Sunday, May 12, 2013

Da Vinci's Demons Season 1, Episode 5: The Tower

Leo starts off in a dream of his childhood, again in the cave with the lost sheep seeing bodies and dangling people and strange carvings. While apparently disturbing, it’s not nearly so much as waking up in the prison, where he has been locked up for sodomy with lots of other prisoners making gay jokes. Leo notices the solitary confinement cell where the bat’s nest so presumably that will be relevant later or he wouldn’t draw such excessive attention to it (they could do what they do on computer games and make the clues sparkle)

Lorenzo is hosting some important guests – King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain (well, we can simplify it down to “Spain” since she is Queen of Castile and he is King of Aragon, Navarre and several others) who are looking for someone to be their bankers. Lorenzo gives Ferdinand a tour of the business who notes that Rome doesn’t bank with them any more and makes a snarky references to Leonardo, but Lorenzo focuses on business –and how much the Pope has defaulted on what they owe the Medicis.

And Clarice gives Isabella a tour of all the holy artwork that Florence supports – which Father Torquemada and Isabella do not approve of since the statues are NAKED! The lewdness!

Back in the prison Leo picks a fight and gets himself locked in solitary, the naughty boy – with the bats and their crap. Literally. And daddy dearest and his advocate, Pierro pays a visit. He pushes Leo to plead guilty and hopefully escape castration, Leo yells (no surprise) and refuses any pleas or bargains. He is accused of sodomising Jacobo Salterelli and Leo says the man is no victim. Pierro tries to dig up several defences which Leo rejects or ignores and rants that he hasn’t be brought the specific plant for dinner he asked for – until he finds it. His instability seems more apparent.  When pushed about the plants by the jailor he begins a lecture on bat’s echolocation and how these plants rely on bats for pollenating and echo more than the average leaf – with some added CGI for funsies.  He uses the leaf to attract the bat and Pierro hits on insanity as a defence in light of Leo’s ramblings

Clarice and Lorenzo discuss their visitors, Lorenzo disparaging Isabella’s tastes but reflecting that without the Rome’s accounts, they need Spain. Clarice considers the difficulties the Spanish are having at home with their wars and suggests entertainment, a distraction – and to set Guiliano on it, a grand theatrical performance. Oh that doesn’t sound like a great idea. Lorenzo has as little faith in his brother as I do.

The court session begins and the plotting Pazzi is the prosecutor, much to Pierro’s annoyance. But he causes a stir by telling the court he will contest all the charges. Leo makes an opening statement about his study of nature, having nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to defend and he condemns the political motives behind the accusation. It’s a defence that doesn’t expressly deny the charges. In the audience Vanessa snarks to Zoroaster that she can vouch for him though he

See what they did there? Leo makes a statement that doesn’t expressly refute the fact he’s gay, so the writers have Vanessa speak up to remind us he likes women – just in case all the explicit straight sex scenes so far left you in any doubt.

Next up with have Father Torquemada preaching against sodomy and how evil and sinful it is and how the leaders of Florence encourage it by not burning all sodomites. More hellfire and brimstone before recess. Leo tells his father he’s heard of Guiliano’s play (and Pierro, rightly, is annoyed at how distracted Leo is) and asks him to give a page of gibberish to Zoroaster. Leo insists it’s in cypher and has a recommendation for the play for Guiliano. Pierro is convinced prison is affecting Leo’s mind.

Guiliano hangs around Verrocchio’s office discussing what play to put on (and not because there are naked female models being sketched). They’re somewhat at a loss. Pierro arrives to deliver the message to Zoroaster and, in his eternal quest to endear himself to the Medicis, passes on Leo’s suggestion. It’s funny, it’s written by someone from Florence – but it has a lot of sex in it (but it’s between a man and woman so no problem. Kind of like Da Vinci’s Demons then).

Back to court and Salterelli, the “victim” is now on the dock. He claims he was hired to pose nude and paid very handsomely for it – and for his silence; the secret that Leo forced himself on Salterelli. Pierro responds by pointing out Salterelli went out celebrating after his rape and then asks some graphic questions about what actually happened. Pazzi objects to the public humiliation of the questioning. Pierro is dragged up before the Magistrate in a private council and threatened to drop his questioning – the Magistrate adds that Leo is already guilty, the trial is a performance, it’s already been decided and he has to play his part or suffer the consequences. Yes, the Magistrate is plotting against the Medicis as well.

Pierro’s back us up and he doesn’t back down and accuses Salterelli of being a prostitute and asks how much he’s being paid for his performance in court. The court is quickly adjourned and Leo praises his father; Pierro makes it clear he didn’t do it for Leo (inspired by loyalty to the Medicis it seems). He tells Leo that Leo disgusts him because some part of Salterelli’s story is true – he accuses Leo of treating life like a game and that Rome has plotted against them.

The Magistrate has his own worries which he shares with Pazzi, how the “hustler” is going to hurt their case. He’s worried he’ll look corrupt if he finds Leo guilty – and Pazzi tells him he’ll do what he’s told. The Magistrate clarifies, as an elected official, he’ll do what he’s paid to do. Ah, democracy in action! Pazzi assures the Magistrate that he will be paid, Riario is willing to put lots of money into it – and a delay in the case may help further embarrass Lorenzo and unhinge Leo.

In the market, Zoroaster and Nicco are following Leo’s cryptic note – which is a shopping list. Nicco is surprised that Leo is being tried for Sodomy since, in Florence, the law isn’t usually enforced.

Captain Dragonetti and his men ransack Leo’s workshop – this is almost a weekly occurrence by now- much to Varracchio’s outrage. They find anatomical sketches and take them as evidence. They’re presented in court, showing the detail Leo put into drawing penises. Even Pierro scoffs at such evidence – but worse they find a notebook Leo kept hidden. Depicting pagan gods or so they think – sketches of the statue he obsessed over, dozens of them. Pazzi adds “sorcery” to the charges.

After the courtroom clears, Lucrezia confronts Pazzi – Riario has plans for Leo, he wants Leo arrested not dead. Lucrezia drags up rumours about Pazzi’s family – his wife dallying with a “mannish maidservant”. She attacks him as reckless and lost to hate of the Medicis and he responds with a not very subtle rape threat.

At the theatre, Lorenzo storms in and kicks everyone out so he can shout at Guiliano about how the extremely devoutly Catholic Isabella will react to a play that’s wall to wall “nun sluts and horny priests!” He orders Guiliano to censor all bawdiness from the play and calls him a dead weight – to which Guiliano replies he should mark him a traitor and have him killed (another snark about Bacchi). Lorenzo punches him and Guiliano punches him back – the brothers brawl with everyone watching on from the wings. Guiliano wins – the one thing he’s better at than Lorenzo.

Back at court, with the Sorcery charge added on the Magistrate tells them Leo will be sentenced to death if convicted. And Leo gets a day to think about confessing and mitigation – Pierro urges him to confess and take the deal to save himself (Leo thinks it’s more likely to save Lorenzo). Pierro rants that his son is as “exasperating as she was” hearing the past tense, Leo leaps up and asks if his mother is dead. And we see some of the reason Pierro hates Leo – he looks like his mother, he reminds Pierro of her and she left him! And she a commoner, people like her don’t leave people like him!

Lucrezia goes to Lorenzo and tries to get him to intercede with the magistrate, but Lorenzo daren’t, not with the “prudery” of the Spanish royal guests. Leo is a genius he needs to invent his own way out

Which he is doing – you can tell by the CGI sketching. Leo’s friends have finished collecting all of the items on his list – though Verracchio thinks he may have lost his wits because the items are so completely random. The first step is Leo using bats (attracted by the leaves he got) to carry explosives (made from guano – bat droppings) out to cause a distraction. With explodey bats everywhere, Zoroaster is able to steal the keys and unlock Leo’s cell. Zoroaster tells him a way out but that’s not part of the plan – the plan is for Zoroaster to pretend to be Leo and stay in the prison with a beard made from bat’s hair and wearing his guano stained clothes while Leo goes out to complete his plan

Zoroaster is not amused by this plan.

Leo escapes leaving Zoroaster behind and goes to meet his minions and explains his plans to Verracchio who asks him if he has any thought of what to do if the plan fails “none whatsoever” which is both worrying and reassuring. But Leo is furious at how he’s being used and has an epic rant about the revenge he will inflict.

Lorenzo is still wooing his guests with how wealthy and innovative they are and how the Medicis rely on money and skill with money rather than titles and history like the Pazzis. And Florence is so at the heart of money that the Florin is named after it, currency is named after it.

Meanwhile Guiliani has his own plan. He tells the theatre troop that he has been told to remove all but the holiest and moral stories from the play. But this is Florence, they either like the city or don’t – so instead he has decided to take out the moral stories and ONLY show the bawdy ones. Including the pig which Vanessa takes out for some air.

The play begins with much ribald bawdy humour , much to the disapproval of the priest and Torquemada and the open laughter of Ferdinand.

Leo puts his plot in action and kidnaps the Magistrate with chloroform (something I doubt they had around then since it was credited to people in the 1830s but, hey it’s Leonardo Da Vinci, I’ll let that pass). The magistrate wakes up glued, naked, to a pig. Glued naked to a pig in a sexually suggestive pose. And he uses his camera obscurer and fireworks to broadcast the image across the clouds above Florence – including the crowds at the theatre. So far it hides his face. If he doesn’t want that revealing he needs to sign 4 documents: 1 dismissing the charges against Leo and ensuring immunity from prosecution. 1 of him confessing to bestiality to be used as surety. 1 paying money to Pierro for enduring the magistrate’s court room (showing he has some affection for his father) and 1 revealing who denounced Leonardo. Oh and Leo has also invented the camera to take photographs.

The play is well received by the crowds – and Vanessa celebrates by kissing Guiliano.

Back to the trial – and the magistrate dismisses all charges to much comment and shock. Leo and Lucrezia share a smile across the court room. Leo is released and Pierro warns him that Rome will still be gunning for him and there’s almost a bonding moment between them.

Alone Ferdinand and Lorenzo discuss power – how Ferdinand got his power through birthrite and was forced to marry his “pug faced” cousin to keep it. He is impressed that the non-royal Medicis rallied and entire city out of joy; how the common people love them. Ferdinand agrees, the Medicis will be the bankers of Spain.

Leo and his friends celebrate and Salterelli takes Leo aside to talk to him. He shows Leo a picture of him that Leo drew that shows him naked with an erect penis and says if he’d shown that to the court, Leo would have been convicted. He claims he wanted to see Leo exposed, not killed – because he wanted Leo to come back to men. Leo says desire isn’t so simple and he’s sorry that his ”experiments” and “curiosities”. He tells Salterelli his infatuation will fade and gives him a chaste kisses goodbye. Salterelli pulls him back and kisses Leo more forcefully and Leo confirms beyond doubt that it’s goodbye. Salterelli leaves

And we cut to Leo naked in a bath with Lucrezia! Of course we do – after all 2 fully clothed men kissing restrainedly may burn out the eyes of straight viewers! Quick! Get some naked breasts on the screen! Why don’t they just have a big flashing “no homo” sign flash up!?!

She trims his unruly beard and he starts manually stimulating her under the water (sex with women, sex with women, must drive it home!) while discussing the carefully guarded denunciations he got his hand on. He wants to confront his accuser, who nearly cost him his life and freedom. Lucrezia is upset and worried about that (looks like she’s the denouncer). And she gives him her ring as a token for him to remember her in case anything happens. Then they start talking about love and kiss passionately.

Back to his workshop to look at the map and Al Rahim appears. Al Rahim makes cryptic references to Leo’s dreams and the fountain of memory. He talks about the dream he had in prison and asks Leo to close his eyes and return to the vision. He sees a cave full of bodies and a man hanging upside down, still alive. The man was him.

So, our historical gay character is turned into – Bi-curious guy who only has sex with women! Whose relationships with men were “experiments” and “curiosities!” And of course, a man who has endless sex with women and just “curiosities” with other men is just someone who “refuses to be defined!” What a straightwashing abuse of a gay historical figure and sexuality in general! They didn’t even confirm they had a sexual relationship, they couldn’t even go that far!

But hey we’ve had other gay men – we’ve had a blackmailing prostitute and a dead corrupt hedonistic pig and an evil, devious monster who may be gay or may be a paedohile! YAY REPRESENTATION!

And you’ve got to almost be in awe of the desperate transformation of “no homo” to the script – Leo makes a speech not totally declaring his heterosexuality – step forward Vanessa and remind everyone he’s totally had lots of hetsex with you – no homo guys, no homo. Leo has a chaste goodbye kiss with someone who was a lover in the past – don’t worry guys, it’s GOODBYE, there will be no more. And have some naked boobies. We know you poor straight guys are completely traumatised by the sight of two guys kissing, the horror, have some naked breasts. Yes and Leo’s naked in the bath with her – see, he likes women, he likes women, don’t worry, women women women. It’s blatant and it’s disgusting

So, his affection for men is dumped as a historical matter, a “curiosity” and heavily interspaced with boobies in case the horror of it all is just homophobic. Simple as. Even with a brand new fictional figure this would be annoying and insulting – but to do it to an actual, historical gay man is bigoted, utterly, disgustingly, shamefully bigoted

And don’t you just love how everyone talks about how tolerant Florence is about “sodomites” and the city is full of them (which was kind of true – in parts of Europe “Florentine” was a slang word for a gay man) and how corrupt how perverse when we have seen NOT ONE INDICATION OF THIS. Lots of “burn the sodomites! Corrupt sodomites!” but actual gay men? Far too icky!

And this is one of the times when we have to hit directly at those behind the show because David S Goyer has been running around whitewashing this crap since day one, telling us that Leo’s sexuality will be addressed that it will be treated respectfully and encouraging us to see it as inclusive. Even the website of the show lists Zoroaster as bisexual – is this a new form of “word of gay”? No actual representation but a site footnote

Honestly I can describe my rage and disgust over this, only made worse by how much this show was peddled as being inclusive. It speaks volumes for the crumbs we’re expected to accept.

And that picture Saltarelli produces? Exists. But it’s not of Saltarelli. It’s of Salai, Leonardo Da Vinci’s apprentice who was part of Leonardo Da Vinci’s household for 25 years. But we’re going to reduce that to a prostitute who tried to betray Leo in court?

On the women front – Clarice is supposed to be cunning but isn’t actually doing anything cunning. Isabella walks around in a cloud of “frigid” jokes (and repeated insults) and Lucrezia continues to be a sex object and manipulated spy.

But, hey, Al Rahim is back to be the exotic, other with extra woo-woo.

This show would have to outright try to be more offensive than it is.