Da Vinci’s Demons: 106 & 107 Review
Reviewed by Tyler Davies.
It has been a turbulent run, but next week this outlandish series reaches its epic conclusion. It’s clear what direction they are taking due to both these episodes seeing Leonardo, Nico and Zoroaster venturing on a quest to lead Leonardo closer to his objective – ‘The Book of Leaves’. The two penultimate parts though are no less tumultuous than the preceding ones, but whilst one is a shambling mess – the other sees a return to form.
I’ll begin with “The Devil” which submerges into the unknown territories of the cult (tentatively named the Sons of Mithras) which Leonardo has affiliated himself with. Throughout the course of this series we have had various glimpses of the cult and its prestige, but it has never taken centre-stage. Finally, after five parts, we get an episode which uses a decent portion of its time to decipher the cult, but it feels deficient as there are further questions raised and not enough answered.
I also realise why this show is categorized as a historical fantasy due to the hefty amount of it this week. Earlier there have been a few spiritual moments when Leonardo encounters the abstruse Turk, but this episode sets full sail and introduces facets of immortality, psychic abilities and more. The intrusion of such magical elements is impertinent when this series’ main leitmotif is taken into account. After all, the prowess of knowledge and technology has been highlighted on various occasions and proven to be the savior of the day more than once. Such things are natural to this show as the protagonist is Leonardo Da Vinci – a man distinguished for his knowledge and intellect. In contrast, the fantasy aspect is not welcome and definitely not when it is suddenly introduced midway into the series.
A lot of this episode rests on the broad shoulders of its protagonist – Vlad the Impaler aka Dracula. Considering the fact that the character lauds the Devil and manages to evade death then I’d say the writers were more inspired by the fictional Dracula, rather than the actual one. The writers’ decision to discard historical accuracy is one which I have now become accustomed to, but it is nevertheless disappointing to see the Romanian ruler be written as a demented worshipper of darkness. It’s obvious that their intent is to create a recurring villain, but Vlad’s character is not good enough to herald a recurrent position in a series which already contains a plethora of characters. His unnerving attitude does provide some satisfying entertainment, but he is far too overdone as a lot of the fantasy elements come from his character. The daunting man survives a steep fall from a building without there being any form of explanation for it. In any other show, I may have enjoyed this, but it is unconditionally unwelcome in a series which has science at its centre.
Aside from my dislike for Vlad’s character, the visit to Bran Castle gives the episode a praiseworthy dark atmosphere. There are dimly lit corridors, creaking doors and skulls galore. Suffice to say, the director puts the setting to great use and, to some extent, justifies their little escapade.
The next escapade, though, takes them to an altogether disparate place – the Vatican City. Ever since the opener there has been innumerable references to the Vatican Secret Archives as the writers have apprised us of its magnitude and it finally arrives on display for the audience. To be honest, I would have liked the enigma to have remained, at least till the second series, but it is nevertheless an essential part in moving the ‘Book of Leaves’ arc forwards. Besides, it allows the production team to come up with some stunning visuals. Most notably there is a descending platform which is dazzlingly grandiose and exhibits the show’s major budget.
The actual archive on the other hand is a dud. It had ample potential, but the writers squander the chance to visualise enticing ideas for some dull creations. The only thing remotely impressive is the ‘Spear of Destiny’ which, thankfully, allows for a boisterous sequence where Leonardo uses it to escape the guards. It’s not an especially interesting moment, but it diffuses the strong tension in this episode.
Two characters that stand out the most in both “The Devil” and “The Hierophant” are Leonardo’s amiable companions Nico and Zoroaster. The former in particular has some reasonable character development as he is finally able to execute his vengeance on the malicious Count Riario. It is unnerving to see Nico malignantly torturing him and it’s difficult to predict whether he would have actually murdered him if not Zoroaster had intervened. Either way, both characters have seen a significant development. They were rather bland in the opener, but the manner of which their loyalty to Leonardo and each other has been tested throughout this series has solidified them as great companions.
Another character who has seen an estimable transformation as of late is the, once irritatingly arrogant, Giuliano Medici. Post Becchi’s death he has shown a strong a moral centre and proved himself to be the more righteous Medici brother (although Lorenzo hasn’t given him much competition due to his string of unpleasant actions). It is therefore startling when he is dreadfully murdered this week. One has to commend the writers for delivering such an unanticipated surprise, but his death scene is deeply saddening. It is handled greatly and, luckily, makes for a worthy pay-off. It is dramatic and, more importantly, the score accompanying it is harrowing. Easily the biggest gut-punch of this series and even more so since it marks yet another murder at the hands of Lucrezia. Even though the reason for her deceitful act has been ascertained then it is difficult to have any ounce of sympathy for her. If the writers’ intention is for us to empathise with her then they have failed. At the moment her situation seems dire and I will not be surprised if she meets with an ill fate in the finale. To be blunt – it wouldn’t bother me much neither.
After an array of lackluster episodes, it’s great that the penultimate one is a return to form and, despite its flaws, it makes the finale seem promising. It looks to be shaping up quite nicely too – what with the Pazzi conspiracy coming into play and Leonardo confronting Lucrezia. I certainly can’t wait to see if they finally manage to strike it rich and end the series on a positive note!
“The Devil”: 5/10
“The Hierophant”: 7.5/10