|By Christopher Cerasi|
Four episodes in and we’re still not anywhere nearer to solving the mystery of the enigmatic “Book of Leaves,” even though it still remains the most crucial narrative thread introduced in the series so far. We’re getting closer as more clues are revealed this episode, but it’s still a thread that needs to be woven tighter – and faster – as we’re already halfway through the season.
This episode focused on the continuing war between Florence and Rome, the Medicis and Pope Sixtus IV (James Faulkner) and his nephew, the truly corrupt and cruel Count Riario (Blake Ritson).
Ritson’s truly sadistic Count murders an entire small village of Florentines in order to send a message to the Medicis that Rome is not to be trifled with, or underestimated. Ritson is one of the best TV villains to emerge in some time, and his understated but effective performance is one of the best on the series (in contrast to the hyper and scenery-chewing Tom Riley as Leonardo da Vinci).
We also get to see Lucrezia Donati (Laura Haddock) finally revealed to be the traitor in the Medici court, even if it is only to a doomed man. Last episode she framed the Medici’s majordomo, Gentile Becchi (Michael Elwyn), to throw the scent off of her, and she counted on her lover, Lorenzo Medici (Elliot Cowan) to convict his trusted second-in-command without hesitation.
Her gamble paid off, and Lorenzo is deaf to anyone who suggests that Becchi is innocent, especially his brother.
Giulino Medici (Tom Bateman) emerges as the character with the most compassion and sense, despite his somewhat arrogant and flippant introduction earlier in the series. His determination to prove Gentile Becchi’s innocence speaks volumes about his quest for justice and a strong moral and ethical code. He butts heads with his brother several times during the course of the episode, and despite Lorenzo’s public face as the savior of Florence, Giulino proved himself the better of the two Medicis by far.
Sadly, Becchi is later murdered in his prison cell by Lucrezia, who then makes the murder appear a suicide so that the noble and devoted Becchi stays silent about her truth forever. But Lucrezia is getting a little sloppy, and it can’t be long before she makes a mistake that will hopefully finally reveal to all her true role in the scheme of things.
Leonardo da Vinci also has a (typically) good episode, as despite his destroying his own cannon factory in protest, he manages to save the day by bluffing a new weapon that sends Riario back to Rome with his tail between his legs yet again. He also gets feted by Lorenzo and awarded with the title of Grand Master of the Order of St. John the Baptist.
But the celebrations come to an abrupt end when an ambassador for Rome arrives and accuses the artista of sodomy in an attempt to discredit him and remove him as an obstacle to the conquering of Florence. It is unclear as to whom da Vinci is accused of sodomizing, however. Is it Nico (Eros Vlahos)? Zoroaster (Gegg Chillin)? Someone else? If I cared more for da Vinci I would give a shit, but regardless, we’ll find out next episode…
Some last thoughts:
- Gregg Chillin’s sexy and bawdy Zoroaster is woefully underused and needs some meatier scenes to show us how much he can do. He’s a great, intriguing character, and more screen time is much deserved
- Full frontal male nudity! Even if it was a quick flash, any peeper is appreciated…
- Tom Bateman’s sexy Giulino Medici is fast becoming my favorite character; there’s real brains and compassion behind that gruff exterior.
- Lorenzo Medici backhanding da Vinci in the artist’s studio was sooo satisfying. Maybe I am unnecessarily harsh on Tom Riley, but I just don’t like da Vinci as written and portrayed here. He’s just way to arrogant and unlikeable. He’s just too cocky, too perfect, and Riley does not hesitate to chew any scenery he encounters.