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'Da Vinci's Demons' recap review: Favorite moments from season 2

The life of Leonardo da Vinci, as conceived by Da Vinci’s Demons creator David S. Goyer, made flesh by British actor Tom Riley in the role of Leonardo da Vinci and realized by production designer Ed Thomas, challenges history by cutting the 15th-century artistic genius and inventor from the same cloth as adventurer Indiana Jones, swordsman Zorro, the Musketeers (name your version), graphic novel and video game heroes — in Assassin’s Creed terms, for instance, he’s a hybrid of Ezio Auditore and the games’ own Leonardo — and several classic characters embodied by early 20th-century film legend Errol Flynn.

Da Vinci's Demons, ep 201: Riario (Starz)

Just keep scrolling, says Riario

Below, in episode order, is a list of some of my personal favorite moments from season 2 of the Starz series, which was recently renewed for a third season.

PLUS! A bonus list: Keep scrolling for a countdown of the five sexiest moments of the season.

UPDATED! With the season finale aired (see the recap), we now have a 10th favorite moment. See it below.

Feel free, of course, to trumpet your own favorites in the comments. It’s been epic.

1. Riario’s quest gets funded
Episode 201 | “The Blood of Man”
Players: Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino (Vincent Riotta), Girolamo Riario (Blake Ritson), Lucrezia Donati (Laura Haddock), et al.
Looking back: A season premiere has so many masters to serve when catching its audience up on the major players. This moment had a lighter touch than others in the episode, but was the right joke at the right time to shift the chase into high gear.
From the recap:Da Vinci's Demons, ep 201: Duke, Riario (STarz) The Duke of Urbino offers to give Riario provisions and men, because he dislikes him so much, so “I’m quite happy to see you sail off the edge of the world.” Riario accepts. The Duke plants an unnerving kiss directly on Riaro’s mouth. It’s a nice mouth — who wouldn’t want to? But this was no foreplay.
Runner-up: Lara Pulver appears as young, beautiful and lethal Medici family matron Clarice Orsini, whose great moments tend to happen like a shotgun blast of awesome. From the recap: Clarice turns her glare on Captain Dragonetti: “Did you know of this attack?” Silence. “My husband would have you killed just for that hesitation…if you betray the Medici family again, I will have you gutted like a pig.”

2. Introducing…Amerigo Vespucci!
Episode 202 | “The Blood of Brothers”
Players: Leonardo, Zoroaster (Gregg Chillin), Amerigo Vespucci (Lee Boardman) and Beatrice (Isabella Blake-Thomas)
Looking back: Boardman’s performance, Riley and Chillin’s interactions, and the writing on this introduction of a major historical figure were riotous.
From the recap: Zoroaster thinks Amerigo is slimy and argues with Leonardo about their current circumstances. Zoroaster says he’s done after they retrieve Nico. Leonardo does that thing with his face like someone’s slapped him with a kitten. Time to meet Amerigo, who’s not the lout Zoroaster made him out to be, but extremely jovial and resourceful. He and Leonardo get on like a house on fire, while Zo sulks off to the side. Amerigo wants to steal a Vatican ship — hilarious!

3. No introductions necessary — OK, maybe one
Episode 203 | “The Blood of Man”
Players: Leonardo; Alfonso, Duke of Calabria (Kieran Bew); Zoroaster; Amerigo; and Captain Sindona (Nicholas McGaughey)
Looking back: Leonardo’s impersonation of Riario at the head of the episode is wonderfully over-the-top, and the sword fight that follows shows off some sweet moves from Bew (a British sword-fighting champion before becoming an actor) and hubris “par excellence” (watch the clip) from Leonardo.
Da Vinci's Demons, ep 201: Leonardo, Alfonso (Starz)From the recap: Sunglasses. Facial hair. Soft, threatening words. Riario? No! It’s Leonardo impersonating Riario, trying to pull off Amerigo Vespucci’s plan to steal a Vatican ship and directing those threats to the captain. Amerigo and Zoroaster stand back, heads down, shrouded in monks’ robes. Alfonso, the Duke of Calabria and heir to the throne of Naples — fancy — arrives and declares that he knows Riario, and this guy is no Riario. Whom does he have the pleasure of cutting in two?

Da Vinci's Demons, ep 202: Nico (Starz)4. Nico gets sassy
Episode 204 | “The Ends of the Earth”
Players: Riario and Nico (Eros Vlahos)
Looking back: Nico’s evolution into a bad-ass begins here, really, while he’s imprisoned by Riario. Vlahos fully embraces the challenge of playing the transition — while locked in a cage!
From the recap: Riario visits Nico and attempts to disrespect Nico’s choice to hang out with Leonardo. Nico, in turn, points out that Riario is “the bastard son of a hateful Pope,” is sleeping with a slave girl, and has risked execution by disobeying Vatican orders to go after the Book of Leaves, “all because it would give you the same knowledge and power that my Maestro was born with — curious.” Burn. Riario comes to the point and asks Nico what he knows about the Book of Leaves. His Holiness believes it was written by nephilim, the offspring of angels and men, but Riario believes it was written by ancient ancestors of the people of Crete, who came from a little island called Atlantis. “And that sounds more likely?” Nico asks.
Da Vinci's Demons, episode 204 (Starz)Runner-up: Leo has an epiphany and deduces that the planets revolve around the sun. Beautifully played by Riley, this moment also included a gorgeous animation.

5. Vespuccia!
Episode 205 | “The Sun and the Moon”
Players: Leonardo, Zoroaster, Amerigo
Looking back: The scenery is beautiful, the acting by all three primaries in the scene is spot-on and the moment is truly funny — possibly less so to woulda-been Vespuccians.
From the recap: Leonardo da Vinci’s eyes drink in the lush, strange shore before him as his party approaches on a longboat. The light is different, he notes. The colors here are bright, clear, bold — tropical. Zoroaster observes the Basilisk’s wreckage: “Count Riario didn’t pray to his God hard enough.” All thoughts are on Nico: Have they lost him? Well, most thoughts. Leonardo’s thoughts, as ever, leap from one topic to another. (Actor Tom Riley’s face works as the canvas when it comes to summoning Leo’s inner life for public display.) Amerigo informs the party that he’ll be staying on the ship to chart the shores. Leo makes him promise to return in three months. Amerigo threatens to name this New World after himself: “Vespuccia!”
Runner-up: Leo’s emotional response to the revelation that his mother was involved in the quest for the Book of Leaves reminds us that Mr. Riley is generally working quite hard to make Leonardo as real as possible, but does it so seamlessly that it’s easy to take for granted. From the recap: “Ima shows Leo some cave paintings that include likenesses of the Abyssinian and — a stunning revelation that brings Leo near tears — Leonardo’s mother, Caterina, who taught Ima their language and, with the Book of Leaves, saved her life. ‘It’s real!’ Leo exclaims, relieved.”

6. The Predator
Episode 206 | “The Rope of the Dead”
Players: Riario and Incan warriors
Looking back: Riario takes down fearsome Incan warriors, while paying respects to the 1987 film Predator.
From the recap: Riario faces the biggest Incan yet, stabs him in both the eyes and the neck (carotid artery) and yells incomprehensible war cries and variations on the f-bomb, then — OK, this is officially a Predator homage — Da Vinci's Demons, ep 206: Riario (Starz)stands hulking in the pouring rain and lets loose a primal scream. Sweet. Riario just scored epic international nerd points with his ode to alien-busting commando Dutch.
Runner-up: The torture of Lorenzo Medici (Elliot Cowan). From the recap: Duke Alfonso lashes bloodied and panting Lorenzo with a whip back in Naples … Alfonso wants to know how Lorenzo won the Duchess back in the day — he wants details. But Lorenzo is a gentleman who doesn’t kiss and tell: “With my tongue.” Correction: Lorenzo is in for a world of hurt. Alfonso delivers.

Da Vinci's Demons, ep 208: Riario, Leonardo (Starz)7. True confessions
Episode 208 | “Fall From Heaven”
Players: Riario and Leonardo
Looking back: This episode was all about Riario and Leonardo bonding, and it was a showcase for both Riley and Ritson — Riley with his talent for subtle changes in his face that speak volumes, and Ritson for the perpetual gravitas of his voice and the episode’s dramatic finish.
From the recap: Time for true confessions: … His Holiness sent Riario to “exact vengeance on a sinner who had crossed our path: a Jewish prostitute in God’s holy city.” Riario confesses that he strangled his mom to death, and at first I feel bad for him, then I blame his monastic upbringing for making him a sin-busting automaton. Why am I giving him a pass? … Maybe it’s because Riario truly believes he’s lost (a credit to Blake Ritson, who so expertly portrays the character’s self-loathing). As Riario says, “How foolish I have been to follow the Book of Leaves to the ends of the world, thinking it could absolve me of my sins … It’s a fitting reward I should go home so very empty-handed.”

Da Vinci's Demons, episode 209: Leonardo, Riario fine bromance (Starz)8. True confessions: Part 2
Episode 209 | “The Enemies of Man”
Players: Riario and Leonardo
Looking back: Awwww …
From the recap: Riario [takes] 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 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.

Da Vinci's Demons, episode 209: Lucrezia (Starz)9. Divining the truth
Episode 209 | “The Enemies of Man”
Players: Lucrezia Donati (Laura Haddock), Seer (Sasha Behar)
Looking back: Haddock has had some kick-ass moments this season — this bests the rest, in my opinion.
From the recap: The slave-oracle 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 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.”

Da Vinci's Demons s2 finale: Nico, Vanessa (Starz)10. That’s Mister Machiavelli to you
Players: Vanessa (Hera Hilmar) and Nico
Episode 210 | “The Sins of Daedalus”
Looking back: Vanessa and Nico execute a tag-team verbal takedown of Clarice, when Vanessa finally stands up to her bullying, and Nico reveals himself as a famous historical figure on par with Vlad the Impaler, Amerigo Vespucci or even Leonardo himself.
From the recap: Clarice comes to the scene of the fire and approaches Vanessa, telling her that all will mourn [Verrocchio]. Vanessa growls at her for sleeping with the enemy. Clarice doesn’t believe it, but Captain Dragonetti confirms. In any case, Vanessa should come back to the palace. When she resists, Clarice attempts to insist. Nico steps in. Clarice says she makes the decisions for Medici babies, and who the hell are you, by the way? He’s Niccolò Machiavelli, son of legal scholar Bernardo and future diplomat, poet, author of literary masterwork The Prince, and on and on and on. The short story: He knows the law.
Runner-up: Vanessa gives birth to a beautiful baby Medici in a scene that was as touching as it was realistic thanks to Hilmar’s superb performance. She was on fire in the finale. Kudos!

 

Da Vinci's Demons, ep 206: Leonardo Ima (Starz)

BONUS LIST!
The 5 sexiest moments from season 2 of Da Vinci’s Demons

Time for some crass objectification of the characters in Da Vinci’s Demons. Why? Because their fabulous lives are filled with such beauty, we can’t help but roll around in their plenty as much and as best we can.

Here’s a little countdown to the sexiest scene of season 2:

Da Vinci's Demons, ep 205: Carlo, Clarice (Starz)5. Romp de’ Medici
Episode 205 | “The Sun and the Moon”
Players: Clarice and Carlo de’ Medici (Ray Fearon)
Bringing the sexy: Great to see the lady of the house let her hair down.
From the recap: Clarice takes Carlo up on his offer to await her pleasure. Carlo sees Vanessa seeing them.

Da Vinci's Demons, ep 208: Lorenzo, Ippolita (Starz)4. Romp de’ Medici: Part 2
Episode 208 | “Fall From Heaven”
Players: Ippolita Maria Sforza (Jeany Spark) and Lorenzo
Bringing the sexy: Ippolita’s teasing of Lorenzo after they receive the note from the king — adorable!
From the recap: Lorenzo repays Ippolita for her cleverness — with that tongue trick he mentioned to Alfonso.

Da Vinci's Demons, ep 202: Riario, Zita (Starz)3. The Queen of the Basilisk
Episode 202 | “The Blood of Brothers”
Players: Riario and Zita (Estella Daniels)
Bringing the sexy: Zita seems to brook no excuse in getting Riario to play along. “This is happening,” she seemed to say.
From the recap: Zita stops by to lend a hand … and a mouth … and a breast. Riario is all, “I couldn’t possibly,” but naked Zita says (to paraphrase a long story about the Queen of Sheba), “Just go with it.” He does.

Da Vinci's Demons, ep 206: Leonardo (Starz)2. Angry abs
Episode 206 | “The Rope of the Dead”
Players: Leonardo and Riario
Bringing the sexy: They’re mad, damp, dirty, slapping each other around and shirtless. It’s just too decadent.
Da Vinci's Demons, ep 206: Riario, Leonardo (Starz)From the recap: Riario declares that he and Leonardo aren’t friends. Obviously! There’s a major battle of the abs going on between this shirtless duo. Riario killed Zita to save Leo. Leo knows. “She forgives you,” he says, which elicits a smack from Riario, who warns him that if they leave without the Book of Leaves, he will kill Leonardo himself. Obviously.

Da Vinci's Demons, ep 206: Leonardo, Ima (Starz)1. Gone native
Episode 206 | “The Rope of the Dead”
Players: Leonardo and Ima (Carolina Guerra)
Bringing the sexy: It was the season 2 coupling with the most buildup. Wait for it … Wait for it …
From the recap: Leonardo awakens in the Vault of Heaven foyer with a start, stumbling and sweating. Ima informs him that he’s dying and gives him zombie juice that will allow him to walk among the dead. But first, they have to have sex. (What did I tell you?) Leonardo: OK, let me get my shirt off while deadly poison courses through my veins. About that: Won’t this “our bodies must become one” business just send the poison racing faster to his heart and brain? I’m no doctor, but I’m not encouraged by this plan. Ima strips down to her merkin and mounts our poisoned, drug-addled hero. (Is he really able to consent to this?) That took less time than one would imagine for a poisoned, drug-addled hero. Ima then sends him off into the underworld for his undead summit with his dearly departed. Cue: skeleton jig.

The lesson here: If you want to see the best of the sexy, watch/rewatch episode 206.

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.

Da Vinci's Demons season 2 keyartDa Vinci’s Demons seasons 1 and 2 are available to watch on Starz On Demand.

Season 1 can also be streamed or downloaded at:

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