TV REVIEW: Da Vinci’s Demons – Season 1
Show: Da Vinci’s Demons
Starring: Tom Riley, Laura Haddock, Elliot Cowan, Lara Pulver & Blake Ritson
Blockbuster drama from David S. Goyer, co-writer of The Dark Knight trilogy. This historical fantasy drama is not for the faint-hearted. Sex, scandal, intrigue, murder, mystery and an exciting quest all set against the lavish back drop of 15th Century Florence combine to unravel the truth and lies, religion and reason, past and future.
We meet 25 year old genius Leonardo Da Vinci in the city of Florence; a city of freethinking and freedom from the dogmatic control of the Vatican. But all is not well; the assassination of the Duke of Milan threatens the strength of Florence which Vatican mean to exploit.
Leonardo finds himself quickly caught up in Florence’ political war with the Vatican. Commissioned to build Florence an arsenal like no other to defend her, he finds himself face to face with Girolamo Riario, an enemy on more than one battlefield; challenging Florence with the supremecy of The Vatican & the Holy Father as well as challenging Leonardo in the hunt for the mysterious Book of Leaves.
Loosely based on some historical fact, a fantastical legend is created here. It’s not an original concept to use the figure of Leonardo Da Vinci; look at Assassins Creed and the Da Vinci code, but quite a novel one none the less. The main story arc is rather tangled involving a lot of key players in a complex political struggle for power, however the mini episode-long story arcs unravel this story nicely as well as give us some sort of mystery or mini plot, allowing the casual viewer to dip in as and when they please.
Unlike the top TV shows of 2013 Da Vinci’s Demons doesn’t take itself as seriously; its packed with more legend and fiction than historical fact, and although parts of it are dark, it’s fun at the same time. The contrast of characters will always leave you loving and hating someone in this cacophony of heroes, villains, bastards and beauties.
Some of the characters would be worthy of a place in the Borgias or Game of Thrones, especially the ‘bad guy’ Girolamo Riario. The unhinged sociopath with a silver tongue played by Blake Ritson of west end fame portrays this malicious, unforgiving yet charming creature; a perfect Dr. Moriarty to Tom Riley’s Leonardo. Although he isn’t the puppet master of the ‘Bad guys’, he is defiantly the Devil of this show.
In contrast the ‘good guy’, Leonardo Da Vinci can only be described as an arsehole. Genius & visionary, yes, but also an arrogant, promiscuous tosser, giving Tom Riley right job on his hands to make us love him. He’s fun, eccentric and entertaining which keeps us engaged with his genius, much like Hugh Laurie’s House, or Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock.
The use of language attempts to portray the fundamentals of some sort of class system. Where the rulers and high born folk have a crisp accent and prim and proper use of language, the small folk and artisans of Florence posses a more common tongue more akin to modern day use of speech, which highlights the Florentine attitude towards freethinking and progression.
Set in 15th Century Italy, producers BBC Worldwide use filming locations in Wales, mainly Port Talbot, to create the rustic rural backdrops for scenes. The vast CGI cityscapes, which aren’t all that impressive… would be more fitting in an Assassins Creed video game rather than a live action TV show.
The CGI in other areas of the show however are short, simple and serve a purpose other than setting a scene. For example in the fifth episode we witness an imprisoned Leonardo devise an elusive escape plan in which the CGI effects are employed to emphasise small aspects of his ramblings. These effects are nothing but small on screen sketches that highlight ideas & thought processes, similar to those used in BBC’s Sherlock.
If you enjoy this show, you might enjoy Game of Thrones, coming to the end of its third season on Sky Atlantic, and if you enjoy the fictional subject matter, try Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons and the Da Vinci Code as well as the Assassins Creed novelizations by Oliver Bowden.
Check it out on Fox (UK) Friday nights at 10pm & will be available on Blu Ray and DVD from 28th October 2013