Da Vinci's Demons, Season Two (2014)
Reviewer: Charity Bishop
I am both put off and intrigued by this show, which takes a chunk out of history but then invents fantastical events to frame around it, involving mysticism, inventions centuries ahead of their time, and a leading character thirsting for new ideas.
Florence is in chaos after the attempt on the lives of the Medici brothers. One is dead, but Lorenzo (Eliott Cowen) survives, aided by a risky blood-transfusion by Leonardo Da Vinci (Tom Riley). With the streets teeming with violence and their adversaries on the high ground, Lorenzo's wife Clarice (Lara Pulver) struggles to hold on to power. Quickly, and with the assistance of one of Da Vinci's many inventions, Lorenzo reclaims power and executes his enemies, but their open defiance of canon law infuriates the Pope. He uses the public hanging of Clarice's traitor brother, a bishop of the church, to excommunicate Florence and forbid trade.
In a desperate attempt to reestablish ties with the neighboring kingdoms, Lorenzo risks his life to embark on a dangerous mission to Navarre. He leaves his wife in control of Florence, including authority over the infamous Medici bank, but she soon realizes that most of the officials are against her. Da Vinci meanwhile commandeers a ship to follow his strange pull toward a mystical island, where a sacred truth will be found... if he can survive the potentially cannibalistic natives. Lorenzo's former mistress Lucrezia (Laura Haddock) continues to scheme toward the release of her father from his imprisonment, while the Pope intends to eradicate them all.
Putting aside the usual smut, this season is solid storytelling but does founder a bit in the middle. Once Da Vinci reaches the island, the pace seems to slow and elsewhere, things become quite predictable. (It's an old trope that two people who mistrust and even dislike one another will inevitably wind up in an affair.) As usual, this is history-lite, with the fantastical overriding established facts about all these people, the events unfolding around them, and their individual fates. The series' strength lies in its creativity and its interesting characters, but a lot of the secondary figures are colorless. Lucrezia continues to be an evasive figure, her motivations and intentions so well hidden that it's impossible to get a sense of who she actually is. It is not bad writing, just ... preoccupied writing, playing out on a broad scale that doesn't allow for much character development, and a lot of what is involved seems purely for shock value rather than plot advancement. If people's decisions do not always make sense, something is amiss in the storytelling.
As usual, the production design and costuming is exquisite, and the cast is magnificent. Subplots continue to entwine in and out, allowing us to know more about the Medici's in particular, who are fascinating in their own right, and as usual, it ends on an ominous cliffhanger... hoping the audience will come back for more.
A dozen graphic sex scenes (including nudity); several rapes, implied rapes, and threatened rapes; full frontal nudity on a couple of occasions, references to past homosexual relationships.
Hundreds of f-words, uses of crude terms for body parts (c*nt), occasional abuse of Jesus' name, other profanities.
War, murder, and chaos; men are brutally tortured, flogged, and executed; blood spurts as heads are bashed in (literally, until there is nothing left but a bloody stump), throats are cut, men are stabbed, drowned, flogged, have body parts cut off, etc.