Da Vinci's Demons "The Serpent" Review: Knowledge Is Power

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Da Vinci's Demons S01E02: "The Serpent"

Artist, inventor, scientist... grave robber. Young Leonardo Da Vinci doesn't adhere to labels and doesn't let much get in the way of knowledge and exploration; Leo's all-or-nothing approach to bringing enlightenment to the masses puts him in conflict with pretty much everyone he encounters. But this week, in Da Vinci's Demons' follow-up to a delightful premiere (and it's worth noting that Starz has already renewed the series for a second season), Da Vinci ended up between a figurative rock and a hard place when a botched demonstration put him in poor favor with his patron, Lorenzo Medici, and his cheeky, free-thinking, grave-robbing ways did little to endear him to the Vatican and their attack dog, Girolamo Riario. With Lorenzo and Riario each crossing their fingers for the other to meet an unfortunate end, Da Vinci found himself in an uncomfortable position with each powerful figure trying to keep Da Vinci under their influence. On top of that, Leonardo also realized he'd banged his boss's mistress. Awkward. 

Lucrezia Donati kept most of her clothes on this week and expressed guilt over cheating on Lorenzo with Leonardo, despite the fact that her and Lorenzo's relationship isn't exactly a portrait of fidelity itself. She was shown to be working with Riario as a spy in the house of Medici, though her motivations for doing so remain unclear. It certainly doesn't appear to be out of any loyalty to Riario, who is kind of an all-around jerk despite his ties to the papacy's elite. I get the sense that these guys skipped the parts of the Bible about not being assholes. 

So, while Leonardo failed spectacularly at demonstrating a rapid-firing musket designed for the Medicis and received his very first deadline as a result of his shortcoming, Nico and Zoroaster dug up the dude who was hanged last week, on Da Vinci's orders. After a gore-fest autopsy, Da Vinci fished a coin, a fingernail, and an odd-looking key out of the dead guy's stomach and deduced that he'd hidden a book somewhere in Florence because Da Vinci is brilliant like that. In fact, everyone Da Vinci surrounds himself with seems to be on the higher end of the IQ spectrum, right down to Nico, his human guinea pig. When Riario realized that it was Nico who did the actual gravedigging and tortured him accordingly, Nico seemingly betrayed Da Vinci during the ordeal—at least it was just your hand they put in the box, Nico! 

But yeah, Nico spilled about the key and led Riario and his men to Da Vinci's workshop... where he promptly steered them to bust open Leo's booby-trapped trunk. You know, the one that explodes when you tamper with it. Nice one, Nico! And here I thought you were just, well, just a dum-dum. 

Despite suffering from the artist/inventor equivalent of writer's block due to his ongoing mommy issues, Da Vinci managed to successfully rebuild the musket he'd promised Lorenzo—with a little help from his mentor, Andrea de Verrocchio, and his own overwhelming desire to both avoid execution and continue his campaign of essentially trolling the hell out of anyone who stands in the way of knowledge, innovation, exploration and all that. He ultimately pledged his allegiance to the Medici family because despite their flaws, unlike Riario and "his ilk," the Medicis aren't trying to "suppress knowledge" and mold the world to their approval. Plus, he did it with the flair and spectacle of a guy who knows he's the smartest one in the room—and frankly, probably the city.

I thought the follow-up to Da Vinci's Demons' series premiere was more lighthearted and direct in a way that the pilot, while still strong enough to draw in an audience, was not. Notably missing was Starz's signature over-long sex scenes and honestly, they weren't missed. The time that was dedicated to moving the plot along served the episode well, giving Da VInci and his followers a more defined goal and a clearer philosophy that sets the tone for the rest of the inaugural season. The decision to make the bad guys agents of the Pope was somewhat risky in the sense that even though historically, Sixtus IV and his associates were pretty amazingly corrupt, there is the possibility of alienating those viewers who are less comfortable with rooting against the papacy, even in a fictional representation. 

Not gonna lie, the current stance that one can either be free-thinking or devout without much gray area in the middle had me momentarily pausing in mid-Da Vinci rant, but the whole point of Da Vinci's Demons is to imagine the activities of a young Leonardo Da Vinci, and young people, well, they tend to make philosophical mistakes from time to time. Someday, Leonardo Da Vinci will be a sage gray Gandalf type with all of the wisdom a lifetime full of enlightenment, adventure, and indulging in the best parts of your imagination can grant you, but for now, he's kind of a mischievous punk-ass who knows he's smarter than everyone else and doesn't shy away from showing it off. 

With his life and service to the Medici family once again on solid ground following his successful demonstration of the musket, Da Vinci set his sights on deciphering the code he knew had to be in the book the hanged man had hidden. Tearing out the pages, he arranged them on the floor and hoisted himself into the air to see the resulting picture from a birds-eye view. One of his assistants declared that it was a map of a "land that didn't exist"—or, you know, South America, which hasn't been discovered yet. Iiiiinteresting. 

Has any of you made Da Vinci's Demons a regular part of their Friday-night schedule? What did you think of "The Serpent"?


NOTES


– I was going to be an ass and start a boob count, but there really weren't any on display this week. Womp womp. 

– What's Lucrezia's motive for working with Riario?

– At first, when Da Vinci wasted Riario's men in order to demonstrate to Lorenzo how his musket worked, I was kind of horrified because he's supposed to be the good guy and that was COLD. I was relieved to see he seemed to feel bad about it after the fact. 

– Lorenzo passively calling Riario a snake with his sexed-up retelling of the Garden of Eden was masterful. 

– Man, the opening credits for this show are mesmerizing. 

– So, South America, eh? Theories?

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