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This is the third and final season of the Starz Emmy-winning historical fantasy series Da Vinci’s Demons. It’s disappointing to see a show with such striking visuals, music, and performances get cancelled after only three seasons. But in a recent interview with Variety, show creator David S. Goyer and star Tom Riley seem glad that the show will end on their terms with a complete story arc and closure for the fans, which can unfortunately be rare in the television industry.
That being said, the final season of Da Vinci’s Demons certainly kicked off with a bang, as promised. The episode begins a couple minutes before the events at the end of season two. Zoroaster (Gregg Chillin), often the comedic relief of the series, curses “f$#*” after he sees the staggering number of Ottoman ships heading for Otranto. The camera follows Zo as he rushes to reach Leonardo (Tom Riley). This is a great way for the writers to show what’s going on in the city as Otranto’s army prepares to fight the invading Ottomans.
I was absolutely impressed and blown away by the new title sequence. It exceeded my expectations. This Emmy-worthy title sequence, like its predecessors, is a masterpiece of music and art, the kind that needs to be paused, re-watched, and analyzed to fully appreciate its intricacy. It holds clues for what lies ahead in the coming season. A few things stood out to me while I was rewinding and pausing the title sequence. It appears that Leonardo will fall into the clutches of the Labyrinth and go through the same agonizing eye drop torture that happened to Riario (Blake Ritson) in the season two finale. More of da Vinci’s inventions will make an appearance this season, including something resembling a tank. Leonardo is shown hanging upside down, as seen in season one. Leonardo and Lucrezia kiss (yay!) and Mona Lisa looms over a kneeling Leonardo (are we finally going to find out who Mona Lisa is?).
The episode resumes, now following Clarice (Lara Pulver) as she arrives at a Roman bath house looking for the treacherous Carlo (Ray Fearon). Da Vinci’s Demons has never been a series to shy away from nudity, and that is made clear this episode, with both female and male frontal nudity equally presented. With this kind of approach over the course of the series, it could be argued that the show has been catered to both the male and female gaze, without a bias towards one above the other. This is rather refreshing to see on television, where often it’s either one or the other.
There were a lot of action-heavy scenes this episode as the Turks invaded Otranto and sword fights and fist fights ensued. But there was a good balance between these fight scenes and contrasting dialogue-heavy scenes. There were also moments to pause and catch a breath, like when Lucrezia rides on horseback through a gorgeous green landscape. In these kinds of moments, the show’s high-quality cinematography is rightfully highlighted. But when the camera pans over Otranto and over the Ottoman fleet, it’s apparent that the CGI of the series is still lacking.
There was a confusing scene this episode, when Lucrezia stealthily approaches the ruins of an old building and peers over a wall to look at her father, the real Pope (James Faulkner), who’s sitting by a campfire surrounded by members of the Sons of Mithras. Al-Rahim (Alexander Siddig) is facing away from Lucrezia and then turns his head, realizing she’s there watching them. The camera cuts back to Lucrezia, who then gets up and walks over to her father. He’s now sitting alone by the campfire. In the conversation immediately following between Lucrezia and her father, she doesn’t bring up the fact that she saw a bunch of people standing around him one moment, and then they were magically gone the next. I was left scratching my head wondering why.
Tom Riley’s performance as Leonardo was, as always, the emotional core of the show. He’s racked with grief that he fired a cannonball at the ship his mother was on, and that his own inventions are being used against him by none other than the invading Ottomans. The tank that made its first appearance in the title sequence is one of da Vinci’s designs that somehow ended up in the hands of the Turks, who are using it to wreak havoc on Otranto and its people. This will be an intriguing plot point for this season, because up until this episode, Leonardo has managed to solve every problem he’s encountered with his brilliant mind. The last line of the episode, uttered by Leonardo, presents this theme: “How can I fight myself?”
Overall, “Semper Infidelis” was a good way to set up the rest of the final season and introduce multiple plot lines: Leonardo’s struggle against his own creations and his inner turmoil; Riario’s delve into the inner workings of the sinister and mysterious Labyrinth; Lucrezia’s search for answers and redemption; and Clarice’s dealings in Rome as she looks for revenge. Season three has certainly started off with a bang, and if it can manage to stay at this level throughout all ten episodes, it could very well be the best season of the show.