Titled The Lovers (in keeping with the Tarot-themed titles of each episode), the most recent Da Vinci’s Demons episode is significantly stronger the previous one. Unlike the last episode, the two main plot-lines of the programme (Da Vinci searching for the mysterious Book of Leaves and the political dealings of the Medici family) feel more cohesive and complementary to each other. The show seems to have sorted its crisis of identity; it was previously swinging between magical adventure and family-fuelled intrigue. The Lovers still contains these elements, but they feel far more interlinked. Without spoiling any details, the episode’s climactic ending involves Da Vinci essentially having to choose between following his own swashbuckling adventures and becoming involved in the politics and intrigue that he nothing to do with in the last episode. For the first time, Da Vinci’s Demons has found its balance between the two different things that it wishes to be. The Lovers is filled with interesting character interactions (mostly exposition, but interesting exposition). Da Vinci (Tom Riley) begins the episode by criticising the mysticism of Al-Rahim (Alexander Siddig); firmly establishing himself as a man of reason and not of magic. One could possibly read this as the smallest of references to the historical Da Vinci’s impact on the age of reason. Da Vinci is displayed demonstrating his remarkable intellect in this episode; very different from the previous episode in which he seemingly conjured a diving suit from absolutely nowhere. It is much easier for viewers to believe Da Vinci to be the genius the rest of the characters claim him to be when we get to see his remarkable mind working through problems. A sequence in which he deduces the location of a missing compass is not too dissimilar to BBC’s Sherlock (complete with little white captions floating around Da Vinci’s head).
The secondary plot of the episode continues to develop the double dealings of the Medici and Pazzi Florentine families. Hoping to secure a lasting peace between them, Lorenzo Medici (Elliot Cowan) intends to marry his brother to a Pazzi daughter. His plans are scuppered by the actions of Laura Haddock’s Lucrezia, who continues to pursue her own objectives regardless of what stands in her way. At times, the constantly shifting political allegiances and strategies can become confusing unless one is paying attention. At one point, a character seemingly shifts his loyalty despite having little reason to do so. Later in the episode, a character that was teased to be dead miraculously appears alive and well… and is then promptly murdered. It is hard to deduce whether the writers lack direction or if they’re attempting the mimic the “political intrigue means that any character can be killed off at any time” formula that Game of Thrones has managed so well. The episode is certainly not without its problems. Blake Ritson continues to act like a pantomime villain in the role of Riario; he has even donned a pair of ludicrously anachronistic sunglasses just to emphasise how evil he is (as if the costuming dept of the show agree with Ritson that Riario should be ridiculous). Many of the episode’s other performers are underwhelming and seem to appear just to remind the audience that they exist. The mythology back-story of the show is also sidelined somewhat which is a pity as it is very interesting. However, despite its faults, this episode is certainly a step in the right direction for Da Vinci’s Demons. The previously binary nature of the programme seems to have been replaced with a more cohesive tone. If it continues in this direction, the show might finally start to live up to its full potential.
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