Last week's episode of Da Vinci's Demons ended with Leonardo arrested on charges of sodomy, and this week gave us the spectacle of of his trial. And Leonardo finds that technology is good for more than robotic birds and weapons of war; it's also handy for blackmail. Spoilers ahead.
The theme of this week's episode was "circuses," as in the bread and circuses the rulers of a land must provide its citizens. Rome hands the city of Florence one such circus in the form of Leonardo's sodomy trial, which everyone involved knows is a sham—except perhaps a handsome young model who alleges that Leonardo paid him for sex. Leonardo refuses to take a plea, but waxes on the nature of leaves and bats while sitting in prison and folds origami while being told he could be put to death.
Actually, the bit with the model, who insists that Leonardo raped him during a session and then paid him for his silence, felt a bit Law & Order: SVU: Florence. Leonardo's counselor pulls every trick in the book, accusing the model of being too upbeat after his alleged encounter with Leonardo and implying that he was a prostitute. I kept imagining how it might all have played out if Leonardo actually had raped him.
Meanwhile, the Medici's put on a much less sinister circus, commissioning a play of selections from the Decameron. A handful of folks, starting with Leonardo, make reference to the story about the pig being a crowd-pleaser, and, well, you know what they say about a pig in the first act.
Leonardo uses the Decameron as an opportunity to show off his latest device: a large camera obscura. He ties his nasty judge to a pig (to make it look like the judge is screwing said pig), and broadcasts the image on the clouds above the audience, creating quite a spectacle. He then threatens to show the judge's face (or show of the fixed image he's made of the judge's faux bestiality, because of course he's figured out a way to fix an image and won't share the technology) unless the sodomy charge is dismissed. Ladies and gentlemen, blackmail is now more advanced than ever.
But in the end, it turns out, there was some truth behind the sodomy charges. Leonardo didn't rape that model who testified against him, but he did sleep with him as, Leonardo asserts, an "experiment." The model, like everyone else, fell head over heels for Leonardo, and hoped to expose Leonardo as gay. "What you have with women isn't love," he insists, but Leonardo simply kisses him goodbye.
This was an episode all about over-the-top spectacle, and it worked quite well, pulling us back a bit from Leonardo's antics, and making the whole city of Florence seem fun, scandalous, and chaotic. We've heard a lot about how protecting Florence's vibrancy is so important to Leonardo, and Florence finally got to be as vibrant as he says it is.
We also got some nice bits in this episode with Leonardo and his father, whose relationship might be more complex than it at first appeared. And dear old Alexander Siddig was back as Al-Rahim, encouraging Leonardo to recall a vision he'd had in the cave as himself as the Hanged Man. What does it all mean?