The battle between Florence and the Vatican claimed the sanity of a handful of nuns on last night's Da Vinci's Demons. What will Leonardo do when the local convent claims to be plagued by demonic possession? Spoilers below.
Although this episode began and ended with the rather on-the-nose analogy of the caged parrot that doesn't want its freedom, it was refreshing to see Leonardo and his pals tackling a single problem within the larger conflict between the Medicis and the agents of the Pope. When a filth and blood-coated nun stumbles into the streets lodging accusations at the Medicis, her fellow nuns claim that there's a rash of possessions going through the convent. Being a Man of Science, Leonardo believes that the cause is natural (or man-made) rather than supernatural. So he takes a break from instructing the Florentine war effort on the finer points of noisy weaponry to investigate the cause of this nunnery madness.
Meanwhile, Lorenzo Medici is warned that his wife Clarice may be a spy feeding information (perhaps unwittingly) to Rome. Of course, there is a real snake in Lorenzo's bedchamber, and when Leonardo finally pieces together that madness-inducing ergot has been sprinkled over the feet of the statue of St. Anthony, feet the nuns regularly kiss, we learn just what that lovely snake (or rather, parrot in a pretty cage) is capable of. And Clarice may just identify Lucrezia as the Vatican's agent before anyone else does.
While Da Vinci's Demons seems to be setting up the value of Leonardo's science against religious superstition (especially when one of the priests decides that killing the nuns is the best way to contain this demonic infection), it's a shame that we didn't get more of the tensions between Leonardo and Count Riario as Leonardo hunts for the Book of Leaves. But Riario has an intriguing new playmate in the form of the hooded prisoner who plays Go with Riario and meditates on the nature of winning and losing.
This episode did feel a bit like a standalone, perhaps to introduce new viewers to the show. The question is, will mad nuns and Sherlockian antics draw folks in to this ahistorical fantasy?