Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Da Vinci's Demons, Season 2, Episode 1: The Blood of Man

So after all the drama of last episode where His Super Straightness Leonardo Da Vinci tried to go to South America but ended up in the middle of a  plot to murder Medicis who are not even big fans of Leo at the moment anyway because of his sleeping with Lucrezia (who was a spy anyway).

And we open with Riario and Leonardo, both looking rather dishevelled, in a cell with a strong suggestion of Native South American carvings and blood sacrifice. They made it to South America then? They’re dragged out before a large crowd of chanting Incans where a woman has her throat slit in a sacrifice. Another woman tells them they’re next to be sacrificed to Patamama.

Of course all of this was leading up to a flash back – to 6 months ago back in Italy. With Riario and cronies charging into the sealed room where they trapped Leonardo and Lorenzo – and finding no-one there. They have escaped through the catacombs, Leonardo half carrying the wounded Lorenzo – and both of them showing a surprising lack of survival instinct since Lorenzo keeps threatening to kill Leonardo every other step.

The Duke of Urbino is outside the city ready to send in his army but Riario is unwilling to risk the army going in and Lorenzo rallying the people – he wants to see Riario dead first – so follows into the tunnels himself.

Outside the palace Zoroaster and Nico plan to delay the ship to South America for Leo to catch them up. In the streets there are people raising barricades, preparing to resist Urbino while others are plotting to kill Medici loyalists – including Clarice and the captain of the guard. Mobs and guards clash as Clarice and her children are rushed to safety (though one is saved later).

Once in the palace, Clarice Orsini gives a servant poison to give to her three daughters if the palace falls.

The chase continues on the catacombs – really, how slow must Riario and team be moving? While Lorenzo continues to rant at the man saving his life, as you do. Leonardo ambushes and confronts Riario & co – Riario wants him to switch sides but Leonardo is fully invested in a Florence without Roman control and since his little ambush got him Pazzi’s little gun/cannon thingy he blows up the ceiling (identified through GENIUS POWERS as a proper spot – presumably same GENIUS POWERS prevent the whole tunnel collapsing).

In the palace, Leonardo’s dad and the Captain gather to defend the palace – lots of weapons, but not so many fighters. Clarice drops in to threaten the Captain for last season’s wavering loyalties (is this a new Medici thing? “Aha, you have saved my life and rely on you to keep doing so! I will now threaten you with terrible vengeance!”) He identifies his fellow conspirators, including Clarice’s brother. Christmas Dinner is going to be AWKWARD this year. She joins everyone else in telling someone to fuck something (I think everyone has so far this episode) and wants her brother to rot.

Said brother, a Cardinal is in his church and has a sudden freak out over his bloodstained robes and the fact he just caused a little massacre in his holy place which has to be against the rules. He drops into fervent prayer before his subordinate snaps him out of it – but he is terrified of his sister’s vengeance.

Pazzi (one of Riario’s stooges and long standing Medici enemies) leads the mob sieging the palace – but quickly runs when people in the palace start throwing things. Which turns out to be wise because the palace is also set up with places to pour boiling oil.

At Urbino’s camp, Riario again pushes the need to kill Lorenzo and let the Pazzi’s lead the rebellion, supported by Urbino. The Florentines will accept the Pazzi’s launching a coup against Lorenzo (that’s just politics) but not an invasion from a foreign state (that’s invasion). But Lucrezia is in the camp, already whispering in Urbino’s ear about Riario’s ineptitude and his obsession with Leonardo jeopardising the mission. Riario reveals Leo has both the special keys – and grabs Lucrezia, demanding to know where the “vault of heaven” is (the Mcguffin of the whole series).

When he rather graphically threatens to put out her eye she tells him the name of the ship at Pisa he intends to board. Riario wants to run off to Pisa right then and there, dragging Lucrezia with him – but Lupo and the mercenaries he’s hired won’t leave Florence because the Pope gave them orders. Urbino will give him some men though – either to get rid of him ( he doesn’t like Riario) or to put Riario in his debt (he really doesn’t like Riario) – a win win win situation for the Duke.

Leonardo manages to drag Lorenzo to his workshop where he faints – and hallucinates Al Rahim telling him to get on the damn ship already. Vanessa wakes him up and warns him that Lorenzo is dying  - so Leonardo invents the blood transfusion (normally I’m a little scathing of modern technical techniques dropped into the past – but since this is Leonardo Da Vinci, I’m willing to accept anything up to and including small fusion reactors. Besides, there were some attempts at blood transfusions in this era) he also gives an extremely good, historical nod to the superiority of Middle Eastern medical practices at the time. Including being clean before surgery.

As he gives blood Leonardo has another hallucination. Of course he does – the man can’t walk across the street without hallucinating 3 dead people, his mother and a hanging man, blood loss is bound to bring it on. He dreams of Lucrezia and how they’re destined to be together like the Super Straight People they are and how very much in Super Straight Love they are with extra prophecy about how everyone wants him.

Back at the palace, the guards balk at sending out search parties for Lorenzo – Clarice is not having that. After threatening testicle removal she sends them out searching again. Later, an assassin tries to kill her and Leo’s dad – but the Captain saves them both.

Time for another cryptic Leonardo hallucination, because they really help move the plot along. This has young Leo, a sheep and a skull. His mentor, Verrochio, finally stops the blood transfusion before Leo bleeds to death.

To Riario, he’s arrived in Pisa and his servant, Zita, begs to go with him. He tries to send her to Rome and she points out the Pope is evil and will just hurt and rape her. He offers her freedom, to which she points out that, as a Black woman, alone and with few resources in Italy, a foreign land to her, he might as well just kill her there. He agrees to bring her.

Speaking of the Pope, the mercenary tells him everything and the pope is all evil and menacing. Just a reminder. He goes to visit Lucrezia’s father in his prison (who is informed of all the local gossip by a light code through his window which he then uses to annoy the pope). He warns the pope that trying to take Florence by force will be a disaster and refers to a time when they were young when the pope tried to kill him. So he was always a nice guy. Despite being chained and drowned in the past he offers the pope advice – get a champion, he suggests the king of Naples.

In Pisa, Zoroaster tries to convince the captain of the ship, the Basilisk, to wait for Leo. But Riario has got there first – at knife point he takes the map of South America from them and other trinkets that Leo has gathered for the journey. But Leo still has the keys.

Riario ties Lucrezia and Zoroaster together and puts them on a plank off the edge of the ship things to be drowned (oh look the villain has a method of execution that has a good survival rate – all these knives and no-one ever thinks of stabbing). There’s lots of last words and both Riario and Zoroaster bring up sex in relation to Lucrezia – because she is the walking sex object to everyone in this show – and she kisses Zoroaster.

Do you know what this needs? Another Leonardo hallucination! Of course it does, it’s not like the plot is whirling around in circles without actually going anywhere, after all… Al Rahim tells him how naughty he is for saving Lorenzo and not chasing after the leafy book and now Evil Will Triumph.

Leo apparently dies (hah, unlikely) and Lorenzo recovers. Leo’s still hallucinating random cryptic evil people wearing skulls and carrying an axe while Lorenzo, true to his word, staggers on top of Leo to stab Leo – at the same time in Pisa, Zoroaster and Lucrezia falling into the sea.

This is a cliffhanger? What are the chances of ANY of these characters actually dying?

It would help if your prequel for the next episode didn’t show some of them alive. You’re not even pretending!

Funny how any representation of the chance of Leo being bisexual (him being depicted as the gay man he was was out of the window in the pilot) is a “distraction” in Goyer’s eyes – but already we have him and Lucrezia even if they had to throw in a hallucination to make it happen. Homophobe logic, it rarely makes sense.

Well… a lot of action with little progress. The Pazzi’s are still after Florence. Lorenzo has a poor sense of priorities. Riario and Leonardo both want to go to South America. The pope is still evil. We have a whole lot of hallucinations that are cryptic and annoying and take up time that could be better spent seeing things like, say, Clarice doing something to save the city. C’mon I like that she’s menacing the guards to find her husband but her blurb says she’s a strong and capable woman and politically astute – can we see some of that please? And can we have Lucrezia around and a) not be abused and b) not be sexualised. Just once?

Less hallucination, more plot, more women doing something pertinent, more POC who are not a servant and I’d kind of like to scrap South America and the leafy book and focus on saving Florence, that could be a much more interesting story.