Sunday, May 5, 2013

Da Vinci's Demons, Season 1, Episode 4: The Magician

We open with Leonardo’s backstory told by Andrea – how Pierro, Leo’s father, recognised Leo’s talent and “sold” him to Andrea. He tells the story to a jealous Botticelli (oooh another Renaissance painter – let’s see how straight this one turns out, since he’s more ambiguous than the gay Leonardo Da Vinci, he’s almost certain to be straight in this show).

Leo is painting Lucrezia and obsessing over the statue again, she comments on it and lots of flirting follows.

Meanwhile the pope is plotting against Florence, as he does, while making plans for the Sistine Chapel and competing for the most gaudily tasteless clothing in history award. They’re plotting  more subtle attack on Florence that doesn’t involve everyone being turned to goo by cannon.

In Florence, Lorenzo and Guiliano are arguing over Becchi, who Lucrezia set up as a traitor. Guiliano doesn’t believe it and there is much tantrumming. Lorenzo is adamant, pointing to Becchi’s family’s severe debts as motive

Riario decides to have his own little Bible quiz where he kills people who get the wrong answer. And lo, we now know why Riario gave up his career as a school teacher after the Unfortunate Spelling Bee Incident. After one person gets the answer right, he dispatches the guy to Florence with a note about the many many many people they killed. Riario also reflects on the Medici’s wealth, including the alum mines Florence controls – which Riario has just taken over and massacred the miners.

Leo is getting bored making the same thing over and over, which makes it probably fortunate when his dad comes to take him to the palace – a bored Leo is a dangerous thing. To a secret council chamber with Lorenzo for him to pontificate at length. Between the flowery language it’s basically “we’re at war with Rome, last chance to run” with extra “traitors will be stabbed repeatedly in the face.”  And then he loses his ever loving mind and decides to have a messenger tortured for reading the scroll the miner was sent with by Riario; he blames the man for the spread of the news of Riario’s army. More rousingly awful speech before everyone shows off their awful Italian. When everyone leaves, Guiliano remains behind to remind Lorenzo that his rousing speech was a direct quote from Becchi. He says there’s a difference between strength and cruelty and the people will rise against them

Outside in the street, Andrea talks to Lucrezia about the crowd gathering for the servant’s brutal public execution on the wheel. It’s very very nasty, and Lucrezia has to stay and watch to prove how she is against those awful awful spies.

Guiliano visits Becchi in the prison where Becchi continues to deny being a spy. Becchi points out if he was in Rome’s pay it would have been spent paying the debt, not lying in his room with the Papal seal. But Becchi is sure that Lorenzo won’t listen – and the best person to find the spy is Guiliano because everyone thinks he’s a fool. Everyone’s also kind of right.

Time to prepare for war, which includes a hint about Leo’s cunning plan (since he’s talking about them “seeing our guns” rather than firing them, I bet this includes hollow fake cannons. Which the Borgias already did) before going off to see Riario. After Leo snarks about his horse, Riario gives his demands which are utterly ridiculous and include forgiving all debts (A Pope doesn’t always pay his debts, it seems).  Also to deliver artists to work on the Pope’s chapel – including Leo (who would rather have his testicles gnawed off by conger eels. Leo, don’t give them ideas). Riario points out his army is hella big and even if Leo’s new guns kill a lot there’ll be plenty left – and as for siege, he’s there for the Pope. There’s bound to be one person in the city who will open the gate because god said so.

Lorenzo decides they need more guns! (with such a scintillating brain we can see why he is fit to rule!) and Leo sketches pomegranates. Nico questions this, more importantly, Clarice Orsini questions this and Leo babbles something which basically comes down to “this fruit will totally inspire me to be awesome later” before going to talk with Clarice about the ugly little statue he obsesses over – which Lorenzo inherited from his granddaddy Cosmo known as the “Magician” and Leo gets all obsessive over a really bad painting of the man. She gives him the ugly little statue.

Guiliano has a little meeting with Lucrezia about Becchi – asking her and Clarice to speak to Lorenzo to give him chance to prove Becchi innocent.

To the workshop where Zoroaster is losing patience with Leo who is ignoring the guns in favour of obsessing over the damn statue because it has keys that resemble the Book of Leaves keys. And Leo is moved by the horrors of war and how having the big cannon just means your enemy will eventually return with an even bigger cannon, destroying the city in a cycle of violence. To which he has a hissy fit and blows up his forge. Y’know, surrendering does end the cycle of violence, true, but not the city flourishing. Better prepare the conger eels.

Lucrezia goes to confession for her lie about Becchi – and she’s feeling horrendously guilty after seeing the servant die on the wheel and that she is going to cause Becchi to die the same way. Except the priest commits a big no-no and admits he knows who she is and talks about her cheating on her husband; clearly thinking this is what she’s talking about.

At the bar tensions are high since Riario has adopted a leafleting campaign and a captain blames Leo and his fellow artists for their ungodly naughtiness which touches a nerve of the sensitive, drunken Leo. When he leaves he hallucinates a huge pile of corpses. Perhaps realising that removing all Florence’s defences isn’t going to stop the sacking of the city, Leo returns to the drawing board, troubled by more Riario hallucinations and strops – until Lucrezia arrives.

With Lucrezia here it’s time for Leo to tell her all about the key. Time for some workshop sex. Followed by after sex talk about pomegranates. She leaves and Leo gets to explain the whole blowing up the guns thing to Lorenzo. Lorenzo is not amused, not amused at all – he’s left with offering himself as hostage in the hope this will stop Riario pillaging Florence and killing his family. And that means handing over Leo on a platter.

Everyone rides out to great Riario so Lorenzo can discuss surrender and Leo can eat a pomegranate. And Leo interrupts Lorenzo’s surrender to say “oh no, we mean Riario’s!” He uncovers his cart and shows his new idea  - instead of cannonballs use bombards which are basically cluster bombs, modelled after pomegranates. And a GIANT BALLISTA to fire them.

Using a more modest crossbow and a smaller bombard he demonstrates the splodey goodness with lots of panicking horses. Riario responds with cryptic comments and “history is a lie” before backing off

Lorenzo is impressed and Leo reveals that it’s a sham – the giant crossbow is ridiculous, a model – and there’s no way a real one could have been made anyway. He also drops a line about mercy and forgiving your friends – as Cosmo would have

Speaking of, Lucrezia sneaks to see Becchi disguised as a priest. He realises she’s the spy and that they have something over her – she says there’s more to it than Florence, Rome or her life. She stabs him in the chest with a special poisoned dagger that hides its wound – it’s a merciful death because she doesn’t want to see him die on the wheel. Becchi, dying, says she’s just covering for herself. By the time Lorenzo and Guiliano arrive, he’s dead with a vial of hemlock in his hand, suicide is assumed. Guiliano doesn’t believe it but Lorenzo does.

Meanwhile the sly man who was talking to the Pope in the beginning of the show approaches the captain with some anonymous accusations which he says he’s duty bound to investigate.

Leo is dressing up for the celebration party and Zoroaster complains because he never gets to go. He still arrives late for the party because he’s busy obsessing over Cosmo’s painting now. I think it’s a ploy, stare at a piece of art long enough and hope Clarice will give it to him in the hope that he will actually get on with the work he’s paid to do. He has a revelation – the painting is full of clues to the “I am a son of Earth and Starry Heaven…” line that the Sons of Mithras use. He now wants Lorenzo to pay for an expedition to South America. (Since he doesn’t know what the world looks like, how can he even see that as a map? It’s a shape – it’s a shape we recognise as a map because we know what South America looks like, but how would Leo?).

Lorenzo has a big speech and awards Leo with a medal and member of the order of St John the Baptist and lays it on even thicker with “the living embodiment of classical brilliance” (Botticelli and Leo’s father gives the stink eye).

Leo begins his acceptance speech, working in his “gimme a boat” plea as a troop of guards move through the palace just as he’s asking for the goods. How rude. Also, I call bullshit. There is no way that the guards of Florence would arrest one of Lorenzo’s guests – the guest of honour – in the middle of a party. They’d wait until afterwards. Doing so in the middle of the party insults and embarrasses Lorenzo.

They arrest Leo for sodomy. Lorenzo accuses the slimy lord who serves the pope of fabricating the accusation while Nico screams that it’s a lie.

*deep breath*

So… Leonardo has gone 4 episodes – that’s half of the entire

They have made Leonardo straight, every indication is that he’s straight. He’s spend the entire series lusting after women and obsessing on Lucrezia. He just had the series second open sex scene – both of which were with woman.

This historical gay man has been turned completely straight by fiction in an act of utter homophobia… but they’re still going to include his sodomy trial?

Best case scenario, they decide Leo is bisexual and include some flash backs to a same-sex relationship he had which is, of course completely in the past and not nearly as important as his current love of women. Which would be homophobic and rewriting a gay man. Worse case scenario it’s all a dastardly plot and Leo was never ever gay how could you say such a thing> Which is even more revoltingly homophobic

There is no non-homophobic option here.

And shall we look at the role of women. Wait, woman. Do we really have to count Clarice who isn’t DOING ANYTHING except giving away ugly statues. Lucrezia is a complete and utter tool who has no agency of her own, she’s a sex object and manipulated victim waiting for the day she either tragically dies, tragically, to the tragic crying of the tragic men in her tragic life, or Leo rescues her from her tragic situation that she is tragically forced into.

As for Vanessa – she was useful last week as a plot hook for the nuns, but now she’s not needed so has fallen through the plot hole.

And the story? “Let us make fake weapons to convince our enemy we are strong!” Has been done, repeatedly. And done better. And Leo may be a clever clever boy but having him obsess over pomegranates even BEFORE he’s looking for a solution to the problem is silly.

And as to his “the cycle of violence” so this is better? Don’t make weapons but make fake ones that inspire your enemies to go away and make bigger, real weapons?  Nope, unless you think you can bankrupt Rome, nope.