Monday, June 2, 2014

Da Vinci's Demons, Season 2, Episode 10: The Sins of Daedalus

Leonardo is rescued from the burning workshop by the guards and taken out to his friends where he can tell everyone about Carlo killing Andrea. Despite his injury, Leo insists on going off riding. Despite being injured, having taken time to be dragged out of a burning building, he almost catches a hooded figure we assume is Carlo – before running into a tree branch. And this is why you don’t ride in forests. While he rolls around on the forest floor, he has a flash back which is all wonderful and paternal about what Andrea meant to him – which may have been more pointful if there’d been some effort to develop this while Andrea was still alive.

Clarice attends the scene of the fire and Vanessa tells her about Carlo being the killer; Vanessa seems to be accusing Clarice because she slept with Carlo. Vanessa refuses to return to the palace but Clarice orders her taken there – she’s pregnant with a Medici so Clarice makes the decisions. Nico speaks up, protesting that Florence is a republic and Vanessa has rights – and gets a slap for being disrespectful to Clarice. Clarice asks who he is and Nico says “I an Niccolo Machiavelli”

We have finally stopped hinting about who Nico is.

Anyway, his dad is apparently a very well respected legal scholar. And yes, he knows the law. This tense scene is interrupted by Vanessa going into labour.

She gives birth to a baby boy – who Clarice greets as a “male heir at last.”

Leo didn’t die in the forest – he was found by Al Rahim who just happened to be in the area. Leo has a bone to pick with Al Rahim since he went to a completely unknown continent to find the Leafy Book and all he got was a tacky statue. Al Rahim blames it all on Leo’s mother which is unlikely to endear him. Anyway, Leo wants to stop Carlo and his Labyrinth friends (who may or may not be the Enemies of Man who Riario has just joined) but Al Rahim wants to know why – to save the Leafy book or to avenge Andrea (pfft, like anyone gave a damn about Andrea Verrochio before this episode) because he’s Al Rahim and navel gazing and unnecessary cryptic bullshit must accompany EVERYTHING. Anyway, Leo’s mother’s cryptic code points to her childhood home which is, apparently, Constantinople. Oh good he can trip over Lucrezia there, that’s useful. I also hope they can get a little more specific because Constantinople is huge

Al Rahim thinks the journey is monumental which is, perhaps, an exaggeration since Lurcrezia apparently managed it in like 2 days, a week tops. He also thinks Leo will get lost – also unlikely given Constantinople is rather well known. Yes I am taking his cryptic bullshit literally because I am sorely tired of the nonsense. Then he decides to send Leo to Naples (where he can conveniently run into Lorenzo! How very useful) where he will “find what he seeks” Which will probably be a boat. Going to Constantinople which is a) freaking ridiculously cryptic and overwrought and b) an excuse to stop Leo going to the much closer (and Lorenzo-less) port of Pisa to get a boat.

Over to Riario (who hates everything and everyone twice over) and the Enemies of Man who don’t want anyone to find the Leafy Book because people are arseholes and can’t be trusted with Ultimate Cosmic Power. And they’re going to help Riario by pouring super salty water into his eyes.

This is a singularly unhelpful form of help. They torture him until he joins them, possibly breaking him in the process.

Back to Leo and Zoroaster found him by, presumably, psychic means. (Leo rode off into the wood, and was doctored in a little hollow by Al Rahim the Cryptic – how did Zoroaster find him? Check the GPS on his phone?) Anyway, Leo is going to Naples to find the Leafy Book and Zoroaster isn’t up for that (he has, to be fair, already gone above and beyond the call of duty to seek out Leo’s bed-time reading) but he will come along to kill Carlo for Andrea’s sake (wow, everyone’s pretending to give a damn about this man now).

To Naples where the Fake, Evil Pope, the new King Alfonzo, his wife Ippolita (who has a thing for Lorenzo) are all gathered and the Pope is trying to get Lorenzo to hand over the location of all the vast sums of Medici gold in exchange for not being brutally murdered along with his family. But Lorenzo, apparently having great messenger service (unlike the Pope and Alfonzo) despite being a prisoner, gives them the news that Florence is free and Urbino is dead.

Lorenzo and Alfonzo argue then fight, in which Lorenzo smacks Alfonzo a few times then pins him with a sword at his throat (Italian politics) when a messenger arrives, apologising for the interruption (see, business as usual) with a teensy bit of a problem.

See, the Pope sent Bayezid back to Constantinople half naked and humiliated declaring “there will be no peace”. The Ottoman Empire has responded by sending a war fleet on the way (conveniently to the same city Leo’s heading to – how useful!). Unfortunately for Naples, when the Pope declared war on what was, probably, one of the greatest powers in the world at that time he didn’t then decide to send a warning message to the rest of Catholic Europe, a polite little “hey, majesties, love the shiny hats, please gather your armies because I’ve kind of started a crusade, you’re all cool with that?”; instead he continued to dodder about over Florence.

It’s possible the Pope did not think this through.

The Pope and Alfonzo both urge all good Christians to stand together. Lorenzo points out that Florence is a long way from Naples (after all, it took Lorenzo as many episodes to get there as it took Leonardo to cross the Atlantic. Because travel time on this show is so damn awful) and, besides, they’ve been excommunicated. Alas, the good Catholics can do this without Medici aid. The Pope backpedals so fast he nearly gets whiplash and welcomes Florence back into the papal good graces.

Meanwhile, Leo and Zoroaster have activated their personal teleporters and are now outside this city (Otrano) in Naples, in time to see the city all aflutter because of the fleet approaching.

To that fleet, which Bayezid is leading and he’s brought along the truth-detecting-chained-woman-who-is-nameless (and has, say, a 25% chance of being Leo’s mother); who is there to provide cryptic bullshit. Of course.

Leo and Zoroaster find Carlo – but he escapes and leaves them fighting goons who Leo kills. Mercilessly and unnecessarily – much to Zoroaster’s angsty-face. The third good happily impales himself in a show of quite unnecessary loyalty.

The Pope, Lorenzo and Alfonzo arrive in the city and discuss defence – and how lacking Alfonzo’s previously fearsome army now seems. But Lorenzo is there to throw Medici gold at the Knightly orders to get some help. Alfonzo insists that the Pope raise the Swiss Guard – which the Pope refuses because he’s that kind of arsehole (even when Alfonzo points out this is all his fault). Help does arrive in the form of Leo who just swans into the council because who needs guards? Anyway, Leo’s there to help them launch an offensive, apparently

The Ottomans arrange for talks and bring with them Lucrezia. Lorenzo and Leo have a moment and the Pope protests that she’s totally not his agent any more, honest. Everyone gossips about Lucrezia for a bit before she arrives dramatically. She has the demands of Bayezid – which are extreme and clearly meant to be refused. Leo asks what she’s playing at and she tells them that the Pope is Evil and Fake. She asks Leo to corroborate – he can confirm that the Pope has her father imprisoned but not that the man is the Pope.

He decision is to lock up Lucrezia – Leo wants to know what about the pope and Alfonzo warns Leo not to harm him (because “he’s not the pope, she says so!” isn’t really much of an accusation). Lucrezia sends a signal to the ships that the offer has been refused. A vast fleet is revealed preparing to invade (presumably using stealth devices to reach Italy).

The pope responds to this by running to Rome and suggesting Alfonzo does the same; Alfonzo suggests Lucrezia is right, the Pope suggests his people need to learn about the whole dad murdering thing.

In Florence, Clarice realises Carlo was a bad bad person because he’s run off with a vast sum of 5,000 florins and left her to foot the blame.

Vanessa has been sent a document that would officially recognise her son as Guiliano’s and give him the Medici surname. Vanessa won’t sign it as she sees it as a ploy to take her son while Nico protests how many illegitimate kids would kill for that kind of recognition; but Vanessa recognises the problems with the name, given how it got his dad killed. She’s fleeing the city as soon as she can.

Nico, deciding he knows better than her, and probably because he has an epic crush and wants her to hang around, forges an acceptance letter.

Clarice visits Vanessa in the middle of the night to be all nice and bondy about making terrible, difficult political decisions. The next day the guard arrives to tell Vanessa that Clarice has run for the hills leaving her son as the only Medici left in Florence. She starts to protest that she never signed the acceptance then realises Nico did and hurriedly covers. Effectively, Vanessa now rules Florence.

I feel when Lorenzo returns he will be less than pleased with this turn of events.

Leo explains to his dad he simply has to reach Constantinople or all is lost, even as his dad warns him not to be suicidal – Leo wants a way through the fleet. If only there was a way to get to Constantinople not by boat, like, say, riding. On roads. Like Lucrezia did. Sure it’ll take longer but probably still easier than sailing through a naval blockade. Piero reveals he and Lorenzo are also fleeing the city – and he finally acknowledges Leo’s gifts.

And Leo has a genius moment. The harbour is narrow. It can be blocked. Yes it takes someone of Leo’s intellect to figure this out. Anyway, because the town has decided to completely ignore this perfectly natural defensive position, Leo now throws in genius to make Alfonzo’s completely inadequate defences work. Leo explains his plan with many put downs for Alfonzo who huffily asks why he should risk everything on Leo’s plan; Lorenzo politely points out his kingdom is already pretty much lost.

Lorenzo goes to see Lucrezia and ends up with Leo stopping him strangling her and Leo desperately speaks on her behalf and how they could bring down the Pope with her, while Lorenzo is focused on how she almost got his entire family killed – but he sees Leo is still wearing Lucrezia’s ring. He’s still in love with her. Leo and Lucrezia then have a moment where she explains she’s going to have thousands of people killed in war for the sake of her dead sister. And Leo releases her, probably earning the enmity of everyone ever. He vows he will see her again and they kiss

The battle begins (montage of everyone: Vanessa the new ruler, Clarice fleeing the city, the Pope finding his brother missing, Riario meeting Carlo and Lucrezia watching the battle from outside the city where she declares the carnage about to be unleashed is totally justified)

And Piero confirms to Leo that the woman in chains on the Ottoman boat is Leo’s mother. Told you so. Cut before the cannon actually fires.

This plot line for the next season is going to be really… odd. The pope has started a war with the Ottoman Empire without letting anyone know? Alfonzo hasn’t contacted his cousin, the King of Spain? And this fleet got to Naples without any of the Mediterranean powers hearing about it? Ok, then.

And are we supposed to support Lucrezia in this? She’s started a massive war over her dad. That’s a special kind of narcissism.

So, this season is over. And it was… not good. Not good at all. Firstly we had the split storylines – Lorenzo going to Naples and… being abused and tortured but not doing much more. Clarice in Florence… doing a whole lot of nothing. Lucrezia is playing the most bemusing game of randomness imaginable. And Leo wandered around South America throwing GENIUS at things. The problem is that week after week nothing was actually resolved. No-one’s closer to finding the book, no-one has really grown or developed, the whole conflict between Florence and Rome has weeks of build up then completely anti-climactic resolves. You could probably start season 3 having missed all of season 2 but the last episode and still be able to pick up the thread pretty easily. Leo’s own storyline can be summed up with “we went to South America to find the book. It wasn’t there. We came home. Now checking Constantinople. Still have mummy issues.” But this lack of any real development has been backed up with a truly epic amount of truly pointless cryptic bullshit, hallucinations, visions and random dead cast members dropping in for a chat.

So not a lover of the plot. And it all ends with them all forced to Naples in a series of highly convoluted maneuvers.

Now for marginalised people and… yessssss…. Not good.

To begin, let’s look at POC: we have Carlo – who turned out to be conniving and evil, but at least he had a character, didn’t exist to serve and had something of his own agenda even if that agenda is creepy evil cult member that openly compares itself to Satan. We have Zita who, despite being Riario’s slave (andfollowing him around because, as she clearly states, she has no choice), sleeps with him (in what is implied to be a seduction), constantly defends him and then willingly sacrifices herself for him.  Al Rahim has the mystical ability to teleport to wherever he’s needed (including visions) dole out some cryptic nonsense – and then disappear again. He is a walking woo-woo dispenser.

The Ottomans are being set up as next season’s enemy. At least there was an attempt not to make Bayezid evil. And I have zero clue why Lucrezia managed to acquire a Chinese bodyguard who managed, at most, 2 lines, did some martial arts then disappeared. Whyyyy? Why not just write “token” on this man’s head?!

Then we have the Inca, who occasionally gather up and sacrifice people. That’s kind of all they do, hold gatherings in the name of the foreigners, sacrifice some people, then go home. Except Ima, who gathers for the sacrifices, tries not to sacrifice Leo, has sex with him, wears not a lot of clothing, and then goes home.

This is pretty awful. And Ima brings us to the women: Vanessa, Zita, Yara, Ipolita, Lucrezia, Ima, Clarice. I have seen all of these women naked, I have seen all of these women have sex. Usually with a man who managed not to display his naked body at the same time – or very little of it. All of these women have been, primarily, defined by male relationship. Vanessa is the walking womb, carrier of Giuliano’s child (a precious male heir no less) which defined everything she did this season. Zita was a slave, who had sex and sacrificed herself for a man. Yara was a slave who was raped and then disappeared. Iploita is the wife of Alfonzo and in love with Lorenzo – which pretty much defines her. Ima is a priestess but the minute Leo arrives they were ceremonially married. Clarice did pretty much nothing but entered into an illicit relationship with Carlo. Lucrezia managed to go a whole season without having sex – but was sex shamed repeatedly. And she spent the whole season in the service of her father, following his, apparently, step-by-step plan to depose her uncle.

Which is the problem – outside of have sex, the women do nothing. Lucrezia followed her father’s orders heading into what she thought was sacrifice. Ima handed out random crypticness, but needed Leo to get into her own people’s vault. Clarice pretty much handed the running of Florence to Carlo. Vanessa walked around being pregnant. Zita, Ipolita, Yara – nothing nothing nothing.

And, no, “history” is not even close to a valid excuse in this case – if it ever is. Ipolita is a noble, Lucrezia running a covert scheme, Clarice was handed control and authority over a city, Ima was a priestess and clearly a woman of some authority. They HAD power. They just didn’t use it.

On top of this there was a lot of rape – Zita’s position made consent impossible to verify. Yara was raped purely to tell us that Alfonzo is a nasty person which was pretty clear without it. When Florence fell there was wall-to-wall rape simply as background imagery. All gratuitous, all just used as random, unnecessary points.

And on to sexuality. Leo continues to be grossly, offensively and homophobicly straight-washed; it’s grossly offensive to portray a historical gay man as straight – and then to compound that by marketing him as bisexual and then not actually going through with that (he became “curious”). Goyer added more homophobia with his decision to avoid the whole issue by claiming showing any attraction between Leo and a man would be “gratuitous”. Never mind this is the show where I have seen the breasts of every female cast member except Leo’s mother. Never mind Carlo and Clarice, Ima and Leo, Ipolita and Lorenzo, Riario and Zita, all sex scenes that added nothing to the story - and the completely unnecessary rapes – none of that counts as gratuitous. But the existence of LGBT people? And actual gay man being portrayed as a gay man? That’s gratuitous in Goyer’s world.

But, hey, we had an episode where Andrea mentioned liking pretty young apprentices around the workshop – before he was murdered. There’s no playing nice with this – this is homophobia, pure and simple.