Da Vinci’s Demons, Ep. 2.09, “The Enemies of Man”: a bittersweet return to Florence

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Da Vinci’s Demons, Season 2: Episode 9 – “The Enemies of Man”
Written by Allison Moore & Marco Ramirez (story by Brian Nelson & Marco Ramirez)
Directed by Justin Molotnikov
Airs Saturday nights at 9 on Starz

After a thoroughly entertaining departure from the series norm by visiting the New World, Da Vinci’s Demons brings several of its central characters back to Italy–Leo to Florence and Riario to Rome. The help of the exotic setting has made much of this second season so enjoyable, but luckily the events we see here in Florence, at least, aren’t boring in the slightest. The city has been sacked by Duke Federico, making Leo’s homecoming more than just a little bit problematic (and not very warm at all). If other areas of “The Enemies of Man” slightly drag, this central plot does exactly what DVD needs to do on a weekly basis to be successful: execute fun and tense action sequences.

Old Man Dragonetti thinks infiltrating the Medici stronghold via the chimney is too dangerous, but thankfully we have characters like Leo and Carlo to completely ignore him and help give us some solid, undemanding television. There’s never much of a convincing sense that either of these characters is in any real danger, but that somehow doesn’t diminish any of the effects of seeing Carlo almost fall down the chimney and Leo almost lose his swordfight with Federico. This has mostly to do with the great direction of Justin Molotnikov, who captures the urgency in these sequences with the eye of someone (sorry, Federico) who knows how action functions and works on the screen. The swordfight might be a tad ridiculous because of how much of an opportunity Leo has to pause and think his plan out, but it’s a riot to see him mess with Federico’s depth perception and take down another stronger opponent yet again through his superior intellect and cunning. Then Clarice comes in and stabs Federico in his other eye, and that’s that. There certainly wasn’t a place for Federico in DVD‘s future, but I wonder if this was the best way to get rid of him. It should be satisfying to see Clarice drop the sword down, but maybe I didn’t get enough of a sense of her being so terribly mistreated. It’s implied Federico hasn’t forced himself on her, which shouldn’t have to be the justification for her actions, but she’s basically only taken a hit to her pride. Perhaps that’s enough, but Leo earned that victory, making Clarice’s execution of Federico not much of a payoff besides seeing an antagonist get killed.

All that said, the scenes in Florence had the same kind of adventure-laden thrust that the past few episodes have had by giving Leonardo major tasks to accomplish in restoring Florence and figuring out his mother’s message with the help of Andrea. And that brings us to the unfortunate goodbye we bid Andrea after Carlo delivers a fatal blow to him upon turning on da Vinci (which was somewhat telegraphed but still worked). Andrea hasn’t even been one of the more developed secondary characters in the series, but Allan Corduner has given him life and energy in a memorable series of performances. As somewhat of a father figure (more so than da Vinci’s actual father, at least), losing Andrea has to have a huge impact on Leo. It gives his journey more weight and more meaning, and–more importantly for the purposes of a narrative in television–it gives him a revenge debt to be paid at some point. I’ve really enjoyed Carlo’s role in the season thus far, and he’s actually been part of a great pairing with Clarice, but his demeanor really lends itself well to being a villain of sorts, so I’m hoping he sticks around quite a bit longer in that capacity.

The Lucrezia, Lorenzo and Riario scenes don’t come off nearly as necessary as what’s going on in Florence, but they serve their purposes in terms of building the plot and setting the stage for the finale, in some cases. Lucrezia’s experience with torture is vastly different from the other forms we see in “The Enemies of Man,” and the truth she’s been withholding is eventually revealed not too long before the sultan’s son returns. Although it was originally intriguing to have scenes set in Constantinople, if just because of how different of a setting it was, Lucrezia’s has been the thread that has yet to satisfy, so until we see the results of the impending war, these scenes are kind of just floating around here to check in on the character. Lorenzo’s time in Naples is similarly uneventful, amounting merely to him being at the mercy of Alfonso, who kills his own father to prevent a deal that Lorenzo tries to make. Again, Lorenzo works best as a character when he’s acting as a stand-in for Florence as a whole and assumes the mantle and persona of a leader. Even though he’s bargaining to save his city, that air of leadership is kind of sucked from his scenes in “The Enemies of Man” by continuing with a somewhat lackluster love plot with his ex. Riario at least leads us to the titular Enemies of Man–about whom we get very little information–and so his part in the episode works a bit better. His reunion with the real Pope Sixtus somewhat powerful, but it’s sadly unfortunate that DVD did such a great job teaming Riario up with Leo in the New World. Everything else is in danger of paling in comparison, since the Leo-Riario duo was so effective. There’s certainly hope for that to improve, however, since The Enemies of Man bring more interesting questions to the table. So, for its issues, “The Enemies of Man” stills works fairly well overall, especially considering the heavy lifting it needs to do to set up the season finale (there will not be a new episode next week). Once again, DVD has built itself to this point with many different threads that can be tied up, so I only expect the finale to address one or two of those. With so many pieces still on the table, the crew is smartly looking at the series in the long term, which allows for some satisfying expansiveness in the world.

– Sean Colletti




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