Friday, March 21, 2014

Da Vinci’s Demons: Five Questions Going into Season 2

Season 2 of Da Vinci’s Demons debuts tomorrow and the trailer makes it look damn good, so I’ve put together my list of five big questions going into the new season. There are some *spoilers* below, so if you haven’t seen the show, you may want to go to Starz On-Demand. The entire season is only eight episodes, and they’re great fun if you’re a fan of historical fantasy and appreciate an Italian Renaissance setting.

1. Who will survive the insane cliffhanger ending to Season 1?

Episode 1 ended with the Pazzi Conspiracy, a notorious historical plot that went down on April 26, 1478, in Florence when members of the Pazzi family, backed by Pope Sixtus IV, tried to assassinate Lorenzo de’ Medici and his family. Pope Sextus, who is a truly despicable villain in the show, sends his equally despicable nephew, Count Riario, to help carry out the murders, which were supposed to occur by serving the Medici’s poisoned holy wafers during Easter mass. But that plan goes awry when Lorenzo’s brother Giuliano bursts into the Duomo. A swordfight ensues and the pope’s men kill Giuliano (who, incidentally, turned out to be one of the most likable characters on the show). Meanwhile, Lorenzo (who is much less likeable) is left fighting for his life.

By the end of Season 1, Leonardo has saved Lorenzo and the two are safe behind a locked door in the church. But then Lorenzo notices the ring of his mistress Lucrezia around Leonardo’s neck and realizes the two are lovers. Just as Lorenzo threatens to kill them both when they get out of this mess, Count Riario fires some Renaissance-style grenade launcher through the door… and CUT!

We have to wait until Saturday to see who survives. But that shouldn’t be a tremendous mystery since almost all of the show's characters were real people—so history tells us how and when they died. Also, the major death in the Pazzi Conspiracy—Giuliano’s—has already occurred, although a second one is coming up and the weasel will get what he deserves! The one main character who is truly fictional is Lucrezia Donati, so we don’t know her fate. But she’s so essential to the story, I have to imagine we’ll be seeing plenty of her in Season 2.

I think we're looking at the survivors!

2. How long will the show be away from Florence?

The central plotline of Da Vinci’s Demons concerns the quest for the arcane Book of Leaves, a tome that supposedly contains the secrets of the divine. One of the best scenes in Season 1 came in episode 2 when Leonardo discovers a book stolen by the hanged Jew. The Jew was a member of the Sons of Mithras, a group desperately seeking the Book of Leaves before Pope Sextus can add it to the Vatican’s secret archives. Leonardo deduces that when the book’s pages are torn out and properly pieced together, they form a map of a New World, the place where the Vault of Heaven supposedly exists, which contains the Book of Leaves. From the Season 2 trailer, it’s clear the story will take the characters to South America and what looks like a Mayan kingdom. This storyline looks promising, but I’m going to miss Florence and Rome if the show stays away from there too long. Yet with Lorenzo and Pope Sixtus remaining in Italy (as they should, unless this series is going even farther off the historical rails), I have to imagine there’ll be ample portions set in Italy. But only time will tell.

3. What’s going on with the Sons of Mithras?

Since the arrival of the Turk, this has remained a central question on the show. We now know that several significant characters were members of this group: the Turk, the Jew, the Abyssinian, Cosimo de’ Midici (Lorenzo’s grandfather), and maybe even Leonardo’s mysterious mother. Then there’s the statue in the Turk’s lair, identical to the one Cosimo owned, of a lion-headed figure, entwined by a serpent, holding two keys—just like the two keys needed to open the Vault of Heaven. This statute is an actual symbol of the mystery cult of Mithras, who was a foreign god worshiped in ancient Rome. He likely had Persian origins, perhaps linked to Zoroastrianism, and also has been linked to Gnostic mysteries, if my brief research is correct.

The mysterious Turk
In the show, the Sons of Mithras could be shaping up to be an Illuminati-type organization. After all, they’re opposed to the Church and have some devotion to science, as evidenced by Cosimo’s astrolabe which supposedly can help Leonardo navigate his way to the New World. But I still think there may be a magical element to this group. For one, there’s their invocation: “I’m a son of Earth and starry heaven. I’m thirsty. Please give me something to drink from the fountain of memory.” Sounds pretty mystical, right? Also, they’re fixated on the Tarot, and it’s no coincidence that most of the episodes in Season 1 are named after Tarot cards.

Nor has the show shied away from the supernatural. So far, we’ve seen the Spear of Destiny (which pierced through armor with ease), a very likely undead Vlad Dracula, and the strange visions from Leonardo’s childhood in the cave where he sees himself literally as the hanged man, in the position of the Tarot symbol, hinting possibility of time travel or reincarnation (remember the words of the Turk: “Time is a river, but what most fail to grasp is that the river is circular. One man’s death opens the doorway to the birth of the next.”). Who knows where this will go, but it’s one of the most intriguing aspects of the show.

Could he be any more evil?

4. Is the story taking an Enochian turn?

The most jaw-dropping line in episode 7 came when Pope Sixtus was talking to Leonardo about the Book of Leaves. “Its authors were the Nephilim,” the pope said, “the offspring of angels and the women of man.” This is a clear reference to that curious verse in Genesis Chapter 6 and the lost Book of Enoch, and I wonder how far the series will take this in Season 2.

Already, we might have a few clues. In the opening scene of the series, the Turk tells Leonardo that “History is a lie that has been honed like a weapon by people who suppress the truth.” What if that suppressed history was the story of the fallen angels and the Nephilim, the one told in the Book of Enoch that was lost for more than a millennium? Then there’s that invocation: “I’m a son of earth and starry heaven.” The Nephilim were the offspring of humans (earth) and angels (starry heaven). Could this be the meaning of this cryptic invocation? Only time shall tell.

And how freaking evil might she be?

5. Can Lucrezia Donati be trusted?

Where to start? We’ve finally learned that she’s spying for the Vatican to protect her father, who’s being held prisoner in Castel Sant’Angelo by Pope Sixtus. That had me feeling a little sympathy for Lucrezia, but it didn’t last long because, damn, if she doesn’t have an evil streak in her. After all, she framed and then murdered poor Becchi, who was an honorable character on the show; she set up Leonardo for his sodomy trial which could have ended with him being burned at the stake; and then she stabbed and nearly killed Giuliano, long after he’d become a favorite character. Yet just when you think she’s heartless, she helps save Lorenzo’s wife and daughters during the Pazzi Conspiracy. I frankly don’t know how I feel about Lucrezia, but I’m fairly certain she will somehow hitch a ride to the New World and play a big role as the series moves on.

As always, I’m curious as to your thoughts. So let me know your views on Season 1 of Da Vinci’s Demons and what you’re looking forward to when it begins again this Saturday night.

* Images courtesy of

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