Episode Title: "The Blood of Man"
Writers: David S. Goyer and Corey Reed
Director: Charles Sturridge
Previously on "Da Vinci's Demons"
All hell is breaking lose in Florence as “Da Vinci’s Demons” returns for a second season of miraculous invention, quick-witted quips and riddling mysticism. Da Vinci’s genius and Tom Riley’s charismatic portrayal of the brilliant Renaissance man continue to carry the show; which is occasionally weighed down by a subplot filled with puzzling dream sequences and trippy visions.
At least said subplot, which revolves around da Vinci and Riario’s (Blake Ritson) competing quests to obtain the Book of Leaves begins to have a bigger impact on the main storyline, which involves Rome unseating the Medicis and taking control of Florence. While Francesco Pazzi (Elliot Levey) leads the assault on the city, with the Duke of Urbino (Vincent Riotta) eagerly waiting in the wings, Riario is preoccupied with finding da Vinci and the priceless tomb.
While Riario hunts da Vinci, Florence is in chaos with Lorenzo (Elliot Cowan) missing and the piazza overrun by a mob, armed with a battering ram. While da Vinci attempts to get Lorenzo to safety via an underground tunnel, Clarice de Medici (Lara Pulver) assumes control of her husband’s men, insisting they not give up the search for Lorenzo. She also keeps a close eye on Captain Dragonetti (Ian Pirie), who momentarily redeems himself for his betrayal by saving one of her daughters from getting trampled by horses.
The battle for Florence makes for an exciting premiere, but the highlight of any episode of “Da Vinci’s Demons” is watching the “maestro” work his science-based miracles. In this episode, it’s a blood transfusion for the dying Lorenzo, which da Vinci performs using a sheep’s intestines. This is where “Da Vinci’s Demons” leans heavily on the “fantasy” end of its “historical fantasy” genre billing.
Watching da Vinci rig up his makeshift sheep intestine transfusion is entertaining, but bearing witness to his visions of Al-Rahim (Alexander Sidding) ranting about “destiny” isn’t nearly as captivating as it’s supposed to be. Fortunately, the episode gets back on track when da Vinci wakes up along with Lorenzo, who tries to kill him for bedding Lucrezia (Laura Haddock).
As Lorenzo thanks da Vinci for saving his life, and possibly Florence, by choking him, Riario captures Zoroaster (Gregg Chillin) and Nico (Eros Vlahos) aboard the ship, finding the maps and astrolabe needed to locate the Vault of Heaven and the Book of Leaves, among their possessions. He then has Zoroaster and Lucrezia walk the plank, sparring Nico, whom he still has use for.
The episode ends with both da Vinci and his friends in death’s clutches, courtesy of Lorenzo and Riario, respectively. What’s great about this premiere is that instead of dialing back the drama, as some season openers do, “The Blood of Man” turns it up. It feels more like a finale than a premiere, ending with a cliffhanger that leaves us wondering how da Vinci will think his way out of this one. That may be due in part to the first season’s short eight episode run.
The premiere also gives us a glimpse into the near future, six months later as da Vinci and Riario find themselves prisoners of an exotic tribe who worship a blood-thirsty god. Their predicament is likely a result of Riaro's quest for the Book of Leaves. How they get in this mess, and how da Vinci gets them out, should make for a second season that's high on fantasy and low on historical accuracy. But most importantly, it will be very entertaining.