The third season DVD set of Da Vinci’s Demons may lack bonus features, but it does contain the final ten episodes of one of the best and most imaginative television series on premium cable. Without losing any of its quality, it shifts from swashbuckling fun into a gripping drama.
Over the first two seasons of Da Vinci’s Demons, Leonardo Da Vinci was portrayed by Tom Riley as a man who couldn’t stop thinking about –and attempting to create – all kinds of wonders. He even strapped Nico Machiavelli into a set of wings and pulled him into the sky like a kite.
Throughout the first two seasons, though, there were undercurrents of darkness as a mysterious character known as the Turk (Alexander El Fadig) enlisted Da Vinci’s aid in finding the Book of Leaves – which, he said, would lead Da Vinci to his long lost mother. The search led to the New World, but ultimately, Da Vinci destroyed the book so that it would not fall into the wrong hands and returned to Italy.
In his absence, Pope Sixtus (James Faulkner) had placed onerous sanctions on Florence that Lorenzo De Medici, Da Vinci’s patron, has been unable to have lifted – until an outside threat forced them untie.
The third season opens with Da Vinci and Lorenzo (Elliot Cowan) in Otranto where it’s hoped that his war machines will turn back an invasion by the Ottoman Empire. After a brief success, things go horribly wrong when it appears that the Ottoman Empire has acquired the designs of Da Vinci’s inventions and have even refined them. Now they are turned on Otranto.
Meanwhile, in Rome, a series of murders (in which the bodies are displayed in a reversal of Christ’s position on the cross) have the Pope enraged – but hope arrives in the form of Da Vinci who will work with Rome to defeat the Ottoman invasion if the Pope will finance the building of new weapons. The Pope agrees if Da Vinci will solve the murders – and acknowledge him as Christ’s representative on Earth.
Back in Florence, Nico (Eros Vlahos) and Vanessa (Hera Hilmer) play the political game to keep Florence united and functioning in the face of both the Ottoman threat and empty coffers. While Vanessa shames the city’s council into action, Nico begins to display the political acumen – and deviousness – that would make him a legend.
The third season of Da Vinci’s Demons finds Leonardo beset on all fronts: the deaths of his mother and his patron’s wife; the betrayal by the Turk; the Ottoman Invasion; his capture and torture by the Sons of Man – all place him in more danger than he has ever faced.
Though there are moments of humor and wit sprinkled judiciously throughout, the kind of swashbuckling fun found in the first two seasons would be out of place here – and so it is dispensed with.
What doesn’t change is the quality and ingenuity of the writing, the exceptional performances by the principal cast and the imagination and genius of Da Vinci.
While the series’ final home video set is a bare bones set – containing only the season’s ten episodes – it is definitely worth the money as it leaves Leonardo at just the point where his life becomes more known to history (and with his greatest works still ahead).
Final Grade: A
Da Vinci photo courtesy of Starz