Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My Review of DaVinci's Demons 1x02: "The Serpent"

Written by David S. Goyer And Scott M. Gimple
Directed by David S. Goyer

DaVinci: “You’re offering me forbidden fruit now?”
Riario: “That’s what serpents do, isn’t it?”

Indeed, that’s again what serpents have a tendency of doing and this episode wasn’t particularly subtle in demonstrating that. Still, I’ll give Riario his due – he’s a flexible enough fella when he wants to get something.

With Lucrezia, I think it’s painfully obvious that he’s holding someone rather dear to her (that present from last week made it clear) in order to get her to spy on both DaVinci and Lorenzo and when he wasn’t putting the frighteners on her to continue her snooping and await further instructions, he had a grudging respect towards her abhorrence towards him. That was probably the most interesting thing about Riario’s interactions with Lucrezia in this episode alone.

Then there was dealing with Nico as well. He wanted to know what DaVinci’s interest in the Book Of Leaves and the Jew that was hanged amounted to and he wasted no time in using a bit of torture with the Widow’s Tear in order to get it. However he did make the gross miscalculation of Nico being savvy enough to use DaVinci’s exploding chest (instead of his exposed one, eh?) against him and his men, so you know points to Nico for thinking on his feet rather swiftly there.

Of course he did manage to succeed in actually making Lorenzo suitably uncomfortable by letting him know just how much he had over him and the extent of the Vatican’s influence as well (with his cousin being the new archbishop of Pisa) but aside from another interesting twist at the end, this was only a minor victory of sorts for Riario.

The best scenes of this episode undoubtedly were the two interactions between Riario and DaVinci, both of whom seemed to take an absolute delight in sizing each other up and proving that neither of them can be underestimated as well. Not only did I take my hat off to DaVinci for giving Riario a demonstration with his muskets but the latter’s little sleight of hand as well with the key that he was pursuing DaVinci for was a pretty satisfying twist, which sees both enemies rather evenly matched with each other.

In terms of the mystery plot though, this episode was nicely pushing things along. DaVinci used his powers of deduction (and actual communication skills with a blind beggar) to find the Jew’s map for the location of Book Of Leaves through a rather nifty use of Hebrew and concealed writing techniques and it seems that this storyline is nicely moving along. Of course, what DaVinci doesn’t seem to know is that Riario is playing the long game with him but he might wise up to that one fairly soon though.

As for the other plots of the week – Lucrezia has guilt issues. Within two episodes, we’ve seen that she has genuine enough feelings for both DaVinci and Lorenzo in spite of the fact that she’s effectively betraying them both but if forced to choose, it could be DaVinci himself who gets left out in the cold. Two episodes in and we haven’t seen too much (or any) progress in underlying DaVinci’s sexuality beyond his lust for Lucrezia, but hopefully that really will change in the next few episodes. I should point out though that I actually do like Lucrezia as a character. At least she’s getting more screen time than the surprisingly underused Clarice at this point.

As for the dynamic between DaVinci and Lorenzo, I have to admit I do love how the latter can tell when the former is manipulating him and how much leeway he allows DaVinci as well. Giuliano and the rest of the Medici lot are far less tolerant of DaVinci’s whims but Lorenzo obviously knew he was going to deliver on the muskets and was more than impressed with his demonstration of loyalty as well. It’s as rich a dynamic as the one between DaVinci and Riario at the moment.

Also in “The Serpent”

DaVinci really does have his own Scooby Gang with Nico, Zoroaster, Vanessa and Verrocchio, all of whom are willing to dig bodies, get tortured and indulge his whims. The fact that he clearly appreciates their support however makes the dynamic brilliant.

Nico (re grave): “What does it say?”
Zoroaster: “Funnily enough, taken.”

We met another Son of Earth member in this episode when DaVinci was talking to him on a boat.

DaVinci (re dead body): “One man’s death opens the doorway for another.”

DaVinci (re Lorenzo): “That bit of you, it’s not his alone.”
Lucrezia: “No, it’s not but it will always be his first.”

Did we just meet Lucrezia’s husband at the Feast Of Florence banquet? Lorenzo did talk about her being married when he noticed her family heirloom.

Riario: “DaVinci has the key. Why would he concern himself with a bookshop?”
Lucrezia: “I don’t know. Perhaps DaVinci is more clever than you but then that would be heresy, wouldn’t it?”

Zoroaster (re distracting the bookshop owner): “Why me?”
DaVinci: “Because you reek of dishonesty.”
Zoroaster: “As usual.”

Two episodes in and DaVinci’s father continues to be a bastard while reminding his son yet again that he’s an illegitimate child. Leonardo also mentioned being unable to draw his mother’s face to Verrocchio.

Verrocchio: “Are you sure you haven’t overreached?”
DaVinci: “Christ, Andrea, the whole point of progress is overreaching. Why doesn’t anybody understand that?”

Lorenzo: “So like Eden but of course, Eden has guests as do we. Of course our guest is somewhat more pleasant than the serpent. Please let us welcome Count Girolamo Riario, Emissary from Rome to our Eden, to our Florence. Dinner is served.”

The location for the Book Of Leaves – it was South America, wasn’t it? I did find myself rewinding that scene a few times.

DaVinci: “The truth is progress frightens you and your ilk.”
Riario: “Not at all. We embrace it.”

Chronology: A week since the events of “The Hanged Man”.

Criticisms aside on the obvious problems with this show, I do think there’s a lot of good here. “The Serpent” definitely added more nuances and layers to Riario as a character and while DaVinci still has that man about town vibe with him, I did find him a lot more likeable and engaging in this one. In fact while the writing’s not perfect, there isn’t an awful character on here, aside from some of the extras and DaVinci’s petty minded father.

Rating: 7 out of 10

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