Medici, The Magnificent (2018) 

Reviewer: Charity Bishop

The Renaissance shaped Europe’s history in profound ways, a culture that created and encouraged artistic developments in art, music, and literature. A handful of names shine in this era, including the Medici family.

When his father escapes an assassination attempt alive but injured, young Lorenzo (Daniel Sharman) must take over the family business. His mother pushes him to step forward and assume power over his father’s bank, in dire financial straits since the Pope may pull their loan and their creditors have not paid. In hopes of furthering their Roman alliances, she arranges his marriage to the beautiful young Clarice (Synnove Karlson), but feels stymied since Clarice wants to devote her life to Christ and become a nun.

Meanwhile, Lorenzo indulges his passions with his mistress, the exquisite but married Lucrezia Donati (Alessandra Mastronardi). His wayward brother Giuliano (Bradley James) sets his romantic heart upon a fair-faced maiden, and his sister threatens to run away with her lover, from a rival family. While Lorenzo wrestles with his conscience and his desire to improve Florence, his enemies, which include Jacop de Pazzi (Sean Bean) move against them in a bloodbath that shocks history.

I can be difficult to please with historical fiction, but this series is good. It’s not excellent, because it’s only eight episodes and the pacing doesn’t allow for a huge amount of character development. I would have appreciated more time to see the relationships develop, but the series is more about political scheming than intimacy. It tries to mirror Game of Thrones but makes the same mistake of too many side characters without enough screen time. But what they do have, is good. Lorenzo is a likable man even though he’s a hypocrite (he desperately wants to do good, and please God, yet sees nothing wrong with adultery). The supporting characters have less personality, but the series creates a lot of dramatic tension, especially in the fantastic last two episodes.

The costuming is beautiful if not always accurate, but more important are the sets and artistic backdrop. Florence at this time was all about the arts, and it’s a delight to see the stories involve in magnificent old cathedrals and beneath elaborate Frescos. A famous painter features heavily in several episodes, with mentions of Leonardo (Da Vinci) and others. One thing they included that I loved was the period-authentic trend of painting family faces into elaborate Christian murals. In this case, Lorezo is one of the “wise men” off to visit the baby Jesus, symbolism his family hopes in his childhood will remind him of his need to “lead” the family and step forward when his father and grandfather (the other two wise men) fall behind. The flashbacks between modern and memories are well-done. And though it can get tawdry at times, they’ve used restraint in the content (TV14). I’ll watch it again – at a slower pace this time. It’s a story that needs to settle in the mind, not a binge-watch.

Sexual Content:
Adulterous trysts. A half dozen sex scenes (obscured, or largely non-graphic), often with partial nudity (no nipples, but backside nudity, side views of breasts, etc).
 
Language:
Mild. Occasional slurs (bastard, bloody, God's blood, etc).
 
Violence:
Many men die from being stabbed, sometimes repeatedly (on-screen); others are hanged (we hear their necks break). General violence in the streets. Assassination attempts. Not much blood.

 
Other:
Open marriages, a man justifies his adultery.