After an uneven pilot episode, the second episode of ‘Da Vinci’s Demons’ (entitled ‘The Serpent’) is a much more even affair. However, it still has a lot of plot threads that viewers need to weave through.
At the end of the pilot, da Vinci (Tom Riley) saw the hanging of “the Jew.” As episode 2 begins, he has sent Nico (Eros Vlahos), Zoroaster (Greg Chillin) and Vanessa (Hira Hilmar) to retrieve the body. Once it has been returned, da Vinci conducts a makeshift autopsy, where he retrieves a key from the Jew’s body. Da Vinci surmises that the key may open whatever container the mysterious “Book of Leaves” is hidden in, but also figures out (later in the episode) that the key he possesses has a companion key. The two keys must be placed together to work.
As the newly hired weapons creator for the Medicis, da Vinci invites them to a demonstration of the gun weapon that he showed the design for in the pilot. Unfortunately, the contraption explodes upon firing, but Lorenzo Medici (Elliot Cowan) is impressed enough that he gives Leonardo one more week to work out all the problems, even though Lorenzo’s brother, Giulino (Tom Bateman), continues to think da Vinci is a con man and a fool.
Nico is taken prisoner by the nephew of Pope Sixtus, Count Riario (Blake Ritson), who decides to torture the young lad to get information about where da Vinci has hidden the key. He sticks Nico’s hand into a device called the “Widow’s Tear,” which has a diamond inside that grinds layers of skin off a person’s hand with each rotation of the machine’s crank. Nico relents and leads Riario and his men back to da Vinci’s workplace, but instead of giving up the location of the key, he points out the exploding chest (also seen in the pilot), which promptly blows up when Riario’s men try to open it.
Later, Riario tries to bribe da Vinci into turning over the key by offering him the backing of the Church and access to all of its archives. Da Vinci agrees to meet them for an exchange of money for the key, and the Medicis find out about the meeting, viewing Leonardo’s supposed defection from afar. However, da Vinci has actually set up Riario and his men, unveiling his latest gun weapon, which now works perfectly, taking out the majority of Riario’s men. (Riario, of course, escapes.) The episode concludes with Riario revealing that he, in fact, holds the second key that connects to the one da Vinci removed from the Jew’s corpse.
Episode 2 turns out to be stronger than the pilot, and much of that may be due to the fact that Scott Gimple (the new showrunner for ‘‘The Walking Dead‘) helped pen this episode, as well as next week’s. The visual effects (particularly CGI buildings and backgrounds) also appear much more solid and seamless in this episode than in the pilot, although the jury is still out on that aspect of the show, since we’re only two episodes into the series.
One returning thread from the pilot that gets mentioned again here is the fact that Leonardo is able to remember and draw anything he encounters, but he can’t recall his mother’s face. I had a theory about this the first time I heard it in the pilot, and now that it’s mentioned again so soon, I’ll put my theory into print: We’ll eventually find out that Leonardo’s “Mona Lisa” is a portrait of his mother. What do you think?