Da Vinci’s Demons: The Vault of Heaven review

Death traps galore and Renaissance sex ninjas. Why aren't you watching this show? Here's Marc's review...

In this jam packed episode, written by Marco Ramirez, a vet of two previous Da Vinci’s Demons and a goodly number of Orange is the New Black and Sons of Anarchy episodes, Ramirez pens a study in contrasts as Clarice, Lucrezia, Da Vinci, and his group must all undergo personal quests to find their heart’s desires while revealing a great deal about themselves. Let’s start with Da Vinci, Riario, Nico, Zoroaster, and Da Vinci’s new blushing bride, the Incan Priestess.

Well, you can’t have an Incan Temple story without cunning deathtraps and this episode has them in spades. It’s quite a diverse crew that must find ways to survive these traps, Da Vinci with his analytical mind, Riario with his unwavering faith, and Zoroaster with his base cunning. Da Vinci’s Demons is rarely predictable, but impractical Incan deathtraps are quite the uncharacteristic cliché for this show. The Indiana Jones riff is paint by numbers at best.

That’s not to say “The Vault of Heaven” is without merit. I’ve said it before, the cinematography of the New World sequences are nothing short of amazing. The inside of the Vault of Heaven is equally as impressive, as the show builds quite a sense of claustrophobia and imminent danger, particularly with Riario around, whose constant scowling presence signals a possible betrayal, particularly now that he is mourning Zita.

The first temple trap is one of those weight sensitive pressure plate traps, and since you can’t have one of those in a show without showing the viewer how it works, the Incan Priestess sends a llama to demonstrate the trap. One squished llama later, and Da Vinci begins to devise a way to get around the trap. Was this the first llama to die on pay cable original programming? Wasn’t there the famous llama death sequence in Deadwood? No? Da Vinci creates the first self-propelled cart to go through the pressure plates and disarm the first trap. The trap might be cliché, but building an ancient motorized car, now that’s pretty original stuff right there.

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The Priestess follows Da Vinci and company to the next trap, a suspension bridge over a bottomless cavern, now; you knew that we couldn’t keep going with the Tomb Raider temple thing without the bottomless pit. If Da Vinci sticks the Priestesses’ key in the wrong key hole (eww), it’s a quick trip south. Good ol’ math allows Da Vinci to save the day. I got like a 550 on the Math SATs, that would have been the end of me. This daring escape separates Da Vinci and company from the Priestess who wishes Da Vinci good fortune with his quest. Even Riario’s faith in Da Vinci is growing as the Master now has escaped two convoluted death traps.

Let’s leave the temple for a moment as Clarice has her found a new faith…in the hedonistic sexual acumen of Carlo Medici. It’s not surprising that Clarice is so attracted to a man so different than Lorenzo, a man who must constantly work at making people accept and respect him despite the fact he is of mixed race and was born out of wedlock. Carlo and Clarice are attacked post coitus by ninjas (hate it when that happens!). Nothing is worse than post sex cuddling being interrupted by sex ninjas! Seriously though, Medici’s defensive prowess is as impressive as his bedroom expertise as he fends off the sneak attack and protects Clarice. I sense more nookie is imminent. Vanessa is also attacked by the sex ninjas and saved by Carlo. After saving both ladies, studly Carlo figures out the sex ninjas were sent by a treacherous, power hungry member of the Medici Bank. Carlo coldly guts the banker, leaving viewers with a feeling that to cross Carlo is to die a quick and primal death. There are no whispers or politicking for this Medici, just the quick twist of a sharp knife.

Our visit to Clarice doesn’t end with Carlo’s badassery. After a few episodes, we have the pleasure to revisit with the carrier of the heir to the Medici family, Vanessa. Now, more Vanessa is always a good thing, as Clarice makes with the lessons on how to act properly high born. Vanessa, the most primal, the most wild, the freest character in the world of Da Vinci’s Demons must get used to be being defined by the name of her child. She struggles against the confines of civility as it seems the name Medici is going to become a cage for the fiery free spirit of Vanessa.

Back to the temple, and I don’t mean Beth Shalom. A lock needs to be picked, which is Zoroaster’s area of expertise, but there is some kind of spinning disco ball thing behind our stalwart heroes. Once the master thief figures out which key is needed, Da Vinci and Rairio must open the double lock together. Nothing happens, until the Master realizes that when the disco ball thingie’s light falls on the door, the door can be opened. The keys need to be held after turned, well, good thing Nico and Zoroaster are there. Riario and Da Vinci finally enter the vault.

While we wait for that particular cliffhanger (ha) we join Lucrezia as she journeys into the heart of the Ottoman Empire. With her is the Sword of Osman, a mythical weapon that holds great value within the Turkish borders. The beautiful Lucrezia seduces the possible heir of the Ottoman Empire with the sword she found in the Pope’s vaults. This is Lucrezia’s best moment so far this season as it displays her particular skill set, namely cunning ability to bring people to her side with just a glance from her almond like eyes and a well placed word. This new Ottoman Prince wants to take the Empire from his brother, and Lucrezia stokes the fires of ambition, a little too ambitious as he takes Lucrezia prisoner after she gifts the sword.

It is with his former rival, Riario, that Da Vinci enters the Vault of Heaven. There is no time to enjoy their victory, as a voice cries out in the darkness. As Da Vinci desperately searches for who made that sound, the Priestess enters the Vault, Nico and Zoroaster her prisoners. The beautiful Incan holy woman is angered that Da Vinci continued the search without her, she also can see that Da Vinci loves another, the very woman who is being taken away be sword point in Turkey, Lucrezia. As Lucrezia, Da Vinci, and Da Vinci’s companions are being led away, each far from home with seemingly no hope in reunited. Da Vinci realizes the voice came from his mother, still hidden within the darkness of the Vault after all these years.

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Ok, the traps might have been clichéd and predictable but who saw that coming?

What I learned:

– Most Incan temple builders must have had an advanced engineering degree in MIT.

– The first motorized conveyance was built by an Italian artist in Machu Picchu to find a biblical artifact. Didn’t cover that in Sunday school, didja?

– The show is too good to resort to tropes like the temple death trap.

– Sex ninjas. The scourge of the Renaissance.

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3 out of 5