Da Vinci's Demons "The Magician" Review: How to Succeed at War Without Really Trying

Da Vinci's Demons S01E04: "The Magician"


Riario, backed by his uncle, who was rocking a seriously fine pimp—I mean pope hat—slaughtered a bunch of proles in Lorenzo's mine and brought the sass while backed with a huge army from Rome. He had a hefty list of demands, like the Medicis forgiving all papal debt and handing over Florence's finest artists to serve Sixtus IV, including our boy Leo, who sassed right back with "I would rather have my testicles gnawed off" and a quip about anal leakage. Sometimes the Da Vinci of Da Vinci's Demons tries my patience with his smarter-than-everyone-but-also-really-pretentious-about-it routine, but then he makes declarations like that and I'm over it because poop jokes are funny even when you're delivering them in rather formal language. In fact, sometimes that makes them funnier. 

Still, we're at the halfway point of Da Vinci's Demons' inaugural season and like I said, sometimes this version of Da Vinci is just... infuriating? Sometimes? Time after time, Leo's been shown to simply pluck his ideas and these huge breakthroughs from the air as though he can see the molecules themselves and the molecules are full of brilliance and know-how. The real Leonardo Da Vinci was certainly one of the brightest minds humanity had/has ever seen, and many of his ideas probably did seem completely daffy to his contemporaries—like airborne insanity that only he was susceptible to—but sometimes, as a modern TV viewer watching Da Vinci's Demons as a fictional series and not a historical account of Da Vinci's life, the ease with which Leo just discovers everything has started to occasionally feel like some deus ex machina action. 

Get Leo drunk, let him wander around town in a brown acid haze for a few hours, and it's all good. His brain is like Batman's utility belt. 


This week, that meant destroying the gun-canon thing that Lorenzo threatened to execute him over because he didn't want to escalate things with Riario. Riario had figured out the weapon's limitations and brought enough men to overwhelm the Medicis' forces after the first round of shots was fired and the soldiers had to pause and reload. Sure, he'd lose some men in the siege, but he was prepared to make the sacrifice because his victory was almost certain.

Or so he thought. 

Da Vinci may have blown up the works building his muskets, but just because he didn't want  to actually massacre Riario's forces didn't mean he was ready to force the Medicis to surrender either. He just bluffed his way through a second confrontation with Riario by offering a demonstration of a weapon that was far superior to the muskets... but also far more not-actually-existent. 

The bluff worked—for now. At a party celebrating Leo's big ol' brain, two Florentine conspirators who we'd seen being BFFs with Riario earlier in the episode, one of whom played the GOD HATES ARTISTIC PERVERTS card during Leo's latest binge-drinking session, crashed the party with sodomy charges against Da Vinci, punishable by death, because enlightenment and all.


At first, I wasn't terribly on board with that turn. Da Vinci's sexual orientation has been a topic in the comments here due to the show's overtly hetero stance on this particular incarnation of Da Vinci, and I took it for a cheap way for the series to acknowledge the "rumors" without actually delving into the possibility that Da Vinci was homosexual. However, I also thought it was a particularly odd choice for Starz, considering that our dearly departed Spartacus, formerly of the Friday-night slot, was very much okay with being a little gay and also featured what is widely acknowledged as one of the most positive gay relationships on TV. 

But a little research never hurt anyone and it turns out that when he was 24, Leonardo Da Vinci really was arrested on sodomy charges in Florence. So, good job, show. I'll shut up now. Can't wait to see how this plays out. 

Lucrezia Donati went all ninja lady again when Guiliano, Lorenzo's brother, revealed that Becchi—the dude Lucrezia pinned her espionage activities on last week—could prove his innocence after all. Stupid Guiliano. 

I'm pretty much over Lucrezia being conflicted and sad about literally everything she does ever. I mean, killing peeps for Riario? SADNESS AND GUILT. Banging Lorenzo? GUILT. Banging Leonardo? GUILT GUILT GUILT. Getting her portrait painted. SADFACE. I get that she's a slave. I get that she's in kind of a tough position, but it's just a lot of guilt. I sincerely hope we learn more about this terrible, impossible, life-shattering situation that she's in because I'm really bored with the kill-cry-kill cycle she's caught in. 

And for the record, I would totally watch a completely fantastical, cracked-out, not-grounded-in-reality-in-the-slightest show about Leonardo Da Vinci shipping off to the Americas to go on swashbuckling adventures in search of the Book of Leaves, but maybe that's just me. 


What did you think of "The Magician"?


NOTES

– Verrocchio told us the story of how Leonardo came under his tutelage. Not sure why it was necessary except to remind us that Da Vinci is crazy-smart and his dad is kind of douche. 

– Zoroaster was crabby about not getting enough credit for helping Leo out. Might this be a bigger problem later?

– When Lucrezia claimed that she was killing Becchi in order to spare him from a more gruesome death at Lorenzo's hands, Becchi was having none of it, "This isn't mercy. This is you tying off lose ends." I miss you already, Becchi-boo.

Comments (35)
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I thought it was pretty clear that this version of Leonardo was bisexual. I quite got the impression that he had banged that male model that approached him at the bar during one of the previous episodes. I was pretty curious why they chose "sodomy" of all things as the reason for his arrest, though, so thanks for the historical knowledge. Damn, we've culturally been giving people trouble for what they get up to in the privacy of their own homes for CENTURIES. How depressing.
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I'm absolutely sticking with the show!!! My boyfriend and I loved every episode!
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I like it.The show is beautiful and fun, if you want historical accuracy then Starz is not the place for you.
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I agree! It sure is entertaining !
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Executive producer and writer David Goyer is treading on very thin ice with this ridiculous hetero Leonardo of his given the fact that Leonardo da Vinci himself wrote that male-female copulation disgusted him and also given the fact that there is no historical evidence whatsoever that Leonardo ever had a wife, children or any sexual relations with women.

Whereas there IS verified historical evidence that Leonardo da Vinci was arrested not once but TWICE for engaging in sodomy with males.
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Well, in episode 5 (The Tower) I think that you will be pleased - it is obvious in that episode that he had sexual intercourses with men. We can even see the kiss between him and one man!
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You do realize that this a fantasy show. Also it's a STARZ show, how do you not expect there to be sex scenes given their track record...
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i enjoy the name calling, pretty much waiting to see columbus appear at some point and ask leonardo to help with preparing the navigational tools of the santa maria.
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Is it is wrong that I grow to love Riario more and more? Boo is so sassy <3 him LOL.

Not nearly enough Clarice this ep <3 AND way too much Lucrezia, I've had enough of her.

Oh Guiliano *facepalm* - he's lucky he's kinda pretty cuz he sure is dumb. What's he gonna blab about this week I wonder?
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*Is it wrong...
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Stop griping about historical details, it's TV not a documentary. And then you gripe about the arrest & woops it actually happened? But then you want him to go find America even though we know it's not true.? If you are gonna get huffy about details get your facts straight & decide what you want from this show, entertainment or historical accuracy.

Actually in this episode the idea did not come from thin air. He had the pomegranate from the beginning & I was screaming shrapnel, long before Da Vinci figured it out.

I liked the Lucrezia character up until she killed Becchi. I really don't feel sorry for her at all anymore, she really didn't get what the priest at confession advised her, she already had him condemned what more did she want. It was just the series way to keep her from being discovered yet because Lorenzo was coming to forgive Becchi.

I love Da Vinci's character, of course he'll be arrogant, he's a genius & he knows it, have you ever met or seen a genius who isn't arrogant? The House comparison is good, & who didn't love his arrogance?

I would also like to have seen that trip to America, who knows? I think the book of leaves storyline is intriguing, give us more of that. Also I would like to know who the prisoner that Riario was playing the game with last episode is.
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This show seems like it's trying really, REALLY hard. I generally enjoy most costume-historicals, but this one's still a bit off putting to me for some reason.
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What is wrong with the costume designer, Annie Symons??? The women's clothes look like she'd gotten them from Filene's Basement in the 80s. Ridiculous. Either stick with the period or go home.
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I'm sorry, but I'm over shows playing up an event like an arrest into something more ominous than it is.

As a somewhat intelligent viewer of television in general, I know at least this much: You can't threaten your lead character, because he is your lead character. He won't die, not at least until the finale (if ever), so any suggestion that he will come to an untimely end is absurd.

Now, let me clarify that perspective. I don't mind plot elements like arresting the lead character. Not at all. But when they are used as "cliffhangers" that are meant to signify he is somehow in real danger, it's boring and annoying. It would be much more effective to arrest DaVinci in a cold open and spend part or all of the episode setting him free.

Now I have to wait a week to see what I already know will happen. He'll be released, whether through his own ingenuity or a combination of that and support from his friends and allies. This grinds the pace of the story to a crawl and I can only hope they don't keep him locked up for more than one episode.
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I came here to say that the show can be frustrating, and then you used the word "infuriating". So someone here is on the same page as me. It's not just that Leo comes up with his ideas seemingly from the air, it's also that they have these long scenes were he engages in intellectual masturbation, presenting the grandeur of his inventions while the rest of the people are marvelling him. I get it, while there's nothing special about a grenade for us, it would have been a great invention at the time, and therefore it might have been necessary to show at lenght how he presented it to Riario, for dramatic effect. But it made me wonder how difficult it would be for Riario to return to the Holy See and explain to their engineers how to make grenades.

I also dislike some of the acting performances, for example Leonardo himself. In addition, I would like to see more of Lara Pulver. Shame she is such a minor character.

The reason why I'm still watching the show is the mystery behind the keys and The Book Of Leaves. I don't really care about how they figure out what they are, what kind of tricks Leo employs to do that, as long as they give us the answers soon.
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Da Vinci is basically House. He's brilliant, impulsive, has no concept of consequences, and at the end of every episode he has a sudden realization that solves his predicament.
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He is keen on solving puzzles, just like House.
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I'll keep watching for now. It's entertaining enough, although there are a few things i don't like. Most notably Leo's behaviour. It's too eratic. If this wasn't supposed to be Leonardo DaVinci i'm not sure i would root for that guy. One minute he realizes the fairly obvious. That war escalates and the next minute he builds even those bigger guns he didn't want to built. I get that it's a mean for the writers to get Leo to do what the story requires him to. I am just saying it's not executed well. I am fed up with Lucrezia's cry/kill/guilt circle too. I am intrigued by the rest of the story enough to keep watching. For now.
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Really disappointed. I became a fan of Starz with Spartacus. I understand it was a different era in Spartacus, but I thought Starz would have been quite comfortable displaying nudity, sex, or even homosexual relationships. Just like the author above mentioned, I am also disappointed at the way Starz portrayed Da Vinci's sexual orientation.
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Now History tests are much easier to ace. Who discovered America? Leonardo Da Vinci, of course! Who invented the light bulb? Da Vinci. Who...? Da Vinci, Da Vinci, Da Vinci. And by the way, finally a historical drama I can enjoy, because they are usually so boring! I knew History cold be interesting.
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I'll never watch this show just because of that haircut. Seriously...Da Vinci with David Beckham's hairdo in 2000. No, thank you.
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lol...
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I too would watch that show.

I do like how they are balancing the history of Da Vinci and their fiction of the story.

The case of the week aspect is kind of getting tiresome at this point though. I mean really, the conflict between Riario and Da Vinci is kind of Primary School recess at this point. Complete with name calling and one ups manship.

The Lucrezia and Da Vinci relationship is interesting, I wish they would spend more time on that.

Also, the whole Giuliano hating Da Vinci's for whatever reason he comes up with at that point in time is also very tiresome. It is silly at this point.

Overall it is still ok. But they need to focus more on the Book of Leaves and Lucrezia and leave the silly politics and drama alone. There is a great story they are swimming around and they haven't fully committed to it.
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I agree with most of what you said but I don't think they should leave politics and drama out of it. It's necessary, albeit juvenile at times, but still necessary but yeah, they should focus on Book of Leaves more rather than who's going to rule where.
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Well maybe just the petty politics like Giulano's issues with Da Vinci. Especially considering that Da Vinci kind of saved the day at the convent. I don't, eventually if it keeps up it is just going to be a big drag on everything else.
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"I would totally watch a completely fantastical, cracked-out, not-grounded-in-reality-in-the-slightest show about Leonardo Da Vinci shipping off to the Americas to go on swashbuckling adventures in search of the Book of Leaves"

i was hoping that is what the show was going to be. It isn't?
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I'll stick with it for awhile longer. I'm entertained, for now, and I'm really starting to like Riario and his hats.
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Good review even though I find the show a little lacking, IMHO it leans all too much on the Da Vinci persona like "Reason? Screw that, this is LEONARDO EFFIN DA VINCI!" Needs more real intrigue, fast. Oh and talking about screwing, sodomy doesn't necessarily mean homosexuality in this case as during those ages every kind of copulation which didn't involve the manly parts touching the womanly parts was considered sodomy, for example oral sex regardless of the sexes involved. Enlightenment indeed.
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Funnily, in German, sodomy means "sex with animals", so I was slightly confused, when they talked about having a victim :-P
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I know! It means the same here (I speak Swedish)! If I understand correctly "sodomy" was used to cover all forms of sexual activity other than that between a man a woman in order to conceive children, so almost anything could be called sodomy back in the day. It takes its name from the biblical city of Sodom, which God destroyed because of its sinful citizens. Or so the story goes.
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Sodomy in Greek means any sexual act that does not result in procreation so all of the above you mentioned
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I think it is a good show which is getting better and I stick with it
Sure it is unlikely foe De Vince to have strokes of genius just at nick of time
but this a TV show not real life and the writers have only 45 minutes to complete the stroy
If you want real life go watch the news

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actually I think they have more than that... like, you know..a entire Season ... but thats my way of seeing...

I think that what it's annoying are the 'holes in the script (the need to show how smart he is and to show us fast...to rush in to it) and not the fact itself..

that is what I think she meant
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I had forgotten I was on Starz until we saw a man get beaten to death in this episode. I was so relieved to see that Starz hadn't lost his identity ...
I completely agree with you review, MaryAnn : Da Vinci get on my nerves sometimes so I was glad to see more of Lorenzo and his brother.
I really liked that Lorenzo's brother (can't remember his name) was on his falsely accused master's side whereas Lorenzo is becoming more and more harsh.
After the 4 episodes test, I'm sticking with the show.
Da Vinci's demons is not a good show : Florence CGI are bad, the characters are a bit stereotypical... But it's an adventure, a period drama and not a cop show. Add to that the facts that the actors are good, that Da Vinci's position with God is ambiguous and Art and Science... Good enough for me !
And yes, I would love to see a "completely fantastical, cracked-out, not-grounded-in-reality-in-the-slightest show about Leonardo Da Vinci" !LESS
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