Okay, I was using the Pope Palpatine analogy as a joke earlier, but tonight’s Da Vinci’s Demons opens with Pope Sixtus accompanied by dire sounding chant music almost identical to the Emperor’s theme from Return of the Jedi. You gotta’ admire the persistent tribute, really. In fact, this episode takes the Pope’s evil to the next level, making old Sixtus one of the most repellant figures on modern television. This episode was written by Marco Ramirez, veteran of past Da Vinci’s Demons and Orange is the New Black. Ramirez does some deft character juggling as this episode skillfully jumps from character to character and quest to quest.
Because of Pope Uglyheart, the beautiful Lucrezia is led to the papacy’s prison by her new loyal Cardinal, who will not let her mute ninja into the prison for the rescue attempt on her father. Never leave the ninja behind—I learned that in elementary school. Anyway, on her way into seeing her long imprisoned father, Lucrezia narrates a flashback of Sixtus trying to murder his older brother when they were children. Well, I guess he was always a stained little prick from childhood. Some good villain building by Ramirez who manages to make an already reprehensible monster even more puke inducing.
As for Da Vinci, Vespucci, and Zoroaster, the Master is using his maps (drawn by memory) to navigate the oceans. So when did this dude find time to paint what with all the ocean voyages and sorta’ vampires? Da Vinci makes with the math but sadly, the crew is running out of provisions. Da Vinci’s new crew is spooked by the voyage, feeling they are about to sail over the edge of the world. Da Vinci wants to teach them the world is round, and as we all know, historically, that always works out well. This latest conflict of modernism over superstition is the latest thematic exploration of science versus religion that fuels the majority of the conflicts on this show, but this time, Da Vinci is not fighting the battle with swords or bazookas, but with rhetoric.
Lucrezia and Da Vinci aren’t the only people questing, as Lorenzo embarks on a journey of his own to free Florence from Roman control and end the excommunication that’s starving his people. It will be interesting to watch Lorenzo Medici’s story unfold without Da Vinci. The character continues to evolve into almost the show’s second hero. Some nice back and forth storytelling follows Lorenzo as the Cardinal and Lucrezia break into the prison, and the beautiful daughter of the Pope’s brother is finally reunited with her father. This is the most history regarding Lucrezia that has been revealed thus far as, like Lorenzo, her character is also branching in new and exciting directions. Her love for her father is palpable, but a reunion outside his cell will have to wait since her father is playing his own game with Sixtus and wants to stay in his prison to complete his plan of taking out his brother. Try getting Darth Vader to toss Sixtus into a reactor…that seemed to work once. More flashbacks are shown as we get to see how Sixtus took the papacy away from his brother. With Lucrezia’a papal father and her sister watching in horror, Sixtus enters wearing a black hooded robe. C’mon, now it’s just blatant. Soon he’ll be talking about a fully armed and operational Vatican. While Sixtus is long haired, Ren Faire is looking for young Riario. We now understand the depths of Sixtus’ evil, as he takes the robes and identity of the Pope from his brother, and orders Lucrezia and her sister killed.
On his own vessel, Da Vinci holds class, trying to teach his superstitious crew that the world is round. The abused lot does not trust Da Vinci, because the last people they trusted put them in chains. Using a bowl, an apple, and a table, Da Vinci convinces head slave girl Yana that his theories have validity. Through her and her perfect stomach, Da Vinci gets through to his crew. Very inspiring scene as Da Vinci tries to open the truth to a group of slaves never gifted with knowledge. In order to prove his science correct, Da Vinci tells them the Venus planet will be seen that night, and so it is. Sadly, superstition wins this round as Venus is in a different phase than Da Vinci promised. Panic ensues, and the former slaves revolt. Who ever thought we would ever witness a knockdown, drag out brawl involving Amerigo Vespucci?
The debate between science versus religion continues when Lorenzo and Da Vinci’s not so proud papa are set upon by brigands of the Church. Lorenzo insulted one of them on the road, and the Church thugs are looking for validation (and gold). Lorenzo and the scruffy preacher bandy about Bible quotes and insults. Scruffy preacher recognizes Lorenzo and things get mighty tense. Lorenzo, always pragmatic, tries to bribe the Church brigands. Finally, Lorenzo excommunicates the brigand’s bowels from his belly. The heat of battle causes a bond to form between Lorenzo and Da Vinci’s father, who reveals his regrets over not nurturing his bastard. Some good circular writing as the show continues to explore important figures in Da Vinci’s life, even if the artist is not present.
While Lorenzo is in danger of being robbed of riches, Lucrezia finds riches of her own in a Turkish sword that is very valuable to the Church. The Cardinal does not wish Lucrezia to take the sword and a tense standoff ensues. While arguing, the pair is interrupted by a guard, and the Cardinal’s loyalty is tested. Cardinal Confused uses the Turkish blade to kill the guard and save Lucrezia like any red-blooded male would, God, Shmod. Some brave moments from the Cardinal, but I told them they should have brought the ninja. Always bring the ninja.
An interesting new wrinkle to the Zoroaster and Da Vinci dynamic ensues as the thief expresses doubt over the quest for the Book of Leaves. Zoroaster is a pragmatic sensualist who follows Da Vinci because the genius sees truths in a world of superstition. During the argument, Da Vinci draws inspiration from the almost primal romantic as their clash leads Da Vinci to realize the truth of the solar system. In a moment of divine eureka-ness, Da Vinci understands that the Earth rotates the sun. Sadly, Zoroaster’s need for truth does not extend to everyone as the slaves all kill themselves (except for Yana) in order to avoid continuing on a journey they are convinced will send them over the edge of creation.
As Da Vinci struggles with the slaves, Lucrezia reunites with her ninja, and we are privy to another flashback revealing how Lucrezia survived Sixtus’ papal takeover. As Lucrezia prays for her sister’s survival, the Pope snaps the innocent girl’s neck in front of her father and sister. Well, it’s official: Sixtus is the most evil bastard on television. He makes Hannibal Lecter look like a puppy and Joffrey Baratheon look like Elmo.
The show ends with Da Vinci accepting a new mission: to lift the only surviving slave, Yana (the one with the tummy), out of her crippling superstitious ignorance. Like any good teacher, it is his job to shine the light of modernism into her narrow world.
Thank you once again Starz for an engaging episode focusing on many diverse characters on many diverse quests. Not much has changed as this installment was about character development, but viewers now know them all better than ever thanks to some deft plate spinning by David Goyer and company. Let’s just all pray that Sixtus suffers a George R.R. Martin death and soon.
What I Learned
David Goyer really likes Return of the Jedi
A hairy chested thief inspired history’s greatest genius to figure out the true nature of the solar system.
When Clarice and Vanessa are absent, I miss them.