Da Vinci’s Demons has been the unexpected highlight of the last three months. The life of one Leonardo da Vinci given a mysterious new age spin which turns an already fascinating historical concept into compelling TV. Though only eight episodes, there’s a compelling cast: Julian Bashir from DS9, Casanova’s sidekick, Sherlock’s Woman, Daddy Boleyn from The Tudors and so lesser known faces who we come to love over the course of this first season.
The premise is simple. Leo is a genius in a world of idiots, he can watch birds in flight and deduce how to replicate their motions in metal, he can use an amputated hand to work out where it’s owner lies imprisoned in a hostile castle. Oh and he’s sleeping with the official mistress of his boss, Lorenzo de Medici. Oh and said mistress is also spying for Rome.
I confess a particular thing for historical series, I’ve done The Borgias, the Tudors and am quite looking forward to The White Queen but Da Vinci’s Demons does it for me simply because it’s not just about Leo’s inventions or his personal life. No, it’s about a myth arc which sees him hunting for a mysterious tome called the Book of Leaves. Along the way, he meets Dracula and a mysterious Turk who represents the Sons of Mithras. Leo has moments where he talks with dead men outside of time and everything seems to conspire to lead him on an epic quest which is interwoven with his life in mediaeval Florence.
Ah Florence. Every episode it’s hard not to imagine Ezio da Auditore appearing to save the day – which was a reoccurring thought each time I watched The Borgias. The city is haunting and filled with a mix of characters driven by their own whims. Yet it’s not without violence and Da Vinci’s Demons metes out horror with scenes of sex and mysticism with a carefully balanced measure.
But it’s the music that does it for me. The score is done by musical maestro Bear McCreary who also did BSG, The Walking Dead and Defiance. His score here – which I’ve been listening to for the last couple of weeks – is haunting, historical and magical. When mixed with rotoscoping during Leo’s more inspirational moments, something truly beautiful is created which makes you realise da Vinci is no ordinary man.
A second season has already been confirmed and hopefully it’s going to be a little longer. Like Game of Thrones, anything less than ten episodes just feels too short but like HBO’s series, less is sometimes more. This is true televisual quality over quantity and worth every minute of it so the next time you have a free afternoon, I urge you to check it you, to open your mind to the river and try to swim upstream.