Da Vinci’s Demons, Season 2: Episode 8 – “The Fall from Heaven”
Written by Jonathan Hickman & Corey Reed
Directed by Peter Hoar
Airs Saturday nights at 9 on Starz
At the very least, you can’t criticize Da Vinci’s Demons for not trying. I don’t imagine anyone who is currently watching this season is someone brand new to the series. Conversely, anyone who checked out the pilot last year and thought this wasn’t for them probably won’t have caught up with DVD out of curiosity. And yet both of those groups are kind of missing out on something by not having the full context of the 16 episodes that have aired to date. The gradual build in quality, the most impressive aspect of which has been balancing several different point-of-view characters across multiple episodes lately, isn’t astonishing; however, it is noticeable and worth appreciating. At the end of the day, there’s a certain audience for DVD. But that audience shares, as it stands now, shares tons of similarities to the blockbuster film-goers who come out of hiding during summertime. At one point in “The Fall from Heaven,” da Vinci and his crew jump off from the cliff just outside the Vault of Heaven using makeshift parachutes. There are so many reasons why something like this should induce eye-rolling, but DVD has found a sweet spot of adventure storytelling and has enough of a budget to make it work. Truth be told, a couple episodes of from this season have been about as fun as anything I’ve seen on TV this year (and things like Arrow have been a blast) even if they’ve not been anywhere near as good as the best of TV.
And that is fine. Some things just don’t work as well in DVD as they do in other shows. So, although the political side of things in Rome and Naples has certainly improved since the first season, it’s nowhere near as intelligent or engaging as other series that handle their narrative politics more deftly. As long as there’s something to center an episode, though, such as da Vinci’s storyline in this episode or the game Lorenzo was forced to play a couple weeks back, then DVD works well enough to warrant the 55 minutes of investment it requires of viewers. The action, as in those blockbuster movies, can hold up weaker material rather well. So, even though I couldn’t care less about what happens when Sixtus meets the Sultan’s son, the swordfighting that takes place, especially that done by Lucrezia’s hired Mongol, is still fine television worthy of putting on the popcorn for.
Sometimes, other plotlines can’t benefit in the same ways and thus fall a bit flatter. In “The Fall of Heaven,” it looks like we’re supposed to be somewhat interested in Lorenzo and his relationship with his ex-lover (back in Florence, Clarice is cheating on him, too), but Lorenzo has been much more entertaining when paired with Piero. The sex scenes suffers by comparison, since this is still a new character for DVD and because we’re less interested in Lorenzo as a husband than we are in Lorenzo as a leader. Piero can challenge him in that way, pushing him in the right direction to restore Florence to its glory. Immersing Lorenzo in a love plot, as was done with Lucrezia last season, doesn’t do the character many favors.
Back in the New World, however, both the plot- and character-based material work well in tandem. It’s surprising how far along Riario has come. I expected the flash forward scene from the premiere to be reserved for the season finale, but we’re already beyond that point and Riario has gone through one heck of an arc alongside Nico, Zoroaster and Leo. He’s been given a friend, an ally, a nemesis and a lover, and he’s basically just along for the ride in hopes of attaining the Book of Leaves. We get a bit of his backstory, too, when we see a flashback of his mother and the events surrounding her death. It’s not the most interesting of scenes for the episode, but previously Riario would not have been a character to have had the opportunity to recount a tale like that. Being on this journey hasn’t made him become “better” in the sense that he’s now a protagonist, but it’s helped his character grow in several different ways. It’s also been great to see how Nico has reacted to that and how Zoroaster is so thick-headed that he can’t understand why Nico would show any kind of loyalty to the supposed enemy. Unfortunately, what very little we get regarding da Vinci’s mother is really just there to tease. I can’t see this mystery being solved in two more episodes, so it’s looking more and more like this journey, or at least the next stage of it, will spill over into the next season. But knowing that the series has been renewed for that season and that Goyer is going to let someone else take the reins, the grand design behind the scenes is starting to come through better, showing a respectable amount of confidence as DVD continues to find itself.
– Sean Colletti