The Serpent is far more in The Borgias territory than any real form of fantasy, despite the various witterings about time being like a river in Leonardo’s dream at the start of the episode, and Leonardo assessing the construction of a building diagrammatically in his mind before launching himself onto a rope. It starts to move the various plotlines along, as Leonardo makes new enemies, annoys those he’s already got, and begins to look into the overarching mystery of the Book of Leaves.
Blake Ritson gets far more to do as the eponymous Serpent, trying various approaches to find out what Leonardo knows and get the better of Florence. Like some of the other actors, Ritson appreciates that the material is set in a heightened reality, and pitches his performance accordingly. This sets Tom Riley’s sometimes underplayed Leonardo off nicely.
There are some impressive set pieces – a chase and fight sequence, and Leonardo’s demonstrations of the weapon particularly – and some suitably nasty bits to emphasise Riario’s evil villainy, although the final revelation does make you wonder if the series is about to take off on a real flight of fancy.
Verdict: A solid episode which maintains the standard of the opener. 7/10