Da Vinci's Demons 1.03 "The Prisoner" TV REVIEW
Writers: David S Goyer, Scott M Gimple
Director: Jamie Payne
THE ONE WHERE Da Vinci attempts to decipher the meaning of that map of South America, while Vanessa's old convent gets struck down with a nasty case of infectious demonic possession.
VERDICT Having proved his detective credentials last week, Da Vinci's back on the sleuth this time out, only this time his methods have more in common with House than Sherlock . Of course, we never once believe that genuine demonic possession was the cause of all those nuns being taken ill – that would have turned Da Vinci's Demons into a very different show – but the truth proves just as bizarre, as Leonardo realises that it's all a very dastardly scheme cooked up by the Vatican to destabilise Florence. The way the curator of the Pope's secret archives subsequently relishes his role as exorcist general borders on the sadistic – Count Riario and his cronies are turning into a wonderful nasty bunch of baddies.
Yet it's Lucrezia who's becoming the most intriguing member of Rome's forces. After coming over as a reluctant accomplice to Riario last time out (and just a mere spy), the object of Leonardo's affections has now revealed she's not afraid to get her hands properly dirty, whether it's laying the poison on the feet of St Anthony, or planting incriminating evidence on Lorenzo's aide Becchi. It's great to see that she's going to be much more than some simple love interest for Da Vinci.
It's also a good episode for Lorenzo's brother Giuliano, who's finally elevated above the level of buffoonish sidekick. There's a previously unseen compassionate side to him that leads him to investigate the case in the convent, and by the end he's even forced to admit that Da Vinci knows his onions.
Indeed, even three episodes in, it's becoming refreshingly clear that few of the characters in Da Vinci's Demons are either two-dimensional or entirely what they seem. So while the show sometimes pushes the silliness of its conceits that little bit too far, there's so much going on in terms of characters and storylines (not to mention the generous lashings of style) that the series could turn into one very fun (if thoroughly inaccurate) history lesson.
SPECULATION Who's the eloquent prisoner Riario spends the episode playing games with? Presumably he's a major part of Rome's forces incarcerated in Florence, but how does he fit into the show's grand plan? Is he an important player from history?
ONLY IN DREAMS It's an age-old way of getting into a character's head, and Leonardo's fever-induced nightmares seem to reveal plenty. For starters, it looks like he's now prepared to properly embrace the Sons of Mithras. And that psychotropic goop also made the show's arrogant hero put other people first for once, as he realised it probably wasn't cricket to keep those dead bodies in his workshop.
CLARICE AND PRESENT DANGER After two weeks as a background player, Lorenzo's wife Clarice Orsini makes her first proper appearance in the show, and it's well worth the wait. In her encounters with both Lorenzo and his mistress Lucrezia, Lara Pulver plays Clarice as a noble woman equally in love with her husband and Florence, prepared to accept Lorenzo's other woman if it'll suit the greater good. She's just as intriguing as Lucrezia, and it'll be interesting to see how she develops.
MAKING HISTORY In deducing that South America could fit snugly next to Africa, Da Vinci is apparently several hundred years ahead of the curve seeing as the theory of plate tectonics wasn't developed until the 20th century.
WEIRD SCIENCE We're not sure why Da Vinci wants more sulphur in his steel – while a small amount can make the metal easier to work with, too much in the mixture and it becomes very brittle. (The exact problem he has when too little sulphur is added – maybe chemistry isn't Leonardo's strongpoint.)
Also, using firefly light to reveal hidden clues seems a bit far-fetched – the way it makes the offending substance glow is consistent with ultraviolet light, but as far as we can tell, fireflies don't emit in ultraviolet wavelengths.
DA VINCI VISION The plate tectonic illustrations look great (if a little advanced for the time), but what is it with Da Vinci and staring at birds in flight? Haven't we seen that one before?
Giuliano: "Enough, Da Vinci. When you start licking paintings I think it's time to accept that the Devil is here."
Da Vinci's Demons airs on Fox in the UK at 10pm on Friday nights.