Da Vinci’s Demons: The Blood of Brothers review

Da Vinci's Demons keeps up with its blend of history, politics, and good old fashioned sex and violence in the latest episode.

Last week, Da Vinci gave his pal, rival, confidant, mentor and financial backer Lorenzo Medici the world’s first blood transfusion and things pick up this week right there, on the gurney, with an enraged Lorenzo about to get very stabby. By the way, this episode was penned by Jami O’Brien, a writer and producer on AMC’s Hell on Wheels, who also wrote a single episode of Da Vinci’s Demons last season. O’Brien delivered a good one as she proves that she knows her way around the Renaissance just as well as she knows her way around the American frontier.

Like I said, Lorenzo wakes up and is talked out of his confused frenzy by Da Vinci. He soon learns of his brother Giulino’s dark fate from last season. Lorenzo’s reaction is gut wrenching as Elliot Cowan gives an energetic performance that ranges from pure rage to profound loss. It must be said that Lorenzo looks pretty spry for a guy who just received the first sheep intestine blood transfusion. Lorenzo shows that his true loyalty is to Florence as his next concern is for his city which is in the middle of a riot.  This moment carries serious weight as it becomes clear that civilization would be in peril without Medici and his beliefs. Lorenzo must accept his role as the leader of the future. Heavy is the head that wears the crown of progress, indeed.

Lorenzo is just about ready to give up hope, as he has no heir, he has been betrayed, and his city is crumbling, when salvation arrives in the most unlikely of places. Vanessa, former whore, revels in the fact that she is pregnant with Giulino’s child, an insurance that the Medici bloodline will continue. Vanessa speaks to the idea that hope is sometimes found in the unlikeliest of places. Like in the fiery, passionate womb of a low born sensualist.

Speaking of sensualists, from Vanessa and her rebuilding of the Medici’s future we cut to Zoroaster and Lucrezia, very much alive, surfacing from their execution by drowning last week. It seems, Lucrezia passed Zoroaster a hair pin with their final kiss. Yeah, I would risk drowning too if it meant Lucrezia would plant one on me. Too bad it doesn’t seem like these two will last as a pairing, they really do heat up the screen when they are together.

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From the heated exchanges of Zoroaster and Lucrezia, we now find ourselves with Riario and poor, young Nico, as they share a moment. This sequence is really unexpected as Nico is showered with praise by the usually cold as ice Riario. Riario tries to turn Da Vinci’s apprentice to the dark side, but loyal Nico wants none of Riario’s forked tongue. Nico had bested Riario previously in a contest of wills, and Riario’s respect for Nico is the reason Nico still lives. Another facet added to one of the most complex villains on television.

It’s been awhile since Da Vinci went to his brain palace, but the wait is over. As Francesco Pazzi addresses the angry mob outside the Medici palace, Da Vinci’s brain starts to work.  Da Vinci creates the world’s first speaker system out of well placed brass plates lifted to the rooftops. Da Vinci’s latest invention allows Lorenzo to drown out Pazzi, turning the mob’s attention away from the enemy and back to the returned Lorenzo. While Da Vinci essentially creates the first ratings war in politics, Medici does what he does best, speak and inspire. During the speech, Clarice hears Lorenzo’s living voice. This moment is why the show works, through all the chaos, cleverness, sex, and violence, there is a heart, as a wife hears the voice of a husband who she thought lost.

With Lorenzo’s stirring speech ringing in everyone’s ears, awesomesauce Captain Dragonetti leads a roundup of the Pazzi loyalists. Francesco Pazzi makes the mistake of thinking he has a chance at swordplay versus Dragonetti, and the rest of the rabble rousers are dispatched with some always welcome grue. During this gleefully bloody chaos, husband and wife finally reunite as the Medici family is complete once again…all because Da Vinci invented the first amp.

With the Pazzis dispatched, Pope Sixtus meets with a new character, the king of Naples. It seems the Pazzis have been replaced as the puppet villains of the show, as the King of Naples and his son enter the picture. Naples is introduced as the region that has mastered war, along with its king, who collects scientific and medical oddities. The monarch of Naples seems to be a twisted little monkey. When his son defies him, the King oddly spins a tooth on a circular holder and as the Prince of Naples runs like someone just set his gooch on fire. What the heck was that?

While the Pope and the King of Naples discuss monkey skulls, Da Vinci and Lorenzo explore the nature of their relationship as Da Vinci tries to hit up Lorenzo for money to continue his search for the Book of Leaves. While that bond continues, a new relationship is forged between Riario and Zita, the black woman he freed last episode. The scene that follows is as heated as it comes, as Zita manages to seduce Riario through the telling of a parable of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Zita is a fascinating character, who seeks to win the heart of Riario, a man whose heart is with duty and God. Her background, her beauty, her seductiveness penetrate the controlled exterior of such a religious man, who breaks his vows of chastity for a foreign woman covered in tribal tats.

While Rairo gets biblical with his new mistress, Zoroaster returns and tells Da Vinci that Nico has been taken. This reduces Da Vinci to the throes of frustration as Zoroaster encourages Da Vinci to trust Lucrezia who knows a way to find Nico and continue the search for the Book of Leaves. Too bad we didn’t get to see more of Zoroaster and Lucrezia on the road together. They could have been fun. And Hawt! Lucrezia’s path leads Da Vinci to Amerigo Vespucci (Hey cool, I did a report of him in fourth grade).  Vespucci can get Da Vinci the ship he needs to reach Nico, but Zoroaster is only there for the rescue, not for the Book of Leaves. Maybe he wants to get back to Lucrezia, and I can’t blame you, big fella.

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Vanessa finds herself on the Medici doorstep as she asks for refuge while she carries the Medici heir in her womb. Clarice is cold and unwelcoming as Vanessa must prove herself in the eyes of the Medici matriarch. Judging from how capable Vanessa has been so far, that will take maybe five minutes. Da Vinci bids farewell to Vanessa as she suddenly finds herself a noblewoman.

Things wrap up as Lorenzo realizes his grandfather’s sword holds the key finding the Book of Leaves. By sharing the sword, which Lorenzo discovered can secretly split in two, Lorenzo accepts Da Vinci as a brother, and propels Da Vinci’s quest forward.

All in all, this episode neatly tied up many plot points from season one while careening the story into the new, unchartered waters of season 2.

What I Learned:

If you can control acoustics you can control the political destiny of a country, which may make Slayer’s stage crew the most important humans on the planet.

Riario gets all hot and bothered by biblical references.

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Don’t cross Clarice Orsini, she will mock you before your execution.

Dragonetti still rules.

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4 out of 5