Riario is back to visions and eye-drugs and general despair and someone/thing calling him “the monster of Italy” and generally not being well. Except Leo who is apparently trying to cure him.
Curing him involves chaining Riario up for his own sake and for the sake of the whole of Florence and having Leo of all people trying to bring him to lucidity. Leo has seen through Riario claiming he’s not part the Labyrinth along with an epic rant of having nothing to do with the Turks, Sons of Mithras, Labyrinth or anyone else demanding obedience and destruction in the name of god (who he doesn’t even think exists but think would be thoroughly disgusted if he did).
There follows some theological discussion with Leo thinking humanity is too terrible to be designed with Free Will while Riario defends it (an interesting twist. Personally I think free will + commandments on pain of pain = dubious free will anyway). Leo doubles down – Riario is the embodiment of man’s struggle between good and evil since he seeks piety and is a murderer. He says this while accusing Riario of the recent serial killings in Rome and Florence (including Clarice and Dragonetti). Riario splutters and tries to deny it while panting and hyperventilating and confused and lost.
The Labyrinth has damaged him, along with his doubts of them that stops him ever being “one” with them. Though he puts this down to his flaws, not the Labyrinth’s. He also saved Leo because, after everything they’ve endured, he couldn’t let Leo die – which Leo takes as a sign that Riario is redeemable. Riario of course starts ranting and lashing out with all a full on multiple-personality rant about how Leo broke him by introducing guilt and shame.
Time for chemistry (including with poison arrow frogs? What did he bring them back from South America? When? Why?) and more multiple personality rambling from Evil!Riario talking about… uh… Also-Evil!Riario.
Of course, this scene is starting to be about Riario – we have to quickly change it to be about Leo and he accuses Leo of being terribad evil and even worse than him because of all Leo’s shiny war machines.
Zoroaster and Leo had a field trip planned for research but Leo has to hastily cancel with Riario ranting and rambling and cackling away in the background (and this show really really should never ever try to make gay jokes under any circumstances).
Leo does some psychoanalysing of Riario and his tragic childhood while Zoroaster would rather just kill him and be done with it – especially with everyone trying to kill him. But Leo needs him for the fun crusade to stop the Ottomans, including Sixtus feeling he can come to Florence for the big pageant rather than running away from the serial killer. Riario would also quite like to be executed for his crimes – but Leo continues to refuse. And he has a plan
Over to Vanessa mourns for Dragonetti’s death while Laura decides to tastelessly push Florence into war over the body resting in state and calling on Florence to make allies. Vanessa pushes against this idea, even as Laura decides all she is is the Mother of her child and Florence and she now exists to serve and protect.
She also witnesses the mob targeting any foreigners assuming they are the murderers – they don’t have the same protection Leo grants Riario. Laura is there to twist the knife (everyone assumes the killer is a Turk) - but Nico outmanoeuvres them by suggesting a new captain of the guard chosen by the new Councilwoman: the brothel keeper Madam Singh.
Nico and Madam Singh’s men apparently catch the supposed serial killer –Nico actually leading the charge and shooting him. Yes, it’s all a ruse and the “killer” is Zoroaster in a crafty bait and switch. And lo, Florence has a killer to persecute.
So we can go back to analysing Riario’s mind in between experimental pharmacology.
While Vanessa hosts… Pope Sixtus. He promptly tries to intimidate Vanessa into joining the Crusade painting an image of a terrifying Ottomans overrunning Italy and no-one helping Florence
Laura still frets about Riario’s absence – and Laura has Venetian forces looking for him. They find him when Evil!Riaro rants and raves – they free him after incapacitating Zoroaster and he then kills the Venetians. He leaves Zoroaster alone because of Main Character shields and escapes.
Riario goes to the little demonstration Leo is putting on for Sixtus – Leo, Zoroaster and Nico are duly worried and Nico gets Vanessa to safety while Leo puts on his demonstration of his shiny new –weapon – a very impressive cannon. Riario disappears during the display and Leo has to chase him down where he has Laura hostage
Leo decides to try and get through to him by sharing his own feelings of his machines killing – that a part of him was hugely impressed by how powerful his machines where and how terribad guilty that made him feel. He tries plan B – Riario’s mummy-issues. He then encourages Riario to strangle Laura like he did his mother, then invokes Free Will and waking up. Apparently waking up works because Riario drops his weapons and lets Laura go.
Back to Lucrezia is still captured by Lupo with some other innocents –one of whom seems to have visions and wants to be taken to see Leo
Does anyone on this show NOT hallucinate? Seriously, someone needs to test Italy’s groundwater.
Hallucinating girl is taken by Lupo to do his book reading. He shows her the page. She seems almost able to while Lupo is all terrifying when they’re interrupted – Lucrezia has managed to escape and promptly dumps Lupo in his own cage before running to rescue the girl.
Lucrezia urges the girl to go to hide and run to Florence when she can while Lucrezia faces Gedik, her father and the Sons of Mithras who have predicted that Lucrezia will find the page of the Book of Leaves. Lucrezia claims the page was destroyed
The girl escapes – with the page.
Leo anti-free-will while Riario is for it? I can see it – because it rests on the practical absence of free will in their world (and generally) whether divinely granted or not. It’s alright saying “man has the chance to be a saint or sinner” from Riario with his wealth and power and influence and control – because the men around him DO have that chance and Riario is both making a plea for that influence and an excuse for how they abuse it. Conversely those who don’t have that power and influence are seeing these mighty forces using their “free will” to commit atrocities in the name of god (and demolishing the “free will” of anyone caught in their way).
In part because of this I object to the idea Riario is torn between “piety” and murder because it goes against the very concept of piety as has been established here and how piety can be abused – piety and murder are not mutually exclusive. Or is it just because these latest victims’ deaths are not “piously justified”?
That could be an interesting element to examine – what deaths are worth grieving to these people? Which are sinful? And which is “necessary evil” which people like Riario commits without apparent guilt out of duty while still being tortured by it?
Sadly, it’s unsurprisingly that we have, yet again, a depiction of a vicious serial killer as mentally ill, yet again. And that mental illness comes with full on deranged, wild-eyed ranting. It’s not even trying to fit the mental illness to what Riario has gone through or actual Multiple Personalities – let’s just have big loopy grins and wild eyes and rambling and cackling. Ok this does come with an attempt to, well, find method in his madness as well as a lot of assurances that everything is not Riario’s fault… but the cackling was not necessary.
Vanessa has been unfailingly awesome for a few episodes now – but I dislike both the reducing her to ”think of your baby” (and, of course, she can’t possibly seek power and wealth for her own sake! Oh no, perish the thought!) and Nico outmaneuvering her. Nico as an ally is awesome. Nico going behind her back? No.