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'Da Vinci’s Demons' recap: Fire and blood in Florence

Season 2 | Episode 209 | “The Enemies of Man” | Aired May 17, 2014

The creaking sway of wood sets the scene: The ship still at sea, Leonardo labors over the brass bust, which now lies in pieces. Riario limps in — he’s walking, so a good amount of time must have passed since their rescue — and observes that the piece was minimally damaged and that Leonardo has an impressive “talent for compounding disaster.” Da Vinci's Demons, episode 209: Leonardo (David Appleby/Starz)If only he had the right tools, he could make it work, Leo laments. Riario suggests he get back to his art — stick a fork in this quest, because it is done! “Return to your maestro, da Vinci, as I will return to mine.” Riario is lost without his faith. Who is he without the Pope bullying him about? Leo tells him the Pope won’t be gentle. This, Riario knows. He thinks he has it coming for “worshiping false idols.”

A “Land ho!” rings out. What — no moonlight-margarita-cruise scenes? Too bad. I was hoping we’d get to see them have a good ‘n’ debauched time before diving back into their respective snake pits. Riario does take a moment at the bow of the ship, overlooking the approaching cliffs in the morning ocean mist, to express some feeling: “It felt surprisingly civilized to be your ally.” And Leo takes the opportunity to guilt him about going back to Rome Da Vinci's Demons, episode 209: Leonardo, Riario fine bromance (Starz)by telling him their kinda-sorta friendship will pass into the ether when they step off the ship and go their ways. It’s truly one of the most romantic moments of the season — be it of the bromance variety. (Leo may be known for his sexual flexibility, but Riario, a good strict flailing Catholic, would not likely go there. We’ll see how he feels about his place in the order of the universe after his reunion with the Pope.)

The slave-oracle (poor oracles, always getting enslaved) questions overwrought Lucrezia — they appear to have been at it for some time. “Who sent you here?” “The Pope.” “Where are you from?” “Florence.” “What’s your name?” “Lucrezia Donati.” And again. And again. It’s Zero Dark Thirty, Constantinople-style. The interrogator (Sasha Behar) doesn’t break a sweat, but Lucrezia’s bare skin glistens and damp hair sticks to her face and neck. She cracks, which is precisely what her interrogator was waiting for, surely, yet the oracle continues asking the same questions. Lucrezia really gives it up now: His Holiness, the Bishop of Rome, her father, Pope Sixtus, “sends an invitation to parlay.” Hold it, now. The smarmy Italian expat, Jacob Pasha (Raymond Coulthard), enters and asks the oracle what she’s discovered. And she nails it: There are two Popes. One is secreted away. Lucrezia’s father seeks war, which is news to Lucrezia.

Da Vinci's Demons, episode 209: Leonardo (David Appleby/Starz)Leo, Zoroaster, Nico and Amerigo arrive in dark and stormy Florence, and the streets are ominously empty. Amerigo invites them all for a drink so that he can tell them about his plans to sell his New World maps to his pal Cristoforo of Genoa. (Recipe for Amerigo’s brand of jocularity: Combine one part Richard Burton’s Petruchio from Taming of the Shrew, one part Orson Welles as Prince Hal’s rowdy pal in Falstaff Chimes at Midnight, and a dash of Brian Blessed’s Flash Gordon: Prince VultanPrince Vultan from Flash Gordon — “Leo’s ALIVE?!” Stir.) Leo has to make a stop at Verrocchio’s studio first. In his excitement to show Verrocchio his brazen head, he doesn’t give his maestro time to impart some important news — Medici palace guards bust in and, when Leo tries to dismiss them by name-dropping “Captain Dragonetti,” they inform him that Dragonetti is no longer in charge.

Da Vinci's Demons, episode 209: Clarice, Leonardo (Starz)They take him in chains to the Medici Palace, where a criminal sort of debauchery is taking place. Clarice, for one, is trussed up for S&M play. Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, emerges from behind the throne-like chair she’s chained to and reveals that the Pope paid him beaucoup bucks to take and hold Florence. Clarice says Lorenzo went to undo Naples’ alliance with the Pope. Not likely, the Duke says; more like he slipped off to France with a mistress. Leo reassures Clarice/threatens Federico that Lorenzo would never do such a thing. And what are you up to, Signor da Vinci? Speaking softly and carrying a big sword with “Freedom of the People” etched into it — that’s what. The Duke laughs off any threat remaining from either Leo or Lorenzo. (Foul is most foul being foul to be a scoffer, Duke.) Leo: “The fight’s not over.”

The Pope isn’t happy with Lorenzo. He just wants to know where the money bags are kept, but Lorenzo won’t tell. His Faux Holiness informs him that the Duke of Urbino has sacked Florence, brings in a young militiaman from Lorenzo’s guard and executes him on the spot, as proof that he controls Florence completely — its citizens, Lorenzo’s daughters, his wife. Lorenzo backhands the Pope when he says that Clarice may now have a son “under Frederico.” Then Lorenzo offers all of the Medici gold to King Ferrante if he assures the safety of Florence. Alfonso looks at the Pope, the Pope looks at Lorenzo, Ferrante looks at his mouthy son and excuses him while the adults talk. “This is not a negotiation,” the Pope says. Ferrante: “He is offering to make me the richest man in Italy — this just became a negotiation.”

Back at the Medici Palace, Leo and Nico are reunited with Vanessa in the prison. She’s about to pop out Giuliano’s baby, but first, Leo’s been summoned for torture. Excellent.

Ippolita missteps by making moves on Lorenzo in the dining hall. As she kisses him, the Pope slithers around the corner.

Riario wakes Francesco, Lucrezia’s dad, the real Pope, throwing himself at the Pope’s mercy and begging his forgiveness. Not. Gonna. Happen. The Pope reminds him that he stood by while Allessandro killed his youngest daughter and that Riario himself was responsible for Lucrezia whoring herself. But Riario will do anything … “If you won’t take me, then I have nothing.” Pope: “Nothing is what you deserve.” This may be true, but the Church teaches that absolution is available to all who confess and repent their sins. Francesco is breaking Rule No. 1 — or it may be Rule No. 392, I forget. WWJD?

Da Vinci's Demons, episode 209: Riario (Starz)Despondent Riario leaves the keys and hobbles off to the Pope’s chambers, where he eyeballs the heights of the dome above. No, no and no!, Riario.

“You’re the sodomite,” says the jailer to the artista. “You might actually enjoy this.” A little torture humor there. They put Leonardo in stocks and take off, leaving him alone with Carlo, who is similarly restrained. For likely having been tortured, Carlo is remarkably charming and upbeat: Nice to meet you. I’m a bastard. You’re a bastard. Let’s get the hell out of here. Fortunately, Zoroaster and Amerigo have the same idea and show up disguised as the Duke’s torturers, take out the guard (who’s been a pain in the ass for some time now) and release both Leo and Carlo.

da-vincis-demons-209-amerigo-leo-carlo-zoRendezvousing with Verrocchio at the Barking Dog, Leo insists that they take back the city. Captain Dragonetti accedes from a dark corner. When times are at their most bleak, a person wants fearsome Captain Dragonetti stepping forward. The gang discards plots left and right, but then Carlo notes that the Palace’s forge has a vent. Dragonetti takes special pleasure discarding that idea, saying that he’s tested all the weak points of the Palace — yeah, Carlo spits back, like the windows the assassins came through. Windows! Just the thing, says Leonardo. His fingers are less twitchy than usual, but he is on the case, inventing something that involves slaughtering a cow. No, Zo will not go find some pliable wood — they’re killing people out there, and they’re looking for them specifically. How’s this all going to work? Leonardo is going to gas the Palace.

The slave-oracle slakes Lucrezia’s thirst. Why did you not help before, Lucrezia wants to know, but the seer says she did help: by informing them about Lucrezia’s father. The seer sees war, war and war in every possibility her father could have imagined as the outcome of his plot to get Bayezid to Rome. But he will bring peace when he’s Pope again, says Lucrezia. Seer: “The dead are always peaceful.” Uh-oh. Bayezid appears: “I trust you’re as happy to see me as I am to see you.”

Carlo chats up Leo, who assembles his chemical-weapon catapult. They talk generally about how clever Leo is and how inquisitive like Cosimo Medici he is and — say, you ever heard of this Book of Leaves Cosimo was so dang interested in? Mmmm, could be, shrugs Leo. Bad news: Dragonetti, Amerigo and Zo have been captured while stealing that pliable wood. Carlo reminds Leo of the grate to the forge. Leo: “After you.”

Evolution of a bad-ass: Nico sticks it to a pig in defense of pregnant Vanessa. Not literally, but he does inspire the legion of the wretched in their communal cell to collectively stand up to the jailer and prevent him from violating her.

Leo and Carlo get roasted — not in a good way — ascending the forge chimney to the rooftop. They prove to be remarkably agile once there, leaping from one sloping roof to another two feet away as if it were, say, only one foot away. Impressive leaping, is what I mean. Why merely scramble or meander when you can leap and look good doing it? Of course, the whole of Team Leo looks good doing most anything — leaping or otherwise. Leaping Leo looks down on the festivities below.

Da Vinci's Demons, episode 209: Duke of Urbino (David Appleby/Starz)Clarice has been promoted to peacock server — better that than Duke fluffer, like the one who just emerged from under the table. “Soon enough, you’ll give yourself up to me willingly — that’s the only way I’ll have ya,” the Duke tells Clarice. Convenient. Guards bring in Dragonetti, Amerigo and Zo, and the Duke promises some fun. He barks at Clarice for more wine. She meets up with Carlo in the empty kitchen. Also convenient. Zo and Amerigo are tied together to fight to the death. (Aha! That’s the life-or-death situation Gregg Chillin and Tom Riley alluded to in our recent chat.) Amerigo pounds him.

Above, Leo preps his gas and releases it below, so that it explodes and knocks out the men, including Zo and Amerigo. The Duke smartly covers his mouth. Leo rappels from the window above and, also covering his mouth, sets off after the Duke. He’s double-fisting swords now, but the Duke is as able as ambidextrous Leo. Duke: “You’re a sly little swordsman for a painter.” Leo has smarts, too, and figures out that the Duke’s one eye puts him at a swordfight disadvantage, so Leo breaks off the tip of one of his weapons, then taps the Duke’s sword to establish distance and, in a swirl of motion, picks up his intact sword. More clanking of weapons, but the Duke just … can’t … reach … him. “You lack perspective,” observes Leo as he subdues Federico. Clarice enters and tells Leo to stay his hand. “Tell him, woman!” says the Duke. No pissant bastard gets to take me down! I get judged by a jury of my peers! “That you will,” Clarice responds as she runs a sword through his good eye and out the back of his skull. “Guilty.”

Lucrezia gets a good scrub-down under the watchful eye of Jacob, who is obviously no gentleman.

Da Vinci's Demons, episode 209: Riario (Starz)Riario walks into a lake and slits his wrists, “embracing my penance.” This can’t be Riario’s end —  it just can’t! — but this scene is heartbreaking just the same. Fortunately, a hooded figure in the near distance is watching over him …

Zo, Vanessa, Nico, Amerigo and Dragonetti join the citizenry in the streets, as the whole of Florence celebrates their freedom. In the Palace, Clarice dresses for the occasion. She thanks Leonardo. Leo: “Anyone would have done the same in my position.” What’s with the humility? Enlightenment, Leo says. Clarice returns Leo’s sword — Lorenzo gave it to him for a reason. Verrocchio runs in with an urgent something to show Leo.

Lorenzo approaches Ferrante, but he’s dead. Alfonso has plucked out his father’s eyes and drones on about Ferrante’s cruelty and lust for power. “Join me, my queen,” Alfonso calls to clearly dismayed Ippolita and instructs her to render the king’s verdict: He rejects your offer and will honor the agreement to be the sword of Rome. Enter Pope. Where’s the gold, Lorenzo?

In Verrocchio’s workshop, he shows Leo the reassembled brazen head. His mother’s message in its entirety:

She was betrayed. Give up your quest for me. Beware the Labyrinth; beware the Enemies of Man. They are everywhere.

Is that it? Nope. Verrocchio: The musical tones in the background — there’s a code.

Riario hovers suspended above the ground. Creepy guy: “Girolamo Riario. You were dead. Now you’re born again.” Riario: “Who are you?” Creepy guy: “We are the Enemies of Man.” Bummer. If Riario falls in with this crowd after all he went through when he was Team Leo-adjacent, he deserves to be a friendless and soulless monster. Maybe — that’s what season 3 is for! Unless — could this association possibly be resolved in the season finale? We just met the Enemies of Man. Surely they wouldn’t arrive and be dispatched in just one episode. (Not likely, which you know if you’re keeping up with the show’s newsletter.*)

Leo reads music and deciphers the notes: It means my mother is alive. She’s in Vinci! Let’s go! Verrocchio exits to prep. Leo has a touching moment thinking of his mother thinking of him. But then Carlo emerges from a dark corner. Hello, Enemies of Man. She too will pay for the sins of Daedalus. Crap! Carlo swings his sword and slices Leo down his chest. That will definitely leave a scar. Leo: “You’re the Labyrinth!” Carlo gives a “we are legion” speech. Carlo was the moon! He took the book from the Vault of Heaven, but Leo’s mom stole the book back and disappeared. She left one last map, and now da Vinci has led them right to it.

Carlo axes Verrocchio in the belly when the maestro tries to help Leo. Leo cuts loose his flying machine, which knocks Carlo over. Voices outside. Carlo pulls down shelves and sets the place on fire.

Leo crawls over and embraces Verrocchio: “I will fix this. I swear to you: I will make this right.”

Verrocchio: “I know you will, my boy. You know no other way.”

Verrocchio dies as flames consume his workshop.

Come back for my recap of the Da Vinci’s Demons finale, “The Sins of Daedalus,” on May 31; in the meantime, you can rewatch season 2 on Starz On Demand or enjoy the handy marathon happening Memorial Day weekend. Check your local TV listings for times.

 

* If you want the who and what of these “Enemies of Man” spoiled for you ahead of the finale — because you just can’t wait for it! — have a read of this week’s Da Vinci’s Demons newsletter, where all will be revealed. Riario’s possible place in their company will then, sadly, make sense. I really hope he doesn’t go there, though. Also, I advise you wait for it, as the Da Vinci writing team will undoubtedly reveal the EoM’s true nature quite stylishly in the finale, which is surely the more fun way to find out.

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