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"?


– 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.

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