Already this season we have been treated to an episode written by comic writer extraordinaire Matt Fraction, and now, we get an episode co-written by Infinity, Avengers, God is Dead, East of West, and Manhattan Projects writer Jonathan Hickman along with Corey Reed, former writer and producer on Medium. Hickman’s involvement is fascinating because the writer once wrote Leonardo Da Vinci in the pages of his time-spanning SHIELD book for Marvel, which was a brilliant study of the history of SHIELD and the many historical icons that played a part in building the organization. It will be particularly interesting to see how Hickman handles a different Da Vinci in a different medium.
“The Fall From Heaven” begins with Riario and Da Vinci waxing about their mortality and the irony of facing their doom together at the hands of their Incan jailers. This moment of contemplation allows Riario to inform Da Vinci about his past, a confession that will be completed in shocking fashion later in the episode. As for the duo’s precarious situation, Da Vinci constantly tries to live in to the light of modernity, but he is held prisoner by his new Incan bride, a woman living in the darkness of pagan superstition. Da Vinci is concerned about Zoroaster and Nico and insists on seeing them. They are busy being forced to debone dead animals as Da Vinci gives them coded instructions that begin their plan of escape.
There’s an awesome moment as Zoroaster tries to sneak out, but Nico shockingly rats him out. It seems Nico has learned quite a bit during his time as Riario’s prisoner and what he learned was not deceit but a cunning ability to quickly murder his opponents with animal bones using Zoroaster as a distraction. Zoroaster wanted to pick a lock, but Nico, using subterfuge, slits a few throats and Da Vinci’s wingmen are now free. Nico started the series off as Jimmy Olsen but he ended up Wolverine.
It’s been a bit, but we again get to pay a visit with Lorenzo. Lorenzo has always been a man who puts duty to country first, but in this case, it’s at the cost of his own personal happiness as it is very clear he wants to stay and build a life with the Duchess of Naples, his former lover who he still obviously has strong feelings for. Suddenly, Lorenzo finds himself with a new duty and distraction, as French pirates have kidnapped Da Vinci’s father, a man who Lorenzo has sworn to protect. When Lorenzo arrives to parlay with the pirates for his comrade’s safe return, it is revealed that the Duchess hired the pirates herself as part of a plan to get her husband, the King of Naples, to trust Lorenzo.
The French pirates are wanted men that have plagued Naples, and now that Lorenzo brought the pirates down, the King of Naples will see him as an ally. Well played Duchess, now the dangerous King of Naples trusts Lorenzo completely. Lorenzo does not have time to enjoy this newfound alliance as just as he clasps hands with the King, Pope Sixtus enters spelling certain trouble for Lorenzo.
From the corruption of the Catholic Church to a pagan ritual of sacrifice, organized religion is never kind to Da Vinci. As for Riario, the further he gets from the sanctity of the Church, the more danger he is in. Da Vinci is not too concerned with his pending sacrifice at the hands of the Incans as he is still perseverating on the voice of his mother that he heard in the Vault of Heaven.
By the way, the amount of practical gore effects on this show should be mentioned and praised. The show doesn’t often resort to the gore, but when it does, it’s always nice and juicy with little nods to other Italian masters like Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento. This episode, we get treated to a realistic throat slice on a beautiful native girl before the attempted sacrifice of Da Vinci and Riario.
Anyway, Zoroaster and Nico are free and set off explosives underground allowing Riario and the Master to escape. Da Vinci, whose faith is not reserved for a god, pagan or otherwise, but for his friends, sets his plan in motion by freeing himself and taking the luchador high priest as a hostage. Da Vinci took on all the powers of the Catholic Church and Pope Sixtus, so he isn’t going to blink in the face of Incan skygods. A rollicking chase back through the mountain ensues. Da Vinci has an escape plan, an awesome one at that, you see…he brought canvas along to make the world’s first parachutes. The inventor never disappoints. But first, Da Vinci must free his mother from the Vault of Heaven. All this time, Da Vinci believed the fabled vault contained a great prize; little did he know that it would contain the greatest prize he ever sought, the truth behind his lineage.
So many mysteries are close to being solved, Da Vinci must open the Vault using clues he garnered from his dream of the Mona Lisa. Now that’s some skilled storytelling right there as the odd dream sequence involving the famous painting was not just a bit of narrative cleverness but an integral plot point. The Vault opens, but neither book nor mother is within. Instead, there is a clockwork head containing a recording, yes, a Renaissance era recording of his mother’s voice, shaped like a gilded head. Before the head can reveal its secrets, the Incans bust in, and Da Vinci and company must product test those parachutes. The show was just renewed for a third season, so you know the chutes work and Da Vinci’s hard landing hurts less than the fact that there was no Book of Leaves in the Vault.
Unfortunately for Riario, his landing was even harder as the former Sword of God suffers a nasty compound fracture. Da Vinci and Nico show their loyalty by fashioning a litter and saving their once sworn enemy. With some of his company broken, with no Book in hand, Da Vinci still stands confident as all is still not lost because the recording device survived and Da Vinci’s mother voice may soon provide clarity on the next step the quest should take.
The episode ends with a confession from the broken Riario, who tells the tale of his first kill ordered by Sixtus, a Jewish prostitute. As Sixtus strangles the life out of the sinner, he realizes the woman is his own mother. Holy shit. Riario becomes more tragic by the episode, a son of Jewish blood, with a non-Christian sinner for a mother…a mother who he choked to death with his own hands. The amount of self loathing inside Riario must be crippling, and Riario now believes that his punishment for his sins is his failure to find the Book of Leaves. Riario, lamenting his past, has lost all faith, all focus, all belief.
But Da Vinci still has faith in him, so hope, like the quest for the book, is far from over.
What I learned:
– Jonathan Hickman can write television with the same degree of acumen as he does comics.
– Corey Reed is a formidable writing force as well and with his experience combined with Hickman’s voice, Da Vinci’s Demons continues to build a murderers’ row of creators to weave its complex tale.
– The first parachute was invented to escape angry Incan warriors and a spurned Incan priestess.