Just when I was starting to get bored with young Leo's deus ex brilliance and inability to function like a person who isn't batshit crazy, the Da Vinci's Demons gang cranked Leonardo's eccentricity up to eleven and it was glorious. Tom Riley looked like he was enjoying every minute of playing Leo like some sort of maladjusted manchild and I laughed. I laughed a lot. Plus, "The Tower" was just a really well-written episode in general, with a tight story and an almost perfect balance between humor and heartbreak. It was definitely my favorite episode of the series thus far.
At the end of last week's little spat with Riario, the Medicis' grand party in honor of Leo's contribution to their victory over the Vatican was interrupted by a band of Riario's conspirators; unfortunately for Leo and Lorenzo, the gents held positions of power within Florence that enabled them to pretty much make whatever claims they wanted about where a dude had stuck his paintbrush and have them taken as fact. So Leo was off to jail on sodomy charges with the potential for execution hanging heavily in the air, while the Medicis scrambled to do some damage control—no small feat, since their rep was already somewhat tarnished due to their spat with the Pope and his nephew. Da Vinci's arrest and disgrace couldn't have come at a worse time, since Lorenzo and Clarice were entertaining Ferdinand and Isabella (yes, that Ferdinand and Isabella) in hopes of winning the financial business of the Spanish royals. As if wooing the uptight, pious Isabella's favor wasn't a big enough challenge after she declared Donatello's bronze David "lewd," their pet artist being collared for supposedly banging dudes only made matters worse. Lorenzo was having a real bad week, ya'll.
And Leo wasn't really helping his case at first glance. Less than thrilled with his father being the one to represent him in court, Leo refused to take any sort of plea bargain and insisted that the charges be dropped completely. As soon as opening arguments started, it became clear that Riario and his peeps weren't screwing around—they pulled in a wringer for the prosecution with a serious hatred for the Medicis, ransacked Leo's workshop for detailed drawings of dongs to present as evidence, and found a witness who claimed that Leo had raped him. Thrice.
However, Leo's batty babbling and seemingly nonchalant attitude in the courtroom weren't in vain. The man had a plan all along—which was fortunate, because Lucrezia pointed out that Riario's plan was quickly spiraling out of control. He'd only wanted to completely destroy Leo's reputation and ruin his life. He didn't want to kill him. Boundaries, you know? You can't get the man to paint cherubs and shit if he's executed.
Still, I didn't see the bestiality coming.
Freshly escaped from his cell, Leo used a camera obscura to project a live-action image of his judge banging a pig in the halls of justice into the freaking sky above the city (love it!), because everybody knows that the one thing worse than men who sleep with other men is men who sleep with farm animals. Some things never change, eh, society? If we're nice to the gays, then what are we supposed to do about the pigfuckers? Be nice to them too? It's a slippery slope.
Leo used the mutually assured destruction of both taboos to blackmail the judge into dropping his charges, promising immunity for Leo against possible future sodomy charges, and giving Leo some cash for his troubles. He is a "mad artist" after all, and most people just assume he's sleeping with everyone anyway. Plus Florence is pretty progressive, and even Lorenzo pointed out that no one had enforced the city's sodomy laws in at least fifty years before Riario came along. Leo would survive the scandal, but if word got out about the judge and the pig, well, that dude's career was over.
"The best story wins," Da Vinci claimed in the middle of his crazy-convict-with-nothing-to-lose speech and fo' sho, Leo. Fo' sho. "The Tower" was definitely one of the Da Vinci's Demons' best tales so far. After quite a bit of angst, death, and defeat, the wins for both Leo and the Medicis—who charmed Ferdinand and Isabella despite the tabloid fodder that swirled around them for most of the episode—were a welcome break. However, "The Tower" was by no means a throwaway episode. When you only have eight episodes in your season to begin with, you can't really afford filler.
I feel like we were given an excellent look into the philosophy of the Medici family, solidly recruiting me to their corner and finally dispersing any lingering doubt that they're the ones I'm supposed to be cheering for. Lorenzo can be a little rough around the edges and initially, his good guy/bad guy status was kind of fuzzy what with that whole "build me a big gun or I'll execute you" routine, but the Medicis' patronage of the arts and sciences that enable Leo to do so much of what he does is rooted in a sincere belief in the potential of mankind to achieve greatness through sheer willpower and ingenuity. It's a dangerous stance because it can so easily be corrupted for personal gain or in response to terrible fear (like we saw with the gun incident), but at its core, it's a positive and admirable drive to have—and what's the alternative, anyway? Go back to the dark ages forever?
Then, the revelation that the witness called against Leo by the prosecution against wasn't totally lying brought us back to the question of Leo's sexuality on this show and how the writers might acknowledge the fact that historically, there is ample evidence pointing to Leo being into men. The two men did have a relationship, but it was consensual. When Leo broke things off, the scorned party agreed to testify against Leo not so much out of revenge, but out of the hope that Leo would return to him if he was exposed. Despite Leo's merciless treatment of the judge, with his former lover he was gentle and understanding, and stated that his "desire [was] not as simple as one or the other," meaning an attraction to men or women. Considering all the epic lovey-dovey time Leonardo's been getting with Lucrezia, it's obvious that the writers on Da Vinci's Demons are certainly going to emphasize the fact that their Leonardo Da Vinci is mostly hetero with some bisexual experimentation thrown in, and that's fine. It works in the characterization that they've developed, and kudos for not just ignoring the reality of Da Vinci and hiding behind the fact that this is a fantasy series. I thought the subject was handled pretty gracefully here.
So, gold star Da Vinci's Demons. I enjoyed this this one immensely.
– "Fuck you, Leo." Poor Zoroaster. <3
– I really dug the Lucrezia-lite tone of this episode. I'm working on liking her, but she just tries my patience every time she shows up. Clarice, however, rocks my socks, and Vanessa is just made out of sunshine.
– Leonardo revealed that in his memory/bad acid trip/dream adventure in the cave o' corpses as a kid, the naked man hanging upside down and begging for help was actually him as an adult. This news was accompanied by a flash of a hanged man tarot card. One of the meanings associated with the Hanged Man card is "divinity through self-destruction"—which, honestly, fits Leo to a tee. What are your theories?