Da Vinci’s Demons: 103 “The Prisoner” Review
Reviewed by Tyler Davies.
‘The Prisoner’ has a profoundly conventional premise with strong themes of demonic possession – something which is certainly not unfamiliar in historical shows based in the renaissance era. All this conventionalism is a breath of fresh air though and it works in the episode’s favour. None of the previous episodes have utilised the Renaissance era quite as successfully as this one does. Even the Church is back to being highlighted as the antagonist and their attempts at winning the people’s trust by staging unnatural events bears a lot of authenticity – which I’m sure history aficionados will recognize and appreciate.
Leonardo continues to showcase his investigative abilities by assuming the role of Florence’s private eye once again. Although this time it’s not due to his personal quest, but to help his young lady friend – Vanessa. I am infinitely more satisfied with the way Leonardo’s investigative nature is handled throughout this episode compared to last week. Not only does he have a viable reason to want to investigate, but it is also executed with realism. He spends a large amount of time in the convent, whilst trying to seek a rational explanation to the epidemic, but it’s not until a day has passed that he comes to the realisation that they were all purposefully contaminated. The process which leads to his discovery is woven with failures too – presenting the situation as an actual challenge for him and not merely a transparent mystery.
Aiding Leonardo in this inquiry is the younger Medici brother – Giuliano. There has been a recurrent animosity between the two, but it finally comes to the surface with a brief brawl. Although the fight ends with Giuliano being humiliated – the arrogant brunt manages to shrug this incident off and sincerely does his best to help. It’s quite obvious that his incentive was to gain recognition from his brother, but it was nevertheless nice to see his unyielding hatred for Leonardo coming to an end. Over the course of these two past episodes; the younger Medici brother has proven to be a very one-dimensional character and he is always cast to the sidelines. He finally gets a fair amount of scope here, but there’s nothing which makes him stand out. Most of the time he is just spewing out remarks and inconsequential nonsense. Even the dynamic between him and Leonardo, which is central to the story, is arguably stale.
The backdrop of this epidemic is the convent. This setting has to be attributed for being both eerie and effective. It’s supposed to be a demonic setting and the dark colours, tarnished surroundings and myriad of tormented women add a lot of fear to it. Not only is this part of the episode realised with visual flair, but there’s a good amount of gore to it too. The ‘possessed’ nuns are very grotesque and the same applies for their actions. For the most part of the episode the nuns are shackled to their beds, but there are a couple of scenes which illustrate their severe aberration with gusto. The scene which comes across as most alarming is the one where we first see the effects of this demonic possession. I’m making reference to when the young convent girl – Sister Dolores – surges into the local market place, professes that the devil has seized her soul, incriminates the Medici’s and then proceeds to kill herself in a ghastly manner. This all plays out at a feverish pace and establishes the threat of this episode quite befittingly.
Back in Florence, a game of cloak-and-dagger has commenced. Following the events of ‘The Serpent’, Lorenzo has come to the conclusion that there is a spy in the house of Medici. For a man of wisdom and astuteness; he certainly proves himself to be vulnerable to manipulation by his closest. There is more than one instance where someone attempts to guide his path and he does not restrain from this. This makes him seem foolish, considering that anyone could be the spy. His naivety is made worse by the fact that he takes advice from his mistress, Lucrezia, whom we know is the perpetrator. His methods of finding the spy are rather bland too. He merely warrants a search of everyone who has access to the Medici estate and even informs them before doing so. This allows for evidence to be destroyed, hidden or even planted on someone else – which is exactly what Lucrezia does. By the end of the episode, Becchi, a father-figure to Lorenzo, is accused of treason and this is consolidated by evidence found in his study room (which, of course, is planted by the actual mole).
Best Scene of the episode:
This episode deals with demons and it was therefore a nice touch to see the protagonist having his own demons uncovered. Through his daunting hallucination – we get an intriguing look at what haunts him. A notable aspect of his delusion is his equivocal mother. Her mystery has always plagued Leonardo and the promise of some clearance around her is a driving-force for him to find the ‘Book of Leaves’. Little has been revealed about her, but his quest to find out more is an eminent part of this series.
Amongst other things, his cold-blooded murder last week is shown to have a haunting effect on him too. The bodies of the dead play a predominant part in his hallucination and they seem to weigh heavy on his conscience. It is great to see that the previous episode’s ending hasn’t been disregarded and that his acts bear some actual ramifications.
The third part of this historical fantasy finally manages to reach its full potential as it serves up a neat dose of both horror and mystery. If the upcoming episodes sustain this greatness then we’re certainly in for a treat!