• Review - Da Vinci's Demons Season 2

    Single Issue XV

    Da Vinci's Demons Season 2 (2014)

    Please feel free to read my review of Season 1

    Florence has been attacked and the Medici family is on the run. While the Pazzi seek to bring an end to Medici rule in Florence, the Enemies of Man and the Sons of Mithras seek the Book of Leaves and to exploit the growing tensions in Italy. All Italy is under threat of the machinations of Rome, the two secret societies, and the rising Ottomans in the East. And at the center of it all is Leonardo Da Vinci. His quest now brings him to the shores of America, to find the Book of Leaves' last known location...

    Like with the very first season of this wonderful show, it must be said that this Da Vinciís Demons is more historical fantasy than historical fiction. What this means is that the show uses history as a guide, but takes many different deviations than typical historical fiction would allow. These deviations are to the showís benefit, in my opinion, as it allows the makers to explore the possibilities within the time period, as well as allow for some more fantastical elements to be present in the series. Leonardo remains at the center of most of these large changes, but there are many other large changes as well. The biggest would have to be the simple fact that Leonardo and company visit the New World years before Columbus visits the area. They even take Amerigo Vespucci with them! But they soon discover that they are not the first ones to have been there either, further complicating the historical nature of the show. It is nonetheless an interesting development for the series that continues to defy history when it comes to telling a good story.

    Returning to the second season is great acting and mostly interesting characters. Tom Riley, who returns as Da Vinci, once again turns in a stellar performance as the polymath, portraying him in this re-imagining of history with gusto and fun craziness. He continues to brings a lot of energy and charisma to the role, and is easily the standout of the whole series. Blake Ritson also shines as Riario once again, and with his story giving Ritson plenty of material to turn in a wonderful performance that manages to exceed his first season outing. While Ritson and Riley are the clear standouts, the rest of the cast are exceptional as well, hampered only by their annoying or uninteresting storylines. Newcomer Lee Boardman turns in a fantastic if out of place performance as Amerigo Vespucci, while fellow newbie Ray Fearon does well as the mysterious Carlo de Medici. There are no serious weakpoints in the acting this season, with even the weaker actors improving their craft between the two seasons. It is a shame that much of the fantastic performances are overshadowed by Ritson and Riley, but that does not take away from the hard work and effort that they put into creating or refining their characters for the second season around. The only minor issue continues to be Lucrezia, but that is more of an effect of the writing rather than Laura Haddock's acting. More on that later.

    The production values improve over the first season as well. Though the production designers take many liberties with things such as costumes, that does not mean that they are being lazy with their work. Easily the most intriguing costumes come from the South American setting, and while they have little to no basis in reality (not unlike the whole storyline) it is clear that much care, time, and money went into making them. The world of the show is even better looking this time around as well. All three major settings (Italy, South America, and the Ottoman Empire) are all fantastically creating with great sets and amazing CGI. Luckily this time around, there are few if any visual shortcomings, perhaps the lessons of the first season leading to the producers having a larger budget and knowing what to do with it.

    The story in the second season has improved on the foundation set by season one, and is easily the most entertaining part of the whole season. While the first couple of episodes serves as a kind of epilogue for the first season by wrapping up the rebelling of the Pazzi and its effects, the story quickly moves on to the larger conspiracy that is taking shape within Italy and beyond. Leonardoís quest for the artifact known as the Book of Leaves this takes him as well as others across the globe to South America, and while it would be fun to spoil the rest of it, I can say that he finds something much more important to him there while making contact with the natives. Along the way you get some fantastic character development not only from Leonardo and his friends but also from Riario, who makes an uneasy alliance with Da Vinci while they are in the New World. Riarioís development is fascinating, as he begins to question his own loyalties and the motivations of those he holds as friends and enemies. My only complaint about Riario's development this season is that it feels like everything that he strived to accomplish is thrown out by the end of the season. But more on that later.

    Beyond that you have the evolving story in Italy with Lorenzo traveling to look for allies against the ever hostile Rome while his wife Clarice watches over Florence. While much of the Italian storyline is interesting throughout the season much of it also feels like filler, and while the acting remains top notch I feel the story lags considerably throughout much of the Italian parts of the story. Itís not that it is awful, but it just is not as intriguing as Leonardoís quest in my opinion. The side stories just are not as interesting to me as they were in the first season. The worst part of the story tends to be Lucretia, though her personal journey to the Ottoman Empire ends up being far more important to Da Vinciís quest than the show led on. Luckily the story is saved somewhat by the machinations of Rome as they continue to try to gain control of Florence. And once Leonardo rejoins the series back in Italy, the story picks up once again, though it is a bit late. The union of all the plotlines, in my opinion, saves the season from being a confusing and somewhat chaotic mess. Despite these shortcomings, I still find the second seasonís story to be vastly superior to the first overall, and it feels much more coherent.

    Like the first season, I cannot think of anything major to complain about in regards to the sophomore season of Da Vinciís Demons. The acting continues to be superb in many regards, the action was decent and provided reasonable entertainment, the story was intriguing, and the characters were interesting. The new characters, despite some issues i have with how their stories were handled, still provide new opportunities for storytelling. The music remains superb as well, with Bear McCreary once again producing stunning songs that are used quite well throughout the series. Easily my favorite tracks are ďFlorence Under SiegeĒ and "The Fuse", the first carrying on the thematic elements left at the end of season 1 and carries the opening of the season to magnificent heights, while the second helps ends the season in a superb and heartbreaking fashion. Overall, it's just as good as the first while improving steadily upon the foundations of the previous season.

    It is not a *perfect* show by any stretch of the imagination, unfortunately. There are several issues that prevent the second season from achieving greatness. Most of them are minor, but there are some worthy of discussion. One issue is how Da Vinci manages to come up with solutions to his problems, inventing unlikely devices and building them far too quickly. This is not a huge problem but it is an issue that has carried over from the first season and one that I had hoped would have been fixed with showing the stuff being built or at least showing a passage of time. I do have some smaller, more minor issues with the story. As already mentioned, I have some issues with the storyline for Clarice, her running of Florence, and her affair with Lorenzo's half brother, but it is not a major problem for the pacing or course of the series. Additionally I did not really like the addition of the Ottoman storyline as that tends to cause too many problems even within the fantastical nature of the show. Primarily this issue revolves around an Ottoman invasion into Italy, which is just too big of an historical event to fictionalize for the show in my opinion, and whose consequences will not be resolved until the next season. It does not help that the Ottoman storyline and invasion is tied directly into Lucrezia's actions and storyline, which has been the weakest point of both seasons so far. Finally, of course, the second ends in a massive cliffhanger that is infuriating to have to wait for.

    Regardless, Da Vinciís Demons remains a very entertaining series. It has a great and fun overall story and great characters, and I can still see this series going on for many years. The atmosphere and design are superb, adding much to the cinematic world-building of the series. The whole season is quite wonderful, and the second season further builds this neat little world that Starz and the producers have crafted for the audience. Everything considered, the series still feels like a long theatrical performance, and I look forward to watching season 3 and seeing where the story goes.

    Comments 6 Comments
    1. Gigantus's Avatar
      Gigantus -
      I did enjoy this season - and agree that the Ottomans were somewhat out of place. The 'death by lightning' of a chunk of their army was a tad too far out, as much as I love the fiction in this series.

      Totally enjoyed the South America part of the story line.

      Thanks for a great review.
    1. Alwyn's Avatar
      Alwyn -
      I agree that this is a great review! I have not seen this series, but your review makes me want to watch it. You make an interesting point about the series choosing to 'defy history when it comes to telling a good story' (nicely put). I don't mind writers changing history when it makes an interesting story.
    1. ♔Greek Strategos♔'s Avatar
      ♔Greek Strategos♔ -
      Ι also haven't seen Season 2 yet. I'm planning to do it though.
      Thanks for your review.
    1. alhoon's Avatar
      alhoon -
      Actually I dropped the series near the end of this season. 1st season was irking me but I could tolerate it. South America was pushing it. Random stuff with the Ottomans broke the camel's back, I dropped the series and never looked back.
    1. Majkl's Avatar
      Majkl -
      I wish they kept producing more seasons. I was not fun of South America tho. But it was very interesting to watch Riarios character development.
    1. TheDarkKnight's Avatar
      TheDarkKnight -
      Out of the three seasons I felt this season was easily the best.

      It could have been a better show imo but in the end it was really entertaining.