount of stuff happening all at once is the fact that it’s difficult to keep track of just who is talking to who and why. The bulk of the episode is just simply a lot of people talking in dark rooms. Zoroaster and Leo talk about the plans. The true Pope talks to the Ottomans. Lucrezia talks to both Lupo and to Sophia (Sabrina Bartlett) who is trapped in the pit by Lupo. Nico and Vanessa talk, Nico and Zo talk, Nico and Riario talk… everyone’s pairing off and talking, and most of the stuff just blends all in together, if only because it seems like it’s all talk and no action. There’s not a whole lot for director Mark Everest to do to make things exciting, because the episode only offers one real opportunity for an action scene, which I’ll talk about below.
At the very end of the episode, Dragonetti (Ian Pirie) finds himself the victim of the mysterious killer that’s been stalking the Vatican… that killer who seems to just follow Riario around. Leonardo follows him up onto the rooftops for an Assassin’s Creed-ish chase through the city, and what follows is one of the show’s most creative uses of Da Vinci Vision in recent memory. It’s one of the few bright spots in the episode, and one of the better moments of the third season, if only because it shows us something both action-packed and fun.
In most action movies, you see the guy running away from the person chasing him, and someone inevitably flanks the guy and tackles the baddie before he can get away, but no one ever explains just how two people running at the same speed and going the same general direction can meet at cross purposes like that. You assume someone or another finds a shorter route, but it’s never shown. Leonardo actually plots it out in his head using a schematic of Florence, and with every significant change in Riario’s direction—spoiler, Riario killed Dragonetti—Leo recalculates the point of capture until he finally catches him and the pair smash through a building’s roof.
There’s still a lot of conspiracy stuff yet to unravel, and the battle-lines are drawn, but there’s a sizable contingent of Florentines who have yet to pick a side, for various reasons. Some are prisoners, some are dead, and most, like Da Vinci and company, are threatened by the feeling of being trapped between the Ottoman rock and the Vatican hard place, with the third way not being a really viable option. Unless, of course, you have Dracula on your side.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, The Labrys, here.
Da Vinci’s Demons: The Final Season Sundays at 9pm on FOX