Why You Should be Watching Da Vinci’s Demons
Da Vinci's Demons on STARZ just wrapped up its first season, and has been renewed for a second! Want to know what you're missing with Man Of Steel writer David Goyer's historical adventure series?
It can be argued that this is the golden age of genre television. It seems every network, from the big four, to basic cable, to the pay channels are offering up some interesting genre TV to keep fans glued to their couches seemingly every night. With Spartacus, STARZ got into the game in a big way. Their offering of unflinching violence and almost constant sex offered a ballsy foray into the genre market and fans responded. Now, with Spartacus finished, STARZ has turned to Da Vinci’s Demons to keep fans tuned in. To strike gold once again, they turned to David S. Goyer, co-writer of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight films, the upcoming Man of Steel, and the Blade films (and, evidently, the Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D TV movie starring The Hoff, if you can believe that). The show is unapologetic fun fraught with energy, action, intrigue, horror, and sex. It has elements of Doctor Who, Sherlock, and even a little bit of Game of Thrones in its veins, while retaining its own identity as a gutsy and smart actioner that makes an hour go by very quickly.Da Vinci’s Demons is a period piece that plays fast and loose with history. It never claims to be accurate; instead, it never flinches from the sex and violence that made Spartacus so popular. Of course, Da Vinci’s Demons focuses on action, plot twists and character to make this a compelling viewing experience. It’s more James Bond than History Channel, and that’s a good thing for Goyer and company. The show centers on Leonardo Da Vinci as he is caught in a power struggle between the Medici family and the Roman Catholic Church.The Church wants Europe to maintain a certain degree of fear of the unknown and Dark Ages superstition so they can retain control of a populace gradually shifting to the arts and practical sciences. The historical Medici family were patrons of artists and thinkers who wanted to ask the one question the Church was afraid to answer: “why?” Da Vinci is the greatest thinker in the Renaissance world, and as such is a natural rebel. He sees beauty in all things, and to him, nothing is forbidden. He lives strictly in the material world, if he can’t see it, it simply doesn’t exist. As such, he is the natural enemy to the church and an ally to the Medici family. Added to this is a vast historical conspiracy about an ancient race of thinkers all but wiped out from the annals of history. In an early episode of the series, DaVinci meets a mystic Turk who tells him he is a descendant of that rumored race which is why the artist’s mind can see naturally hidden patterns so easily.Ah, but David S. Goyer is a cunning writer, and he personalizes Da Vinci’s journey, preventing it from becoming so much mystic claptrap. If Da Vinci survives the machinations of the Church and other enemies, he will find the answer to who his mother is and why she abandoned him. To solve this, Da Vinci must find the Book of Leaves, as it will help him unravel the truth of the rumored race of mystics and the truth about his mother.Da Vinci and the Church engage in a war of attrition to find the Book, which functions as a pretty impressive MacGuffin. The Church wants it to hide the truths that would make people question the Church’s omnipotence. This makes DaVinci and the Medici family somewhat reluctant allies. Let’s meet some of the major players and examine their roles in the show, shall we?Zoroaster (Greg Chillin): The bro in the first Renaissance bromance, Zoroaster is Da Vinci’s go to guy when he needs to spring into action. Zoroaster is a thief, con man, actor, and sexual deviant who is fiercely loyal to Da Vinci. He has no use for science and art but represents the passion and personal freedom the Renaissance offered. Zoroaster wants to wile his time away bedding ladies and getting drunk, but he’s willing to put it all aside when his pal comes calling. He provides needed comic relief and is always good for a bawdy quip or two. He’ll do anything for Da Vinci without complaint and is a man of instinct, a perfect balance to Da Vinci’s analytical mind. Also, Zoroaster is somewhat of a mentor to Nico, as Da Vinci teaches the boy the potential of the mind, Zoroaster teaches him the potential of the heart.Nico Machiavelli (Eros Vlahos): Loyal sidekick to both Da Vinci and Zoraster, Nico is a cunning young man willing to do anything to help his friends and mentors. At one point, Nico would not succumb to Church torture and betray Da Vinci, showing that his devotion to his friends is almost religious in nature. He learns high level thinking from Da Vinci and high level debauchery from Zoroaster. Enemies often underestimate Nico, dismissing him as helpless or ignorant, often to their peril.Lucrezia Donati (Laura Haddock): Listen, it’s worth tuning into STARZ every week just to bask in the glory of Haddock’s stunning classical beauty. Lucrezia is the seduction of Florence. She is the mistress of Lorenzo de’ Medici and the lover of Leonardo Da Vinci. She uses her sexuality to serve her own gains. She controls Lorenzo as his passion for her beauty knows no bounds. Lorenzo hires Da Vinci to paint Lucrezia which brings Leo and the Midicis into contact for the first time. Lucrezia also serves as a spy for the Church, not a religious woman; Lucrezia does so to serve her own mysterious agenda. She is the show’s wild card, and viewers will be so mesmerized by her beauty, they won’t expect the knife behind her back. And since this is STARZ, Lucrezia bathes a lot.Lorenzo de’ Medici (Eliott Cowan): Lorenzo is equal parts sincere in helping advance Europe into scientific and artistic enlightenment and power hungry. Lorenzo wants to control Florence because, in his heart, he feels that’s the only way Florence will be led away from Church bred superstition into a new age of reason. He is as consumed by power as he is by his passion for Lucrezia. He is at first is wary of Da Vinci but soon sees the artist’s methods and cunning weapon designs will help him keep Florence from falling under the control of the Church. Politically savvy and a futurist, Medici sees a new day for Europe and Florence, one where he will hold the key to the future. Medici serves as a symbol of a new Europe, one where savvy politicians not afraid of their own appetites rule over the clergy.Clarice Orsini (Lara Pulver): Wife to Lorenzo, Clarice tolerates her husband’s affairs as long as it doesn’t disgrace the family name. Clarice is as politically shrewd as Lorenzo and loyal to Florence and she serves as a perfect balance to her husband. While she is a deeply religious woman, her wit and futuristic political ideals serve her husband well as she is often whispering strategy into his ear.Giuliano Medici (Tom Bateman): At first, Giuliano is everything Da Vinci is not. He is limited by social convention and is not learned. Giuliano is jealous of the favor that his brother gives to Da Vinci, and is not dazzled by the artist’s intellect live everyone else. Despite all this, Giuliano is brave and loyal to his family and a fierce fighter. He soon opens his heart to Da Vinci’s world and falls for Vanessa. While not a Renaissance thinker, Giuliano is far from stupid and his heart and instinct helps his family.Vanessa (Hera Hilmar): Vanessa is perfect example of the duality of theology versus humanism that exemplified the Renaissance. Vanessa was raised in a convent, but after Da Vinci rescued her at a young age, she allows herself to explore her instinct, sensuality, and passions. She is a loyal ally to Da Vinci and a thoroughly modern woman who embraces every aspect of the Age of Reason. She rejects the Church and strict religious thought and wants to experience beauty and sensuality in all forms. She starts an affair with Giuliano but makes it clear that she is in it for physical experience not romantic notions of love.Andrea del Verrocchio (Allan Corduner): Da Vinci’s mentor and father figure, del Verrocchio provides a worldly counterpoint to Da Vinci’s often rash impulses. He is a brilliant engineer and artist, and is proud that his pupil has completely surpassed him.Al-Rahim aka: “The Turk” (Alexander Sidding): The expository source of all things, Al-Rahim is an ethereal and enigmatic figure who connects Da Vinci back to his past and his missing mother. The Book of Leaves, the lost race of ancient scholars, all stem from Al-Rahim’s drug induced tales. It is not clear if “The Turk” is actually real or a figure of Da Vinci’s hyperactive, fevered mind.Cardinal Francesco Della Rovere, Pope Sixtus IV (James Faulkner): A brutal killer who believes he is God; Sixtus is a mystic who wants all of Europe to bend to his will. Sixtus’ dream is to crush the Ottoman Empire, but to do so, he must bend a newly humanist Europe to his will starting with Florence. At first he dismisses Da Vinci, but soon sees him as a useful tool in helping the Church secure power. Completely without morals, Sixtus is almost animalistic in nature, and obsessed with debauchery and power.Lord Girolamo Riario (Blake Ritson): As devoted to the Church as Da Vinci is to reason, Riaro is Da Vinci’s most dangerous enemy. Cruel and robotic, his mind is a perfect counterpoint to Da Vinci. While Da Vinci can be distracted by fevered fits of emotion, Riaro’s expression almost never changes as he goes about his wet work for the Church. Riaro tortured Nico, and is a constant threat to the Age of Reason. He sees the Medici family as an example of the moral decline of Europe and will do anything to destroy them. He is the bastard son of Sixtus and would do anything to prove his worth to his father. With these players in place, Da Vinci’s Demons weaves its tale of history, morality, passion, humanism, and betrayal. The show does not shy away from themes of homosexuality, as in one episode Da Vinci is accused of sodomy and refuses to dispute the charges because the act, in his opinion, should not be seen as wrong. Da Vinci’s sees pleasure in beauty and is almost beyond the limits of gender constraints. He is a sensualist willing to try anything to bring himself to a perfect level of the human experience.The show does a great job incorporating Da Vinci’s real life designs into the action. Famous designs seen in Da Vinci’s own journals make it into the show as he serves as his own Q, making gadgets and devices to help him to defeat the Church and on his quest to find his mother. The show used his famous hang glider, his diving suit, and a myriad of guns and other explosives to help him defeat overwhelming odds. Da Vinci fears the consequences of what his weapons will mean for the future world, and as a futurist, envisions the day where battlefields will be filled with his terrible designs.Da Vinci’s Demons keeps it ambiguous about whether demons and mysticism are real. After all, this isn’t a documentary, it’s a fun, action filled, sexy drama, with a modern hero existing in ancient times. And Da Vinci fights Dracula…if that doesn’t sell the show to you nothing will. 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