Monday, May 19, 2014

Da Vinci's Demons, Season 2, Episode 9: The Enemies of Man

Leo and Riario are on the ship back to Italy, Leo still obsessed and Riario thinking they need to pack it all in – he even intends to throw himself on the pope’s mercy. Good luck with that. They also acknowledge that while they’ve liked working together the whole alliance thing is now other

In Florence, Leo notices something amiss – the streets are empty. He and Nico return to his old workshop where Verrocchio meets them and warns them Florence is no longer home, shortly before the guards arrive. A new guard captain drags them to the palace which is full of men and bare breasted women (some seemingly enjoying proceedings, others definitely abused). The palace is in a shambles – and Clarice is chained on a throne wearing very scanty clothing. All of this is forced by Duke Federico of Urbino – who took the city by force at the Pope’s urging. Both Clarice and Leo cling to the hope that Lorenzo will return.

In Naples, the Pope is trying to make Lorenzo tell him where the vast sums of Medici gold got to, since neither he nor Urbino can find them, in exchange for exile for Lorenzo and his family. He reveals that Florence has fallen – and Lorenzo punches him. How many Hail Marys for punching a pope? The Pope calls him no matter than usurers, heathens or jews, which pretty much sums up a fair chunk of the Pope’s prejudice. Lorenzo does promise to give up all of the money - to king Ferrante of Naples if he can free Florence. The pope smugly points out he and Naples are allies, this isn’t a negotiation – Ferrante, considering the vast sum of money would beg to differ – it is a negotiation now.

Lorenzo and Ipolita flirt and kiss and are seen by the pope.

Back in Florence, after a brief reunion with Vanessa, Leo is taken for some special torture (with some side references to him being a “sodomite” so he might enjoy the torture. Da Vinci’s Demons you’re on far too thin ice to pull this shit). He’s fastened in stocks opposite Carlo, also in stocks; but at least Carlo is eager to meet Leo. The torturers arrive (with background scenes of rape) and knock out the guards – it’s Zoroaster and Amerigo in disguise.

They take Leo and Carlo to a tavern where the loyalists are hiding (including Captain Dragonetti) – while Frederico’s men attack random men in the street. Of course Leo intends to take the palace back and with Carlo’s knowledge of the palace he comes up with a plan.

Which is foiled when Dragonetti et al are captured obtaining supplies, interrupting Leo and Carlo bonding over being bastards and Cosimo’s obsession with the Book of Leaves. Instead they take a riskier route into the palace, past the furnace

Inside the palace, a guard tries to take Vanessa to be raped by Nico stands in his way. In response to Nico’s defiance, the other prisoners stand as well. Faced with all the prisoners ready to attack him, he backs out.

Leo and Carlo make it into the palace (there’s a hairy moment, but the plot armour is fully engaged) and Carlo sneaks in to speak to Clarice while Frederico is partying with his men (which involves more rape) and making Zoroaster and Amerigo fight each other – before Leo’s knock out gas breaks up the party. Except for Frederico himself who leaves via a secret passage. He and Leo fight and Leo uses different length swords to confuse the one eyed Frederico’s depth perception. Before Leo can kill him Clarice hurries in and tells him to hold. Frederico points out he’s a duke, he will be judged at a tribunal by his fellow heads of state, not killed by a random Florentine bastard. Clarice agrees – and stabs him in the eye, declaring him guilty.

And with that, they’re victorious (not that unrealistic, Frederico’s army isn’t a standing army, they’re mercenaries, they’re paid. Kill the paymaster and they’ve no reason to stay). Lots of celebrating and partying, Leo is oddly humble to Clarice’s praise – and Verrocchio calls Leo because he’s fixed the cheap nasty toy head. With his expertise they play back the message – which turns out to be really not worth it. To find the Leafy Book Leo must abandon his quest for her; also he needs to beware the Enemies of Man which are everywhere. This? Is totally unhelpful and not worth travelling to South America for. But not entirely – there’s music behind the voice, music containing the real message.

Decoding the message they get “book” “child” “home” – Leo’s childhood home, Vinci. While Verrocchio goes to fetch horses, Carlo arrives. He recognises the model of Leo’s mother, Katerina, and says he must pay for the Sin of Daedellus – he slashes Leo with a sword. He’s the “Labyrinth” which is one of many names for the big bad people who want evil bad things (he’s even willing to describe his people as the devil). As is fitting for a bad guy, he provides lots of exposition – how he was the man who went with Katrina to South America (Leo assumed that a man with dark skin referred to the Abyssinian) and betrayed her, he killed his father, Cosimo. He also helpfully reveals that the code does not mean Vinci. Verrocchio arrives, drawn to the commotion and Carlo kills him. Someone yells for the guards and Carlo leaves chaos behind him and sets it on fire as he leaves (not taking the time to stab Leo, of course).

In Naples, negotiations are somewhat scuppered by Alfonzo killing King Ferrante and taking the throne. Alfonzo summons his wife, Ipolita, to his side and makes it clear he’s staying allied with Rome.

Outside Constantinople, Lucrezia is asked the same three questions over and over and over again for days – she thinks she answered the same every time but the variations, her body language and frustration reveal her. The woman questioning her reveals that there are 2 popes, the hidden one is her father – and he is looking for a war.

Afterwards the questioner sums up the options – Bayezid in Rome will be killed, humiliated or imprisoned – all of which guarantee war (unless Fake Pope considers peace, which is unlikely). Lucrezia assures her that the Real Pope will restore peace and she agrees – the dead are always peaceful. And a not happy Bayezid returns. And forces her to have a bath for ominous reasons

In Rome, Riario goes to see the Pope – the Real Pope, Lucrezia’s father. This is the pope to whom he begs for mercy – the pope tells him to stand. But offers no forgiveness; Riario watched Fake People kill Real Pope’s daughter and forced Lucrezia to “whore herself”, sell herself as a spy. Riario cowers and pleads, begging to be able to serve, to help the Real Pope. But he is adamant – Riario doesn’t deserve forgiveness and will suffer for the rest of his life. Riario staggers out, sobbing brokenly and makes his way to the Pope’s main chamber.

He goes out into a lake to embrace his penance – and dramatically appears to slice his own wrists. This doesn’t take – as he wakes up hanging from his ankles “born again” among the Enemies of Man. Honestly a cult name like that must be an obstacle to recruitment.

The city has fallen, everything is in pieces. How do you show this? How about with things in pieces? The palace in disarray? Full prison cells? Clearly abused prisoners? All done – that shows exactly what has happened. But no, they have to add some random rape as well – even background rapes. Yes, rape is a reality of war and part of the horrors that would be expected today, let alone then; but there’s a difference between refusing to sugar coat history and graphically showing rape for extra “grittiness” or for actual background; indeed, there were scenes with the implication (a woman leaving the palace looking haunted and holding her clothes together) that made that clear without us having a whole walk of rape to the throne room and random background rape in the prisons. That isn’t showing the brutal realities out there – that was wallowing in gratuity. Especially since, if anything, this show doesn’t make a point of making the awfulness of what is happening clear –  some of it seems to exist more to show what a complete pig the Duke of Urbino is more than anything else.

I was hoping Carlo would become a main POC character who wasn’t servile, woo-woo or sacrifice. Instead he’s evil – and probably woo-woo. And is Labyrinth related to the Enemies of Man? And does this mean we have to listen to Leo’s incomprehensible hallucinations and babble?