Da Vinci = Jerry Lewis as The Errand Boy
A Show Review of Da Vinci’s Demons Episode 8: The Lovers
By: Lawrence Napoli
[Attention: Major spoilers and end of season commentary ahead!]
Season 1 concludes with The Lovers and the theme of this episode is “tying up the loose ends” with what I hope will be a more adventurous and bold ambition for season 2. Usually, the resolution of subplots is a satisfying experience for the viewer who is invested in any series, but I did not feel the satisfaction for many of them, despite the thoroughness of the attempt to address every character’s particular issue.
I am unimpressed.
Subplot #1) Da Vinci FINALLY expresses to The Turk, Al-Rahim his frustration for being led around by the nose thanks to the Sons of Mithras and their quest for The Book of Leaves which they entrapped Leo with by linking its fate to that of his own mother’s. The reason this fizzles is because Da Vinci has really become obsessed with this quest himself and he is all too willing to continue on as he has been regardless of his whining and complaining. Leo knows this, The Turk knows this, and thus the entire exchange is a waste of time other than directing Da Vinci towards his new destination. The Turk owns Da Vinci’s left testicle.
Years from now we'll get this Da Vinci guy to do all the hard work and . . .
Subplot #2) The fate of Giuliano Medici runs its course. We were all fooled by the way last week’s episode ended, but in order to more closely resemble the history of these events he is dispatched while attempting to save his brother during mass. Giuliano, played by Tom Bateman, was easily becoming my favorite character in this show because he stopped behaving like a spoiled little brat and started rising to the occasion to be a leader whenever possible with charisma and confidence. His presence will be missed, but having his mistress Vanessa (with whom Giuliano had relations once) discover she’s pregnant and inform the skewered Giuliano of this fact in the final moments of his life felt incredibly rushed and swept under the rug. This was a moment of high drama that required more time to see through and it failed as a result.
I was supposed to "handle" Giuliano.
Subplot #3) Lucretia the spy and Da Vinci have it out and despite that, their relationship is still up in the air. As quickly as Da Vinci is to slit her throat, he is just as quick to massage her tongue with his own and the scene they share is obviously meant to show that both individuals (despite their best efforts) are hopelessly in love with each other, but neither have the courage nor the sense of self to do anything about it. For a man so determined to not be defined by anyone else, Lucretia owns Da Vinci’s right testicle and his interactions with Lorenzo throughout this episode suggest he may eventually pay for this relationship. Da Vinci seems content to remain a slave to Lucretia’s affections.
You complete me.
Subplot #4) We all find out who the old man being held in Rome’s prison is, and I must say that I was not expecting him to be the Pope’s twin brother. The show is taking immense liberties with this angle and although we have no idea why he chooses to remain in prison, we do know his council helped facilitate Rome’s campaign to unify Italy and increase the church’s power. The funny thing is, I’m pretty sure Leonardo did not notice the family resemblance from last week’s episode, but the very fact a twin exists reveals a major plot point for how I think this series will culminate. [Major spoiler supposition ahead] Da Vinci may involve himself in a plot to swap the imprisoned twin with the evil Pope Sixtus who is known for commissioning the creation of the Sistine Chapel (an act not particularly on the mind of a Pope desiring to instigate a holy war with the Ottoman Empire). This will lead to Da Vinci crossing paths with none other than Michelangelo, who painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
I can always find "another way."
Subplot #5) The Pazzi Conspiracy fully engages and its result is pending. "The Lovers" has a ton of swordplay after Giuliano bursts through the church’s doors to expose the Pazzis. I actually enjoyed the action, the throat slicing and the fact that everyone (even the priests!) get down and dirty. If you know the history [attention: historical spoiler ahead], the Pazzi’s fail at assassinating Lorenzo, but it remains to be seen if this will cause a brief moment of internal calm for Florence at a convenient time when Leonardo needs to go away on an oceanic voyage. The only thing I didn’t like about this is how it ends with the very last scene before the credits roll. This scene catches the action literally in the middle and it resolves nothing to the audience. It’s the kind of cliff hanger left for in-between episodes or commercial breaks, but not the end of a season (Editor's Note: And not having to wait until 2014! - EIC Matt McGloin).
This Pazzi comes with a Kung-fu action chop.
Subplot #6) Lorenzo discovers Da Vinci is his rival for Lucretia’s affections. Just as Lorenzo is professing his love for Da Vinci for his heroic intervention, he sees Lucretia’s ring, and that love instantly turns into vile hate. This development really felt like Goyer threw this in at the last possible second because Lorenzo’s reaction seems a bit odd. If he really loves Lucretia, it makes more sense for him to become depressed and indifferent to his immediate fate, and if he survives, that sadness can turn into hate which motivates Lorenzo to “hunt” Da Vinci throughout season 2. If Lorenzo’s ego is simply wounded by someone like Da Vinci sharing the same woman, he would certainly get upset, but he wouldn’t seek blood-lusting vengeance as if Da Vinci slept with his actual wife. Da Vinci is, after all, saving Lorenzo’s butt from assassination.
Do I love my wife and family more than my mistress?
All of the above happens in this single episode and each subplot is done a severe disservice by splitting the audience’s attention amongst them all. Perhaps creator David S. Goyer felt the need to conclude with the Pazzi conspiracy because he didn’t want any major issues lingering between seasons. If this is the case, that means Goyer must have something amazing waiting for the audience with Da Vinci’s adventures abroad. If not, Da Vinci will continue to be conveniently side tracked from his journey to stay in Florence, and we will all be treated to everything we’ve already seen before. Florence could continue to be an interesting place to explore had Goyer given Da Vinci – and the audience as a proxy – a reason to stay. Ending season 1 after Da Vinci’s infiltration of the Vatican seemed to be a more natural place to take a breather because significant plot twists occurred, Da Vinci accomplished a major victory, yet significant danger remained for the future of Florence to address in season 2.
I am really, *ucking pissed off!
Season 1 of Da Vinci’s Demons was a successful experiment in making a television series. The reason I describe it as merely a test is because its quality in many production levels was inconsistent and the sum of its episodes do not constitute a full season of anything. Here are some things Goyer needs to address for season 2: First, you must give the audience at least 12 episodes because if you don’t, there’s no reason for you to evolve your story telling formula, which means more abbreviated character and plot development and you will be called out on it. Second, get a little more money for effects. Although this is the kind of show that doesn’t require an abundance of visual effects, it is still about Leonardo Da Vinci and he invented a couple of cool gadgets along the way and we need to see more of his infernal devices at work. Third, Da Vinci’s desire to learn of his mother’s fate better pay off because it has thus far been set up to be a massive let down. The first half of season 1 shows Da Vinci having a blast with his own devices and discovering “truth” at his own pace. The Turk shows up and tempts Leonardo with a massive carrot and the man hasn’t returned to jubilant discovery since. This plot arc seems to be setting Leo up for that heaping helping of humble pie so Da Vinci can learn “humility,” the key word left out of Solomon Ogbai’s final words to Da Vinci in "The Devil."
Da Vinci must learn his lessons, or this goes right up you know where.
I need to see a lot more follow through from Goyer and his entire production staff. If you’re only given another 8 episodes for season 2, then give the audience 8 episodes that take full advantage of the characters you’ve introduced and TAKE YOUR TIME! I’m sick and tired of merely paying lip service to plot points and twists that have the potential to be really juicy. Give your fine cast of actors more time to ACTUALLY ACT. We need MORE moments of DRAMA that play out organically. Only time will tell what season 2 and the future of Da Vinci’s Demons as a franchise has in store, but the concept of “evolution” should be the first and foremost thought in Goyer’s mind at the writer’s table, behind the camera and in the editing booth.