18/11/2012

CBBC's Leonardo Takes A Darker Turn

Leonardo Season 2 Episodes 7 -10
The ramifications of Piero de Medici’s acts in `Dragon Hunt` are played out in the equally strong (and  cleverly titled) `The Mask of Death`. The seventh episode plays completely differently though eschewing the adventure elements for a thriller that ends with two dead characters and our hero being tricked into agreeing to design a war machine for Piero’s planned attack on Milan. Just half a season in James Clyde has made this role his own and this proves to be the character’s finest moment yet. The comparatively trivial schemes of last season have been replaced by a real ambition to rule across Europe. What really impresses is the way the overall storyline is coming together and how Leonardo is more gullible than we imagined.
Mack and Angelica's first date does not go too well
For the younger viewers there is plenty of bold material to illustrate the abuse of power with De Medici’s use of assassination, blackmail and sheer ruthlessness seems to wrong foot everyone. One thing that is noticeable is how underused Mack has been this season. He doesn’t seem to have much to do except act as a facilitator for other character’s plots. Perhaps he will come into his own later. On the other hand the one note associates of De Medici are more richly depicted this year- in particular Placidi his henchman seems to be building up quite a significant role to be played out later. This is as close to a political thriller as you could show on CBBC and is certainly more downbeat than any previous episode; perhaps those early frivolous ones were to lighten the mood before the dark clouds rolled in?
`Stupid Cupid` continues the overall plot with Piero on the verge of being crowned Duke before a genuinely surprising episode ending upsets his plans. The look on James Clyde’s face is classic! The main thrust of matters though is Lorenzo palming Angelica off on Mack for an afternoon which ends up being unexpectedly involving. For the first time we see Angelica’s personality and learn why she has seemed so stand offish and the scenes of the two in the restaurant are well written and played. If it all seems a little frivolous, this week’s villain Gorgoni kidnaps them both. The end result is that we are given the impression of a budding romance between the princess and con man, which could yield dividends if they run with it.
Something quite amazing happens in the middle of `The Tortoise and the Hare`. Mack’s infatuation with Angelica is causing him to lurk around in the square for a rendezvous that never happens because Piero is sulking after the arrival of the late Duke’s cousin so forbids anyone to go outside. Meanwhile Leonardo is working on his shell which also fires a cannon- clearly a protoype tank. Jonathan Bailey manages to make a tortoise interesting as he energetically explains his notion to all and sundry with the zeal of an inventor. Then, when his first demo goes wrong, the nature of the episode turns. Suddenly he is facing execution and the already good episode becomes even better. There is a confidence about the way the interweaving storylines are fuelling each other and Piero’s threats always feels palpable and real. This episode seems to have been filmed during particularly good South African weather giving a feeling of heat and sunlight that almost spills out of the television.

Don' t try this at home

`By the Sword` is a well packaged episode that draws together several plots including Leonardo’s construction of the war machine, Mack’s continued pursuit of  Angelica and the arrival of a somewhat presumptuous swordsman Pirelli willing to take on allcomers. There are some surprising developments- including Lisa’s true identity being rumbled by Angelica as well as a well essayed clash between Leo and Verrochio over the former’s hijacking of the workshop for his war project. The subplot of the respect between the apprentice and his `maestro` is one that many series would be unconcerned with but not for the first time this season a handful of perfectly rendered moments between Jonathan Bailey and James Cunningham bring a real mature, almost adult touch to proceedings and show how Leonardo still has things to learn but that there are changes in the way they interact. Having been a little underserved in the plot department this year, Flora Spencer Longhurst excels when `Tom` challenges Pirelli to a duel and the end result is excitingly delivered.

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