Da Vinci’s Demons 1.03 “The Prisoner” Recap

Da Vinci’s Demons 1.03 “The Prisoner” Recap

Da Vinci's DemonsLeonardo is late for a first light meeting at the forge with Lorenzo, where he would be helping to oversee the creation of the weapons he promised. Too busy staying up to do opium and let his mind run wild with theories and designs, the inventor spent his night next to the dead bodies that he was examining in the name of science, only to clean up enough to meet Medici’s team. Where they went against Pisa, there’s an even greater need to bolster their defense through Leonardo’s potentially game-changing designs, but the tonality of the finished products is off due to a lack of sulfur. The inferior alloy changes the sound and makes the weapon quite simple to break, Leonardo causing a crack in one with a mere spoon, so he orders those mixing the materials to avoid scrimping on the sulfur.

Afterward, Leonardo heads to Verrocchio’s studio where he pontificates on the whereabouts of the Book of Leaves, concluding that its location is a land mass to the west and a result of two land masses drifting apart over years, the Atlantic emerging between them. As he’s trying to convince his mentor that the Book is indeed out there and isn’t within the Italian borders, Nico bursts in to tell his master of Sister Dolores, a bloody woman in the middle of town who claimed the devil was inside her, denounced the Medicis, and killed herself by stabbing herself in the eye. A member of the Convent of St. Anthony, where Vanessa lived before she left to be with Leonardo, Dolores got to Giuliano and he decides to get to the bottom of what’s happening, even with Lorenzo pledging to seal off the convent.

He takes a few men on horseback to attempt to sort things out, when they’re confronted by a ghostly figure that turns out to be another of the sisters. She takes a flying leap and knocks one of them off his horse, scratching his face while on top of him, shortly joined by another of her fellow nuns. The second is killed by Giuliano’s sword, both of their bodies draped across one of the horses as the team continues the trek to St. Anthony’s. The convent itself is very eerie once they get there, the living quarters a much different story, with several sisters speaking in tongues, seizing, and telling of how badly they’re burning. The Mother Superior blames the Medicis for unleashing this plague on the faithful with their denial of God, which includes Vanessa, who journeyed back to her former home to aid her fellow sisters. However, Mother Superior won’t let Leonardo help her, as she’s heard of his colorful lifestyle and passion for hedonism.

That tension from not being able to help his friend spills over into Leonardo’s interactions with Giuliano, the maestro taunting the lesser Medici over the death of the woman en route and how far his insecurity has reached. Is Giuliano really proving his worth by threatening to kill the engineer employed by his brother? Once the two calm down, they begin exchanging thoughts on the cause of the “possession”; while Giuliano feels as if it were a result of disease or plague, Da Vinci is looking for a more practical reasoning behind the phenomenon, ranging from a certain type of mushrooms known to cause hallucinations to the bite of a wolf spider to mercury in paint. However, none of the three check out. Adding to the pressure of the moment is Papal curator Lupo Mercuri arriving with Captain Grenvold to administer prayers and holy rights for the sisters, who called them in the first place.

Mercuri is also interested in performing exorcisms on those afflicted, though that ends with him strangling Sister Oriana, claiming that he saw God in her eyes in her final moments. Once Vanessa awakens, she tells Leonardo that he’s so smart, so beautiful,…and that she feels like a toy to him in his cold, sun-less world. She then manages to get away from the other sisters and attempt to kill herself by hanging, though Giuliano cuts the sheet she used before her neck could snap. The Medici brother, however, does wrong by his brother and his city when he extols the firepower that they’re building to his enemies, which eliminates the element of surprise and gives Rome the advantage in the conflict with Florence. The Florentines may have 10 pipe organ muskets that can fire 33 rounds per minute, but if their enemies know what to expect and can prepare for it, what good do they do?

To Leonardo, the entire possession angle reeks of Rome trying to control its people by instilling fear in them, fear that the devil is at play and the only way for them to be saved is by relying on the Holy Father. Things take a turn, though, when one of the officers of the night is killed for exhibiting the same signs that the sister did, leading Leonardo to question the way the convent worships. They kneel before a statue of St. Anthony and kiss its feet – all of those who are infected did, that is. Getting an idea, he sends Nico for lanterns filled with fireflies, which are said to intensify reds. Lo and behold, once he holds it to the statue’s feet, they’re splotched with the reds of the ogre fungus; the red ergot is known to cause gangrene, mania, hallucinations, and the feeling of being burned, meaning that what impacted the convent wasn’t spiritual or supernatural – it was deliberate poisoning.

Curing the sisters takes green ointment, leeches, herbs, and vinegar, but as Leonardo kissed Vanessa on the lips upon his first meeting with her at the convent, he, too, is infected. His visions include dead bodies rising off his table, Count Riario bleeding from the mouth, his stomach being carved on, his heart taken out, snakes coming out of a statue, and a brief glimpse of his mouth, shrouded in cloth and hidden from complete sight. Distraught at being proven wrong by Da Vinci, who has woken up by this point, Mercuri vows to tell Riario of the revolutionary’s progress and knowledge of the scripture, among other things they’re in need of discussing.

Once Da Vinci and Nico arrive home, maestro orders the bodies be disposed of. He’s gotten what he wanted out of them.

A Spy Among Us
Lucrezia is hurrying out of the Medici house, talking of going for herbs when she’s really going after something much more sinister. She heads to a spot in town with a loose stone, which she removes to find a hollowed out book of important items. After wiping the symbol written on the wall off and marking her own, likely as a way of communicating that she got to the book, she’s nearly caught by Captain Dragonetti, who admonishes her for being out after curfew. He gets her to go into the carriage that Lorenzo uses to transport her to his home, where Medici is already inside with a knife ready. Initially meaning to intimidate her, he confesses that he just couldn’t wait and tries to take off her clothes then and there. However, as Lucrezia still has the book on her person, she decides to do the work instead, carefully hiding her pickup from him during the act.

The next afternoon, she confronts Leonardo in town about the status of her portrait, causing him to shut down and try to remain as closed off as he can. In her mind, he thinks that just because he’s got knowledge means that he’s immune to emotion, but he merely reminds her of his “competing interests” (and hers) before sticking her with the remaining bird that didn’t fly after he bought it and opened the cage. Meanwhile, at the Medicis, Lorenzo and Bechhi are discussing the possible identity of the spy, the latter keying in on Lorenzo’s wife Clarice, herself with ties to (and regular correspondence with) Rome. Lorenzo, of course, becomes infuriated at the insinuation that Clarice was anything other than 100% loyal, though when she visits him later, he’s obviously bearing the weight of expectation and possibility. The Medicis have been bankers for as long as anyone can remember, but he’s worried about his reputation within Florence, as finances are tight, the devil is running free, and speculation has turned to his loved ones.

For her part, Clarice informs her husband that her letters are very obviously pro-Florence and pro-Medici; others, though, aren’t quite as loyal. That evening, Lucrezia thinks she’s sent for by Lorenzo, her carriage (with a single red rose in the window) bringing her to the Medici home, only to find that Clarice is the one behind the visit. She warns her husband’s mistress that any vulnerability could be bad for Lorenzo and while she’s okay with her being a distraction, becoming a vulnerability is a whole different issue. She isn’t exactly intimidated by Lucrezia, especially since her parting words (of Lucrezia never making it to the wall where the Medici family is painted) were so apathetic to her as a threat, but she recognizes the type of danger she could pose to Florence if she gets the inclination.

When Bechhi comes to Lucrezia about answering questions as to her recent travels, considering how Lorenzo wants to track the activities in the palace, she has to think of a plan to avoid being caught or incriminating herself. She arrives back at the Medici home later, placing the hollowed out book filled with papers that she got on the street on Bechhi’s book shelf before seeing Lorenzo; he doesn’t want to be around her right now, she teases that the guards will think that he didn’t last long with her, and the two end up having sex, Lucrezia’s hands grabbing on to nearby bars. He finishes quickly, though, perhaps too distracted by the mole situation. She tells him to keep searching, even those he thinks would never do him harm, as the traitor could be anyone.

Conti comes to Lorenzo with the knowledge of the book that Lucrezia left on Bechhi’s shelf, only he doesn’t know that Lucrezia left it. He thinks it, complete with documents containing the papal seal, belongs to Bechhi, who is immediately removed from the scene and thrown behind bars.

Not only did Lucrezia frame an innocent man in Bechhi, she was the one responsible for the convent poisoning, using the bottle that Riario gave her in last week’s episode to cover the feet of St. Anthony in the clear liquid that the sisters ingested. For now, Lucrezia Donati lives free, but how long can she manage to keep ahead of Lorenzo, should he ever find out that Bechhi wasn’t the spy?

The Tower
Count Riario is still smarting from his defeat at the hands of Leonardo and goes to a candlelit prison to talk strategy with a mysterious inmate. The man, wearing a cloak and avoiding showing his face, begins giving strategy to the Papal nephew, including taking the easier-to-defend corners in battle, not pressing when desperate, and the value of an inspired move, which can turn a losing situation into one of triumph. When Riario goes to see Sixtus, though, the Holy Father is hellbent on taking down anyone associated with Lorenzo Medici as a way of sending a message to all those like him. Riario talks him into sparing Leonardo, if only for his knowledge of the Book of Leaves, at the cost of his Abyssinian slave, who the count taught English and thinks of dearly.

Before the game they were playing is knocked off the table, Riario’s prisoner, who never reveals his face, tells him of seeing his way through strategies and simply having to believe in order to make his plans come into fruition. It’s time for a new game to begin, but is Riario ready to do what he has to do to retain power and acquire the glory in the papacy that would come with bringing down Da Vinci?

Additional thoughts and observations:
-Oddly, I think the dynamic I’m most interested in thus far is Clarice and Lucrezia. Yes, it’s a dynamic we’ve seen before, but it’s written very well and their scene tonight was deliciously tense. Clarice’s final line to Lucrezia, especially, was pretty devastating.
-I liked the use of the prisoner with Riario, especially the cross-cutting between Lucrezia and Leonardo as he mentioned different strategies. My favorite was the cross the sea unseen, a strategy where one finds a weakness and exploits it without notice.
-Nice to see the bird guy again. Maybe the next time he’ll get upwards of 4 Florens for his creatures.
-Although it was a touch on-the-nose, the parallels between Lucrezia and the bird were interesting, particularly the idea that she had grown to love her arrangement with Riario as the bird had grown to love its cage.
-The scene with Sister Dolores was fairly scary for a show like this. How powerful was the image of her bloody body in the middle of town?
-Do you think that Nico and Leonardo will have tension going forward? The latter was very hesitant about helping Sister Dolores, so I think it would be an intriguing thread to pull on later this season.
-As somebody who watched The Tudors for the first time not that long ago, it’s nice to see that Sir Thomas Boleyn (Nick Dunning, who plays Lupo Mercuri) made it to another historical show safely.
-Good line: Riario saying that Leonardo was “tied up between Lucrezia’s thighs.”
-My reaction to Lucrezia being revealed as the poisoner was something like “OH SNAP…oh, well, that makes sense, but OH SNAP.” It’s always the pretty ones.
-Next week on Da Vinci’s Demons: Someone is accused of spying for Rome and subsequently arrested, while Leonardo unveils his most recent weapon when Rome and Florence square off.

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