After a particularly strong second episode, ‘Da Vinci’s Demons’ dives back into mediocrity with a rather standard third installment. Entitled ‘The Prisoner’, Episode 3 proves to be a by-the-numbers affair that doesn’t do a whole lot to advance the ongoing storylines.
The title of this episode refers to a hooded prisoner that the Pope’s nephew, Count Riario (Blake Ritson), meets and plays a strategic board game with. While playing the game, the mysterious prisoner spouts words of wisdom to Riario, although we never learn the stranger’s identity or his overall importance. Hopefully, we’ll find out more about him in the weeks to follow.
Meanwhile, back in Florence, some of the local nuns are showing signs of demonic possession. The first of the victims stabs her eye out in full view of many of the town’s citizens. Soon, others are found with the same symptoms and a makeshift medical ward is set up to deal with all the cases. Worst of all, da Vinci’s female friend Vanessa (Hera Hilmar) has also come down with the mysterious illness, and Leonardo has to race against the clock to find the source of the plague before she dies.
Of course, most of the town and the Church leaders believe it’s the work of the devil. The Church sends a representative to Florence to try to exorcise the demons out, which actually results in his strangling one woman to death (though he claims the demon was cast out in the process). Da Vinci eventually deduces that the cause is some type of strange fungus growing on a statue outside the nun’s convent, which the nuns kiss the feet of regularly as part of their worship routine. He’s able to come up with a cure, but is sure that it was placed there by someone inside the Church.
As it turns out, it was placed there by none other than Lucrezia (Laura Haddock), da Vinci’s mistress and the girlfriend of Lorenzo Medici (Elliot Cowan). Neither man has any idea yet that Lucrezia has secretly been working for Count Riario, although Lorenzo is aware that a traitor is in his midst. However, Lucrezia frames Lorenzo’s closest advisor, Gentile Becchi (Michael Elwyn), who gets dragged away by Lorenzo’s guards as this episode wraps up.
For a brand-new series with only eight episodes scheduled in its first season (Starz recently announced that ‘Da Vinci’s Demons’ would be back for Season 2), this is a mundane storyline and primarily a standalone episode that doesn’t add much to the show’s ongoing mythology. Three episodes in, I’m still very wishy-washy about ‘Da Vinci’s Demons’. While it has shown sparks of a good series every now and again, it still doesn’t have a hook that will keep viewers coming back week after week. Hopefully, things will start picking up in the second half of this abbreviated first season.