Of all the odd plotlines viewers have endured during the first season of ‘Da Vinci’s Demons’, none is more a stretch than this week’s ‘The Devil’, in which da Vinci faces off against Dracula himself!
Vlad III (played here by Paul Rhys) ruled Wallachia (part of modern-day Romania), and is thought to have died somewhere around 1476 to 1477 at the age of about 45. Da Vinci was born in 1452, which would put him in his mid-20s around the time of Vlad’s reported death… which makes the scenario perfect for this episode. Of course, it’s unlikely that the two men ever met (it would be like speculating Albert Einstein once hung out with Adolf Hitler), but it’s not hard to imagine that they probably heard of each other. This episode has a lot of fun with the idea of what would have happened if they did meet.
Episode 6 begins where last week’s episode left off, with the Turk (Alexander Siddig) paying a visit to Leonardo to tell him more about the mysterious “Book of Leaves.” Sadly, it seems the Turk can only speak in riddles, as he continues to tell Leo things like, “Time is a river.” However, he does tell da Vinci that his visions are both of things that have happened and things yet to come.
The Turk sends daVinci on a quest to save “The Abyssinian,” the map-maker who created the map of South America (where he believes the Book of Leaves to be hidden) that da Vinci discovered. The Abyssinian is a prisoner in Vlad’s castle, so da Vinci heads there with pals Zoroaster and Nico accompanying him. Vlad (who’s as creepy as one might suspect) invites them in for dinner, in which he entertains his guests by making them watch a pair of dogs mangle a man to death. Nothing like good dinner theater.
Meanwhile, in Rome, Pope Sixtus has a meeting during his daily bath with his nephew Count Riario, Lucrezia and a few of the Pope’s assistants. Lucrezia brings news to the Pope that da Vinci has disappeared (she doesn’t know where) and that the Medicis have made a military pact with the Duke of Urbino. The Pope is upset by the lack of intelligence he’s been getting from those around him, and one of the assistants makes the mistake of making a snide comment about the Pope’s divinity. The Pope grabs him and almost drowns him, but changes his mind at the last minute and storms off… but not before he makes Riario kiss his ring – by punching him in the face several times. Later in the episode, Riario decides that Lucrezia has outlived her usefulness and gives the order to have her killed. (We’ll have to wait to see if he succeeds or not!)
Back at Castle Dracula, we learn that Leo has drugged everyone at dinner (including himself, Zoroaster and Nico), but he has an antidote for himself and his friends. With everyone else in the castle now passed out, the three make their way to Vlad’s bedroom, where they discover the Abyssinian caged in a large sphere, with blades sticking through at every angle. Leo figures out the order to remove the blades and they are able to free the Abyssinian, but then Vlad shows up to stop them.
After a brief battle between the two, Leonardo finally gets the best of Vlad and pushes him out a window to his death below. I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets the feeling that we’ll see Vlad again in Season 2, but for now Leo and his friends are safe. The same can’t be said for the Abyssinian, whose previous wounds from his imprisonment are too serious to overcome. He shows Leonardo some symbols tattooed onto his body that will help him find the Book of Leaves and insists that Leo cut away that part of his skin to keep with him after he has died. Ewww!
Written out like this, this probably sounds like one of the sillier episodes of the series, but it actually turns out to be one of the best. Vlad makes a good adversary for da Vinci (far more than either Pope Sixtus or Count Riario have been to this point), and I hope the producers bring the character back at some point next season.