Monday, April 7, 2014

Da Vinci's Demons, Season 2, Episode 3: Voyage of the Damned

Leonardo needs a ship. And he and his little crew have decided that the best way to get this ship is to imitate Count Riario and appropriate a ship. Yes, it’s a rather cringeworthy bad idea. It might have worked had not the Duke Alfonzo (son of the King of Naples) already engaged the vessel – and he knows what Riario looks like. Leo and Alfonzo throw their infinite arrogance at each other before we get some sword fighting in – and Alfonzo seems to be better. Leo flees over the edge of the ship, but while doing so flips his dagger down to some men in the hold – slaves being transported.

In Rome, Lupo gets to give Pope Evil the wonderful news that Lorenzo is back in control of Florence and that both the Pazzis and Cardinal Orsini are dead. But this is good news to Pope Evil – because hanging a Cardinal (in full regalia no less) is a very bad, naughty no-no. This basically gives the Pope free reign to do whatever he wants in response. He Excommunicates the entire city and all within it.

Segue to Florence and street children playing with Pazzi’s corpse, as you do. Other passers-by abuse the hanging corpses of the Cardinal and another Pazzi because the people of Florence lack piñatas. In the palace overlooking such pretty sights, Vanessa and Clarice continue their little power struggle over who knows what is best for Vanessa’s child.

The problem of the Excommunication (as Lorenzo explains to Clarice with some implied criticism of her having her brother hanged) is not only theological, but also devastating for trade as Christians should now avoid Florence and have no business with them. Piero adds that their allies – Spain (too preoccupied) and Milan – will be unwilling to help and following the campaign on a map, Lorenzo can easily see King Ferrante of Naples conquering all Italy with the Pope. Doom and gloom.

The council is very panicky and urges Lorenzo to dump all the blame on Clarice – which he refuses to do. Lorenzo decides the only thing he can do is go to Naples himself, in person, and negotiate with Ferrante – going undercover and travelling only with Perio. Clarice tries to speak against it but he just steamrolls over her – but he does leave her in charge while he is away, though not everyone is thrilled to have a woman in charge.

When alone with Lorenzo, Clarice questions whether marching alone into their enemy’s court is really such a good idea. He turns round and blames her for the plan to make peace with the Pazzis that ended up with Guiliano killed (blaming her credits her with far more power and influence than she has had). She smacks him in response and seethes over their political marriage, chosen for strategy, not emotion. She carves into Lucrezia’s portrait and mocks his oh-so-capable political instincts that brought a Roman spy into the court. Touché. Turns out that no-one told Lorenzo that - and he grabs Clarice by the throat when he accuses her; so she tells him to talk to Dragonetti.

Lorenzo continues with his plan.

And that evening Clarice has a guest – Carlo di Medici, Lorenzo’s half-brother, Cosimo’s bastard son, who she has apparently never met before. He’s just back from his travels as a missionary after losing patience with Rome. He proves his identity by finding a secret cubbyhole most don’t know about. He goes on to show her secret rooms with paintings of him – albeit very old paintings of him. He also knows things like the servant’s hidden stashes, all pointing to intimate knowledge of household.

Back in Pisa Leo is grumpy because he faced another ambidextrous swordsman who was better than him (something Zoroaster takes great joy in). But that ship, the Sentinel, is the only ship in Piza capable of crossing the Atlantic. So, new idea – free the slaves in the ship and take control during a slave rebellion. As soon as Leo figures out a way to get to the ship without being shot, that is.

While he thinks, Amerigo brings a wanted poster that the Duke has had commissioned – it’s an awful likeness so Leo corrects it. Of course he does. Before he runs around the market quite randomly looking for inspiration (while Zoroaster wrangles things to protect Leo from his own accurate artwork).

They get all the supplies for Leo’s invention to get on the ship (Zoroaster and Amerigo clash again on Amerigo’s cheating ways – Zoroaster’s a rogue but he has more limits than Amerigo – and when Amerigo learns Zoroaster isn’t paid he implies Zoroaster is sleeping with Leo – which enrages Zoroaster. Because homophobic jokes and insults are JUST what this damn show needs). Leo reveals his plan – a submarine – to which Amerigo declares them all out of their mind and abandons them.

Leo and Zoroaster get in the submarine that is built miraculously quickly and they make their way underwater to the Sentinel. They have a brief problem with a sunken ship, but manage to attach the submarine to the bottom of the Sentinel, like a lamprey. They then have to wait until dark – with very little air (oxygen deprivation makes Leo hallucinate about Lucrezia and the Sons of Mithras)

Of course, Amerigo isn’t ignoring the wanted posters and he takes all he knows to Duke Alfonzo who dispatches guards. Meanwhile he tries to get the dagger back from where it fell among the slaves – and one of them, a woman called Uana, tries to stab him. Alas, she fails and he calls her “Toy” and has her delivered to his room.

But it turns out Amerigo isn’t a traitor – instead he plants oil on deck and when night falls he sets fire to it, creating a distraction that allows him to bring Leo and Zoroaster up onto the boat. They sneak down into the hold to release the slaves. But the locks on their chains are good ones – leaving Zoroaster and Amerigo to work on them, Leo goes to confront Alfonzo to give them more time to free them, despite him being the better swordsman.

He finds Alfonzo raping the slave who tried to stab him, he tosses her aside and they fight. It’s a pretty awesome sword fight (all the other guards seem to have disappeared) but Alfonzo is the better fighter and ends up disarming Leonardo. But Leonardo has delayed him long enough – as he moves to kill Leo, his sword is wrapped in chains and pulled from his hand. He turns and finds all the slaves have been released. Alfonzo surrenders and gives up the ship – but first Yana carves the word “Toy” into his chest in the Circassian language.

Alfonzo is put off the ship, the Captain follows Leonardo because, well, whoever controls his ship controls him, abandoning it means abandoning his livelihood. Leo tells the slaves that those who want to come with him can to help fill out the crew – and get half of the loot they find – while the rest will be released at Cape Verde.

And either Al Rahim is there or he is just another Leonardo hallucination (it gets hard to tell). Either way he rebukes Leo for not having the map or the astrolabe to guide him across the Atlantic and warns Leo about deviating from the path they planned. Turns out it is a hallucination since Zoroaster can’t see him.

In Rome, an Asian man (who Lucrezia calls Quan Shan) kills Lupo’s guards with a repeating crossbow and he and Lucrezia kidnap Lupo. She tells him that the Pope is holding a prisoner in the Castel St. Angelo (Lucrezia’s father) who Lupo cares for. Lupo throws in some sexualised insults, of course, because Lucrezia can’t be on screen without a few. She is confident he will come back and willingly co-operate when he finds out who the prisoner is.

Lupo goes exploring, which involves smoke bombs and a surprising skill with snapping necks. He finds the old prisoner’s cage and Lupo is astonished: the man introduces himself as the “one true pope”. Francesco Della Rovere – the real Pope Sixtus IV. The current pope is an imposter – and Francesco tells Lupo why he chose the name Sixtus (something only Lupo and a very few others know) and challenges him to check Imposter Pope Evil to see if he knows the answer.

Lupo does just that – Pope Evil tries to bullshit his way through it with a plausible explanation; but not the right one.

Lupo returns to Lucrezia and asks how she knew – because she is Francisco’s daughter. She wants Lupo to take her to see her father

I am desperately hoping that this new quest of Lucrezia can, hopefully, get her aware from being a sex object and being endlessly referred to as such with constant sex shaming. Please give her some agency, some power

Speaking of which – Clarice Orsini has spent most of the show lurking in the background while described as an adept political agent – which was laughable. The only things she has done which have shown even the slightest authority or competence is adding some input to Guiliano’s marriage to the Pazzis and her decision to execute her brother. Both of which are now put at her feet as being complete and utter incompetent disasters. So this is female authority on this show? Incompetence and sniping with Vanessa?

And we have Ilyana, who is introduced to us as a rape victim. There’s a pattern here and it’s not a pretty one.

Lucrezia has picked up an Asian sidekick. Now he needs to actually speak. This show is really not doing well with the marginalised people.

As for plot… we have at least 2 storylines that are going to become increasingly less relevant to each other. The Florentine story is actually fascinating – the intrigue, the manoeuvring, the political jousting. While Leo’s plot line inches slowly towards him reaching South America (he’s finally got on the boat) with each problem appearing, being Geniused, and then going away. If there were more to it, more compelling interactions, a more concrete reason for them to do what they’re doing or at least Riario who is at least semi-devious more involved it would have more depth. It’s not bad – but it’s not special.