Monday, March 31, 2014

Da Vinci's Demons, Season 2, Episode 2: Blood of Brothers

Lorenzo, in what seems to be a new Florentine habit, is half way to stabbing Leonardo after he saved his life – and this is when he wants to know what happened to Guiliano. Oops. Vanessa is the lucky one who gets to tell his brother is dead. Then he gets told that Florence is falling apart and falling to the mob and Lorenzo, looking at the scenes of violence, loses all hope (he was a reluctant ruler to begin with). Vanessa inspires him and his lack of heir (apparently ignoring his 3 daughters – because womenfolk!) by revealing she is pregnant with Guiliano’s child.

Learning that there’s a possible male child in the offing, Lorenzo is ready to get his city back! For Freedom! For the Future! For a possible male out-of-wedlock-nephew!

It will also surprise no-one that Zoroaster and Lucrezia are not dead. I know, I’m shocked by this revelation as well. Zoroaster manages to cut/pick/magic open their ropes with one of Lucrezia’s hair pins (possibly the reason behind the kiss or not since he still bothers her with unnecessary sex talk).

Riario is trying to convince Nico to join team!bad guy by pointing out how Leonardo is busy recognising the ruler of a city that’s falling apart rather than his apprentice who he doesn’t even know is in trouble. Because that’s definitely cause for resentment, y’know. He also thinks Nico is undervalued – which is untrue – he’s valued less than Lorenzo. Prince of the city vs apprentice boy. That’s not undervaluing, that’s having one’s priorities in order. Nico doesn’t buy it and refuses to help. So Riario points out that torture seemed to be a rather convincing motivator for him in the past: confirming for him that, yes, it’s better to be feared than loved.

Riario translates the map with the key and the help of Zita, his “servant” who can read the language it is written in. She then strips off to seduce him while reciting a very rapey story of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba – they have a Gratuitous Heterosexuality moment.

Anyway, back to Florence and the Pazzis have still got the town all enraged against the Medicis. In the Palace, Clarice and the captain of the guard discuss family and wives waiting at home worrying for their men (it also kind of reveals that this guy has been Captain of the Guard, Dragonetti, quite literally the head of what military and police the city has and relies on for all its protection and Clarice didn’t know he had a family – which is really shoddy HR!). She also has to fend off bankers who want to take over the Medici bank while Lorenzo is presumed dead.

Leo takes Lorenzo up to a high place and arranges for a small army of servants (who were, presumably, in Verrocchio’s studio) arranging plates of convenient brass because of Leonardo’s new GENIUS! plan. This allows Lorenzo to make a stirring speech that is heard by everyone in the city – of course they all support Lorenzo not the Pazzi’s because a) they thought he was dead and b) he’s way way louder. With the crowd hailing Lorenzo, Clarice opens the palace gates and tells Dragonetti it’s time to track down the Pazzi traitors. Lorenzo is taking to the palace by adoring crowds while the guards and mobs hunt down conspirators and slaughter them – Dragonetti defeating and capturing Pazzi.

The Pope and Duke Urbino, in Rome, ominously set up the next characters – King Firante of Naples and his son Alfonso. Despite his accountant appearance, Firante was a renowned warlord and he makes it clear from the beginning he isn’t going to bow and scrape to the pope. They’re also quick to point out their power – as the only kingdom in Italy and the largest domain in the peninsula, they have a powerful standing army unlike the rest of the country (Urbino’s forces are mercenaries). But Alfonso hates Lorenzo and speaks up – which prompts his father to play with a piece of skull and a tooth (he apparently likes bits of body parts on display, nice man) which terrifies Alfonso so much he flees the room. The Pope also has deformed skulls to bribe the very very creepy Firante with. Time for evil plotting – the Pope needs to undermine Lorenzo so Milan and Venice (also very powerful) don’t ally and kick up a fuss over an actual invasion; but he also thinks if Florence falls the other states will quickly come under Naples and Papal control. First step of which is to show the Neapolitan and Papal Flags together to be all intimidating.

In Florence, Lorenzo tries to convince Leonardo to stay in Florence and make more weapons to fend off the Pope, but Leonardo predicts an arms race there which will be ugly and they probably won’t win. Instead he hopes that the secrets in the Book of Leaves will solve all their problems – something Lorenzo dismisses as a fantasy of forbidden knowledge. In the end Lorenzo agrees to preserve the city so it’s there when the Book returns – it’s kind of what the Medicis do – but he’s not financing Leo running off to parts unknown after a legend.

Clarice Orsini goes to see her prisoners – Francesco Pazzi and her brother. The Pazzi family is to be rather dramatically destroyed – executed, exiled or disinherited (Francesco protests with his heritage – and the real history of the Pazzi family, Orsini hits back with the real meaning of the name “Pazzi” – mad men). As for her brother, Cardinal Orsini – well he can have his Cardinal robes back so everyone can see him die in them. Go Clarice – and she’s not impressed by a “Cardinal” who commits murder in a Cathedral on Easter Sunday. That has to be a special kind of blasphemy there. They’re both taken out by the cheering crowds and hanged – which, given the givens, is probably pretty merciful.

Leo looks through his notes, decides his dreams of bullmen are realm (and the enemies of the Sons of Mithras) not just a hallucination brought on by blood loss for REASONS and Zoroaster drops in to deliver the bad news about Riario, Nico and the Basilisk. Lucrezia has help though – she knows someone, Amerigo Vespucci who may have rare maps and get them a ship, adds that she also wants the Pope dead for what he did to her family and they have a tearful Gratuitous Heterosexuality moment.

Zoroaster has heard of Vespucci and doesn’t trust him he also finally hits back at Leonardo’s completely unjust blaming of Zoroaster for everything. He will help Leonardo find Nico – but he’s done with the rest of Leonardo’s obsession with the Leafy Book. Anyway, to Vespucci who tries (and fails) to pretend to be dead in case they’re creditors. His great idea is to go to Piza and steal a ship – this amuses Leonardo. Zoroaster, not so much.

Vanessa, meanwhile, is effectively put under house arrest by Clarice Orsini since her pregnancy gives Lorenzo hope. Clarice isn’t mad thrilled though and is quick to slut shame Vanessa and speak derisively of Giuliani’s active sex life (damn this litany of Gratuitous Heterosexuality).

Lorenzo practices his eulogy for his brother, supported by Clarice and we get a little info dump about Cosimo’s (Lorenzo’s grandfather and a Son of Mithras) sword which will certainly become relevant. Especially since on the hilt is a symbol Lorenzo saw in Leonardo’s notes.

Leonardo makes his goodbyes to Vanessa and makes a snide (and well deserved) comment to his father about his treatment of illegitimate children before going to talk to Lorenzo again who gives Leonardo Cosimo’s sword – or half of it, because the sword niftily splits in two, meant to be shared by two brothers. He now shares it with Leonardo because his blood runs through Lorenzo’s veins. It has the solemn words on the blade – Freedom for the People.

Ok, I get that we’re supposed to be all Enlightenment vs Tyranny in this show – but let’s not pretend that Medici rule means freedom for the people by any stretch.

Riario, Zita and rape. First her story – Solomon promised not to rape the queen of Sheba so long as she didn’t take anything of value. Which included water. In a desert. That is not romantic seduction and consent – that’s rape and not a wonderful sexy story. And Zita? Yes she initiates and we assume she wants sex with Riario especially since she continues after his objection – but she is owned by him. She said very clearly last episode that her choices were to be cut loose and likely die in Italy. Or be sent to the pope to be raped and abused by him. Or go with Riario. When you have power differentials this extreme there is no possibility of knowing enthusiastic consent. Because even if Zita looks at Riario and thinks “OH GOD YES, I’M GOING TO RIDE THAT ALL NIGHT AND TWICE IN THE MORNING!” (not an unreasonable opinion) there is absolutely no way Riario could know she was sincere or merely putting on an act to bind herself to the man who literally holds her life in his hands. The minute you have this much power over someone, you cannot ever be sure of their consent.

And yes, I am certainly going to keep up the Gratuitous Heterosexuality commentary because I think far too many straight people miss how many references to straight sexuality there are in a show – and how, in turn, it is virulently offensive to object to any reference to being gay or bi as “gratuitous” as Goyer did.