“The Magician” features everything enjoyable about DaVinci’s Demons so far. Unfortunately, that’s the biggest problem. It shares traits with a monstrously sized fake ballista Leonardo constructs: wonderful to look at, but under closer inspection proves rather hollow.
Side Note: The ending features Leo getting arrested on sodomy charges.
Side Note: Saying that at the beginning so you don’t read the first paragraph and click away from this recap. Is it a cheap trick? Maybe [Kanye shrug].
We’re halfway through the first season, and things are starting to feel rather formulaic. That’s not saying it’s unoriginal, just that not much feels surprising anymore. These last two episodes are more akin to detective shows like Sherlock more than anything else. Both feature protagonists overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles (Moriarty’s key opens any lock! Rome’s big-ass army is attacking soon!) by applying their particular brand of genius.
What separates the two programs is how we watch their intellects work. Sherlock gradually finds connections between appearingly unrelated clues until reaching a solution. Contrast that with Leonardo’s process of… staring at things. In this case, he looks at pomegranates until they magically become blueprints for cluster bombs. While Tom Riley’s awesome acting sells Leonardo’s brilliance to a point, it still feels rather arbitrary. We’re waiting for an inevitable epiphany to come rather than watching his ideas form.
That’s more a symptom of “The Magician”’s problems in general. Sure, it contains some stellar moments. The part where Riario’s executing prisoners who don’t know about Abraham bargaining for Sodom and Gomorrah? That gets an A+ biblical judgment. It’s tense, sells Riario as a true holy terror and shows what high stakes Florence faces if conquered.
Afterward things feel rather disconnected. In a jumbled subplot Lucrezia witnesses a man’s public execution for the crime of pissing off Lorenzo, and realizes she’s doomed the adviser Becchi to a similar fate. We only know this because she straight-up says it in one scene. Feeling responsible for his sentence of “death by enhanced interrogation techniques”, Lucrezia decides her best course of action is painlessly killing the Medici’s old adviser. She tells as much to him, which is one hell of a way to comfort someone dying.
What really gets my pantaloons twisted is the reliance on telling over showing in “The Magician”, especially regarding how this episode handles homosexuality. The Vatican’s Florentine inside man Francesco Pazzi refers to his hometown as full of sodomites. Considering we’ve seen all of one male hustler in passing, I’m wondering where those pesky sodomites have been hiding. What, is there some awesome always-open brunch buffet Florence’s gays can’t bring themselves to leave?
Side note: I would never leave a 24 hour brunch buffet. Especially if it had crepes. Mmmm… crepes.
Leonardo’s arrest for being a sodomite is shown at “The Magician”’s conclusion. Though Nico yells the charges are lies, the look on Leo’s face says differently. DaVinci’s Demons following episode will deal directly with the genius’ homosexuality. We’ll find out next week how well its handled in “The Judgement”.