Things are getting tense in Florence. Count Riario has brought his army to the outskirts of Florence and brought the Pope’s terms of surrender to Lorenzo Medici. Included in these terms is that the Medici’s banks absolve Rome of all their debts and that several artisans, including Da Vinci, employ their talents for Pope Sixtus the IV. Riario proves his worthiness as a foe and the show’s primary antagonist as he methodically explains to Da Vinci while his powerful new canons will not be able to halt his army. For the first time we see Leonardo caught off guard and doubting his own strategies as he knows that his guns will only mean an ongoing escalation of more numerous and more powerful weapons.
Riario leads an assault against a mine in Florence which is a valuable resource to the city. He has all of the workers killed but for one. Lorenzo is also feeling the pressure. Dismayed by Becchi’s betrayal (who was actually framed by Lorenzo’s mistress, Lucrezia), he now perceives treachery all around him. When a member of his court innocently reveals the news of the attack on the mine, Lorenzo has him condemned to the wheel, a brutal punishment where the victim is slowly beaten to death. Even Lorenzo’s own brother Giuliano is unable to talk sense into his brother who warns the rest of his court that a similar fate awaits any others who are disloyal.
Lucrezia, guilty over the imprisonment of Becchi decides to take a desperate measure to save him from execution but not in the way you might think. Meanwhile Leonardo is looking for inspiration to stop Riario’s attack and finds it in the most unusual of places…in a pomegranate! I’m not quite sure if I love these “light bulb going on” moments for Da Vinci or if I just find them ridiculously contrived…but I think I love them! Contrived yes but Tom Riley makes each of these epiphany moments a blast because of his wacky exuberance and ability to find inspiration in the strangest places. This week he uncovers further secrets about the mysterious Sons of Mithras and the Book of Leaves when he discovers hidden clues in a painting of Lorenzo’s grandfather who was said to be a magician.
I also want to mention Lara Pulver who pays Clarice Orsini, Lorenzo wife. We didn’t see her much in the first couple of episodes but she’s been playing a greater role the last two weeks and has brought a quiet resolve to her role. She tolerates Lorenzo’s affairs for the good of Florence but also displays great strength and it is she who, wittingly or unwittingly, provides Leonardo with the inspiration he needed to once again stop Riario and his army dead in their tracks.