Sunday, June 2, 2013

Da Vinci's Demons, Season 1, Episode 7: The Hierophant

Time for another episode of his Hetness, Leonardo Da Vinci and his love of beautiful women and now, apparently, vampire slaying.

Which now brings us, presumably, to Rome. From Wallachia, using Leo’s patented teleporter device (it’s a special design, powered by waves of heterosexuality), so Leo can spy on Riario putting flowers on a woman’s grave – Celia Lysimachus. Zoroaster comments that’s a Jewish name which explains why, in anti-Semitic Renaissance Italy, she’s buried in a pauper’s grave. Of course they’re looking for a key and have the problem of “Rome” being a really imprecise location for said key, but Leo can think of one place where it Riario would hide it – the Vatican secret archives.

Leo & co hide among the Jewish ghetto in disguise on the assumption that the guards will just ignore them. Which, I suppose there is truth that invisible minorities are often ignored – but equally persecuted minorities usually face heightened scrutiny from the guards and similar authority figures. Anyway the Jewish community is helping them because friends of Zoroaster are always welcome (he says with a bit of poking at Zoroaster anyway). Zoroaster really wonders if Leo is that determined to break into a prison but there’s never any point arguing with Leo.

Leo has an opium dream about his special straight love, Lucrezia about how much she loves him and why can’t he say he loves her back – ending with her stabbing him and him waking up. And having a genius moment in the wash basin. Scuba diving their way into the Vatican!

In his steampunk scuba gear, Leo works his way through the river and sewers under the Vatican while Zoroaster and Nico work the bellows (hey, maybe he’ll come up in the Pope’s murder pond).  There is a brief moment of panic when Zoroaster and Nico stop pumping air to pose as totally not-suspicious midnight fishermen, but all goes well.

And in Rome the pope and Riario meet… the Duke of Umberto. Who is happy to play “I don’t know what you’re talking about” when they confront him about his alliance with Lorenzo. Until Riario offers him money to fight against Florence – which offends the Duke.

Leo finishes his drilling in the sewers under the Vatican – and cuts a hole into the Pope’s murder pond, I knew it! Quite displeasing the pope who was denied his obligatory nude scene and now has a Leonardo Da Vinci coming out of his bath.

Leo advances, the Pope backs up while praising his entrance. He threatens the Pope with his collapsible machine crossbow (just run with it) but far be it from the Pope to be intimidated. Still Leo’s a genius so spots the hidden passage. The pope shows Leo the archive and Leo is both awed and outraged over how much has been gathered through bloodthirsty tyranny. When the pope tries to point out the anti-violence man is pointing a crossbow at him, Leo counters with the truth that the man who tried to have him burned alive doesn’t get to play word games – though the Pope denies that he could have employed the denouncer since it’s in a woman’s handwriting and he’d never ever employ a woman! The pope pulls out his ace – join the dark side and you can be a sith lord too! Or maybe the guy who gets to play in the secret archive anyway. And they have nifty steampunk lifts.

Down to the special section with super shinies including a dinosaur skull and Excalibur embedded in stone. And the pope pulls out the Spear of Destiny, the Spear of Loginus. Leo focuses on the key though and the pope says the Sons of Mithras are just a society that works to advance the Ottoman Sultan. Oh and he knows about Leo’s mother as well, just throwing that out there. More grand promises of all Rome’s resources. And he even adds a page related to the Book of Leaves – a page in a writing no-one has seen before, and the content of the page changes every time you look. He says that the Book of Leaves was written by Nephilim, the offspring of angels and mortals and contains the secrets of the divine. The church needs it

Unfortunately, Riario has noticed the Pope’s absence and leads the guards to find him, including the Duke of Umberto. Time running out, Leo asks if the church needs the Book of Leaves to protect it – or bury it. And the pope speaks for secrecy. He gives Leo one more chance to swear allegiance as the Duke and the guards arrive but Leo says the Pope just wants to bury him as he has all the other relics, and snatches up the Speak of Destiny – he uses it to fight the expert fighter, the Duke back long enough for him to run and lock a door behind him.

Outside at the river, Riario uses Leo’s scuba gear to retrace Leo’s steps and comes out next to Zoroaster. They fight and Riario holds Zoroaster at knife point, threatening to cut bits off and Nico clobbers him around the head. Now would be a good time to kill Riario.

Leo runs into a prison where he meets a very heavily armoured and strong guard who smacks him around like a doll – until Leo uses the spear to cut the BLADE of the man’s giant axe in half. Nifty holy weapon then stabs him with it – the spear going through his armour, his chest, his backplate and the stone wall behind him. Leo takes his keys and limps away, leaving the spear behind.

What?! Even if it weren’t a nifty weapon, Leo, with all his curiosity, is going to just leave the magical blade of super slicing behind?!

Outside, Nico threatens Riario, since Riario tortured him. Riario doesn’t think he’s up to it and Nico cuts his face. Zoroaster doesn’t think Riario will tell them anything and Riario is happy to threaten Nico – who responds by carving up Riario’s hand. Zoroaster tries to stop him but Nico insists – and Riario says they could use someone like him. When Nico tries to stab Riario, his knife hits metal, pulling aside his shirt, Nico sees Riario’s cross – and the second key.

By the way, there’s considerable speculation that little Nico there is a young Nicollo dei Machiavelli, which puts a different lens on everything.

Leo, running still, arrives in the high prison of the Black Monk (who plays board games with Riario) who starts humming. Leo recognises the tune as one hummed by Lucrezia. He talks to the monk – and eh reveals he’s Lucrezia’s father. Leo shows him the ring Lucrezia gave him and he says it is more than a gift and asks Leo if he loves her  Leo says he doesn’t know her, she’s so shrouded – then follows the logic of Lucrezia to discover, yes she’s a spy. Her father speaks up in her defence – how Lucrezia is being manipulated and forced. Leo releases him but he won’t go – he says he’s where he needs to be and tells Leo to go – tell Lucrezia of his love – and of Leo’s own. Leo goes out the window, abseiling down a rope made of cloths

Outside Rome the battered Leo joins Nico and Zoroaster and they reveal they have the key – still round the neck of the imprisoned Riario. Is there a reason Riario isn’t dead? Riario threatens Leo as he takes the key, but Leo decides that he’s going to let his sworn enemy live. Apparently to be haunted by your mistakes is a fate far worse than death.

Uh-huh, doesn’t stop him following you though. You could at least cut bits off. Amateur.

In Florence (has anyone even noticed Leo’s absence?) the Medicis are going to church and for some reason the priest has a special message of turning from sin for Clarice. Possibly because the writers have looked at her supposed role of master manipulator and realised they’ve barely given her any lines yet.

Lorenzo notes on Lucrezia’s absence to her husband, Guiliano and Vanessa continue to flirt and Guiliano reminds us of his plan to check all the ledgers of curfew breakers (it’s the Holy Day of Recapping in the name of St. Hiatus!) and Lorenzo talks to his old enemy Francesco Pazzi about the upcoming union of their families, marrying off poor Guiliano.

Which means now Lorenzo has to explain this to a not thrilled Guiliano. Not only doesn’t he like the idea of being sold off, he doesn’t see how it’s going to settle so old a feud – ah but Lorenzo says that’s what marriage is for.

Guiliano drowns his sorrows in the pub, with Vanessa there as a sympathetic ear. And a sympathetic other parts as well. Very sympathetic indeed. She even has a hangover cure for him the next morning. They talk about his predicament but she’s far more practical than him. She slept with him knowing he was betrothed because he didn’t want him to become enamoured and try to marry her – she doesn’t want to be a lady because of the duties and restrictions, she also knows that without the Medicis in control she’d still be stuck living a “gentle lie” in the convent – and that Guiliano is needed to stabilise that rule with the Pazzis. And she’ll be there if he wants some fun in the meantime.

See, this is the kind of reasoning that I would have expected Clarice Orsini to advance to show off her supposed vast political acumen.

Guiliano holds back because he still blames the Pazzis for the death of Becchi – but Vanessa has an answer for that, too. Clear Becchi’s name as a warning to the Pazzis. They’re interrupted by a man bringing the curfew books to Guiliano confirming the hidden names – Becchi, a doctor and Lucrezia.  The man doesn’t believe she can be the spy because she’s a woman – but Guiliano thinks she’s perfectly placed to be a spy. They plan to travel to Sienna to speak to her.

The Pazzis, meanwhile, are hosting a backstabbing and plotting dinner party, with lots of folks (including Cardinal Orsini who had words for Clarice) gathering together to plot against Lorenzo. Or, given this is Renaissance Italy, standard Sunday fun.  Including Dragonetti, captain of the guard. Is this supposed to be a shock?

The plot is to kill Lorenzo and Guiliano when they head to the engagement party – and they both have to be killed because they’re both popular, killing one won’t knock the other off their throne. Pazzi offers up some shiny bribes, including to Cardinal Orsini who is disturbed about killing his sister – but that annoys another conspirator who is seeking to topple Lorenzo because he’s a tyrant who rewards his allies and cronies and now they’re doing the same. Time for a poisoning!

Guiliano and his man arrive in Sienna and question Lucrezia’s aunt, Anna, but she claims Lucrezia left for Florence long ago. After a search they leave, trying to track Lucrezia. But when they’re gone, Lucrezia comes out of hiding and the two women worry. Anna asks if there’s anyone in Florence who can help her – bur Lorenzo sentenced his oldest friend for her crimes so he won’t help – now who else could possibly help her? Shall we think? Why, the super straight love of Leo of course!

On the road, Lucrezia travels disguised as a leper – only to be overtaken by Riario’s assassins. Before they have chance to rape and murder her, Guilano arrives to the rescue. Like good bad guys everywhere, they reveal their plot – she’s to die because the Pazzis are taking over and Rome doesn’t need their spy any more. Guiliano and his man kill the assassins – but his man, Batino, dies in the process. Leaving an angry Guiliano with Lucrezia. He hits her and attacks her as a whore and worse, speculating whether Lorenzo will kill her publicly or privately… and she stabs him, dropping his body into the river

Vanessa’s pretty awesome with her practicality but I’m not sure how much I buy into that whole “prison with better linens”. Yes there are rules connected to being in the public eye, but compared to being poor in 15th century Florence? Talk of freedom and gilded cages feel a rather modern pursuit when you consider the hardships, trials and risks of starvation of the medieval poor – like their own lives, especially the lives of women – had considerable choices?

Behold the unbalance of nudity again – it’s amazing how many of men on television have sex with their trousers just open or, at most, an inch beneath their arses.

I did expect a dead Guiliano because, well history, but not that way.