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The star of this episode was, without question, the set design. From the Medici’s council room in Florence to the bath house in Rome to the church in Otranto, every set this episode was a gorgeous work of art. For Da Vinci’s Demons, a series about the “untold story” of one of history’s most brilliant artists, a lot of work goes into creating beautiful sets, props, and costumes. And the work pays off. Every frame is its own work of art. There was excruciatingly close attention to detail paid for the tunnels underneath Otranto, which had Menorahs etched into the walls to reflect the Jewish citizens who relied on the tunnels, and the council room in Florence that had the Medici seal on the tiles in the floor.
The camera angles within the episode were also artful, featuring a strong mix of aerial shots and point-of-view shots. The aerial shots were used to show Piero da Vinci (David Schofield) being dragged away by the Ottomans through the burning city of Otranto, and to show Leonardo (Tom Riley) sitting all by himself at the end of the episode in a field after he helplessly watched his father get beheaded. The point-of-view shots were artfully used to look through Zo’s (Gregg Chillin) eyes as he peered out of a hole in the church’s door, and to look through the eye holes of the physician’s (Ned Dennehy) historically-accurate plague doctor mask as he stalked Clarice (Lara Pulver) through the streets of Rome at night.
Another instance of creative flair appeared during the episode’s fight scenes, when blood splattered onto the camera lens. It happened several times, and was a unique touch for the action shots.
However, there were some visual flaws that unfortunately stood out. When Leo and Zo help the citizens of Otranto escape from the Ottomans using Leo’s zip line contraption, the use of green screen was painfully obvious. And once again, the landscape shots of the Italian cities featured low-quality CGI. I don’t think Da Vinci’s Demons needs these shots to establish settings because the episode’s dialogue and characters do that work for them. But these minor flaws don’t take away from the overall beautiful visuals this episode.
Story-wise, it was great to finally see Leo question the mysterious Turk and point out how the Turk always speaks in riddles. In doing so, Leo says what everyone’s been thinking, myself included. He’s finally had enough of Al-Rahim’s cryptic language and ambiguous motives. But in a minor setback, there wasn’t enough time spent on this interaction, which was vital to this season. Al-Rahim’s motives still aren’t really clear. The Turk and the Sons of Mithras want to kill a bunch of innocent people…to enlighten them? They want to bring ruin, chaos, and anarchy so they can create society anew, with their values being central to this new society? Is that what I was supposed to take away from this scene? And how exactly did the Ottomans bring da Vinci’s creations to life? I thought only Leonardo himself could do that. Again, the episode should have lingered on this interaction a bit longer, maybe have had more dialogue to explain Al-Rahim’s motives, but I was glad to at least hear Leo point out the seemingly contradictory plot point of Italy’s most brilliant mind trusting the words of a magical, mind-reading man.
Two characters had standout moments this episode. Vanessa (Hera Hilmar) was seen commanding the room as the leader of the House of Medici while Lorenzo (Elliot Cowan) and Clarice were away. (Seriously, Lorenzo was captured again? How many times has this happened? As a plot device, it’s getting a little repetitive and predictable.) While serving as the leader of Florence’s most powerful family, Vanessa was quick-witted and proved she could throw insults at the pompous councilmen like a pro. It was great seeing her character development reach this point, and reflecting on how far she’s come since she was a waitress at the Barking Dog.
Piero had the most powerful scenes this episode, when he protected his son and the citizens of Otranto by being a distraction in the church, and when he gave an emotional speech before he was beheaded. David Schofield shined in his final performances of the series, portraying the bravest side of Piero that viewers have ever seen. His character arc this series was masterfully written, going from a selfish and judgmental man to a proud father praising his son as the savior of Florence and all of Italy.
It’s apparent now that when show creator David S. Goyer said bodies were going to drop this season, he was referring to major side characters and even possibly main characters. I don’t expect the star of the show to get killed off, nor his friends Zo and Nico (Eros Vlahos), who are based on real historical figures. Riario, Pope Sixtus, Lorenzo, Clarice, and even Piero are all based on real people as well, but since this series is historical fantasy, nothing is holding the writers back from killing any of them off. And that’s going to make for an emotional roller coaster this season.