Anchor Bay Canada was kind enough to send me a copy of the first season of Da Vinci’s Demons, which was released on September 3. I was a little behind, even with our peripheral coverage of TIFF. But no sooner did I start this series when I was completely hooked.
From David S. Goyer, who has had his hands involved with both DC film properties of Batman and Superman, the series takes a look at the ‘hidden history’ of Leonardo Da Vinci. And whereas his treatment of Bruce and Clark left me a little cold, I really like what he and his team have done with the first season of this series.
Using green screen (sometimes a little shakily) some fantastic sets, beautiful costumes, attention to detail, fun and engaging stories that weave historical incidents, politics and brilliant inventions, and a stunningly attractive and talented cast, we join Leonardo (Tom Riley) as he gets drawn into a web of deceit, betrayals, family, class, sex and religion.
Combining the mysticism of both pagan and Christian religions, Leo is set on a path that is leading him to involvement with a Mithraic cult, while trying to protect his beloved city of Florence from the approaching conflict between the city’s rulers the Medici family and the Pope with the Catholic church in Rome.
As he seeks to find a mythical book called The Book of Leaves, he and his loyal assistant Nico (Eros Vlahos), rogue Zoroaster (Gregg Chillin) and a nun turned bar wench Vanessa (Hera Hilmar) find themselves drawn into the machinations of the world around them.
Seeking support from Lorenzo Medici (Elliot Cowan), who has yet to produce a male heir, for which he promises weapon designs to protect his beloved city, Leonardo seduces Medici’s own mistress Lucrezia (Laura Haddock).
The papal forces are personified not only by the pope himself (James Faulkner) but by his menacing right arm, Riario (Blake Ritson), as well as a spy hidden in the folds of the Medici household, funneling information back to Rome.
While dealing with all of that, Leo also has been suffering from visions, not only from his own childhood, but possibly portents of things to come, and while he may be joyous, cleverer than most, and enjoyable company in public, on his own, is thoughts and visions seem to endlessly torture him, because he is unable to turn his constantly cycling brain off. It never lets him rest.
And so, we race through the 8 episodes of season 1 at his side, watching alliances form, backs be stabbed, Leo’s brain at work, some brilliant inventions – the pipe organ canon, a human kite (it’s tough to pick a favorite) as well as some fascinating moments – a convent possessed by demons, an encounter with the legendary Dracula. The stories, as mentioned, weave in and out of actual historical incidents, while setting Leo on an expedition to find a mystical book of long forgotten knowledge.
(There’s a sequence wherein he breaks into the Secret Archives of the Vatican, and though it’s never seen smack dab on the center of the screen, nor is it acknowledged as such, but apparently that’s where the Ark of the Covenant is).
Airing on cable channels, this show embraces the freedom such a show can have, filled with language, violence and nudity, this is not a gentle, family-friendly escape to yesteryear, this is an adult show filled with adult subject matter, but still filled with its sense of fun, best personified by the series Tom Riley.
My only real quibble with the entire series is that despite the fact that the series is supposed to take place in Florence, everyone speaks with an English accent.
Beyond that, I loved it!
The Blu-Ray collection of the first series spaces the 8 episodes over 3 discs, the fist two of which also feature commentaries along with some of the episodes (something I always enjoy, because I love further insight into how a series or film is created) and then the final disc also has a collection of short little making-of featurettes, including an interview with the musician tagged with scoring the series, the very busy Bear McCreary.
The video and audio transfer looked and sounded fantastic on my home system, letting me enjoy all the attention to detail the show’s creators put into the series, I think I would have liked a little more in the way of making-of pieces, I would have happily sat through a 90 minute doc covering all aspects of the first season and learn how everything fits in with Leonardo’s real life… perhaps next season.
But for what it’s worth, the series has a new fan in me, and I will be eagerly awaiting Season 2!! Thank you Anchor Bay for hooking me on a show I didn’t even know existed!
Have you seen it?
Season 1 of Da Vinci’s Demons is available now.