Da Vinci's Demons "The Serpent" Review: Knowledge Is Power

Da Vinci's Demons S01E02: "The Serpent"

Artist, inventor, scientist... grave robber. Young Leonardo Da Vinci doesn't adhere to labels and doesn't let much get in the way of knowledge and exploration; Leo's all-or-nothing approach to bringing enlightenment to the masses puts him in conflict with pretty much everyone he encounters. But this week, in Da Vinci's Demons' follow-up to a delightful premiere (and it's worth noting that Starz has already renewed the series for a second season), Da Vinci ended up between a figurative rock and a hard place when a botched demonstration put him in poor favor with his patron, Lorenzo Medici, and his cheeky, free-thinking, grave-robbing ways did little to endear him to the Vatican and their attack dog, Girolamo Riario. With Lorenzo and Riario each crossing their fingers for the other to meet an unfortunate end, Da Vinci found himself in an uncomfortable position with each powerful figure trying to keep Da Vinci under their influence. On top of that, Leonardo also realized he'd banged his boss's mistress. Awkward. 

Lucrezia Donati kept most of her clothes on this week and expressed guilt over cheating on Lorenzo with Leonardo, despite the fact that her and Lorenzo's relationship isn't exactly a portrait of fidelity itself. She was shown to be working with Riario as a spy in the house of Medici, though her motivations for doing so remain unclear. It certainly doesn't appear to be out of any loyalty to Riario, who is kind of an all-around jerk despite his ties to the papacy's elite. I get the sense that these guys skipped the parts of the Bible about not being assholes. 

So, while Leonardo failed spectacularly at demonstrating a rapid-firing musket designed for the Medicis and received his very first deadline as a result of his shortcoming, Nico and Zoroaster dug up the dude who was hanged last week, on Da Vinci's orders. After a gore-fest autopsy, Da Vinci fished a coin, a fingernail, and an odd-looking key out of the dead guy's stomach and deduced that he'd hidden a book somewhere in Florence because Da Vinci is brilliant like that. In fact, everyone Da Vinci surrounds himself with seems to be on the higher end of the IQ spectrum, right down to Nico, his human guinea pig. When Riario realized that it was Nico who did the actual gravedigging and tortured him accordingly, Nico seemingly betrayed Da Vinci during the ordeal—at least it was just your hand they put in the box, Nico! 

But yeah, Nico spilled about the key and led Riario and his men to Da Vinci's workshop... where he promptly steered them to bust open Leo's booby-trapped trunk. You know, the one that explodes when you tamper with it. Nice one, Nico! And here I thought you were just, well, just a dum-dum. 

Despite suffering from the artist/inventor equivalent of writer's block due to his ongoing mommy issues, Da Vinci managed to successfully rebuild the musket he'd promised Lorenzo—with a little help from his mentor, Andrea de Verrocchio, and his own overwhelming desire to both avoid execution and continue his campaign of essentially trolling the hell out of anyone who stands in the way of knowledge, innovation, exploration and all that. He ultimately pledged his allegiance to the Medici family because despite their flaws, unlike Riario and "his ilk," the Medicis aren't trying to "suppress knowledge" and mold the world to their approval. Plus, he did it with the flair and spectacle of a guy who knows he's the smartest one in the room—and frankly, probably the city.

I thought the follow-up to Da Vinci's Demons' series premiere was more lighthearted and direct in a way that the pilot, while still strong enough to draw in an audience, was not. Notably missing was Starz's signature over-long sex scenes and honestly, they weren't missed. The time that was dedicated to moving the plot along served the episode well, giving Da VInci and his followers a more defined goal and a clearer philosophy that sets the tone for the rest of the inaugural season. The decision to make the bad guys agents of the Pope was somewhat risky in the sense that even though historically, Sixtus IV and his associates were pretty amazingly corrupt, there is the possibility of alienating those viewers who are less comfortable with rooting against the papacy, even in a fictional representation. 

Not gonna lie, the current stance that one can either be free-thinking or devout without much gray area in the middle had me momentarily pausing in mid-Da Vinci rant, but the whole point of Da Vinci's Demons is to imagine the activities of a young Leonardo Da Vinci, and young people, well, they tend to make philosophical mistakes from time to time. Someday, Leonardo Da Vinci will be a sage gray Gandalf type with all of the wisdom a lifetime full of enlightenment, adventure, and indulging in the best parts of your imagination can grant you, but for now, he's kind of a mischievous punk-ass who knows he's smarter than everyone else and doesn't shy away from showing it off. 

With his life and service to the Medici family once again on solid ground following his successful demonstration of the musket, Da Vinci set his sights on deciphering the code he knew had to be in the book the hanged man had hidden. Tearing out the pages, he arranged them on the floor and hoisted himself into the air to see the resulting picture from a birds-eye view. One of his assistants declared that it was a map of a "land that didn't exist"—or, you know, South America, which hasn't been discovered yet. Iiiiinteresting. 

Has any of you made Da Vinci's Demons a regular part of their Friday-night schedule? What did you think of "The Serpent"?


NOTES


– I was going to be an ass and start a boob count, but there really weren't any on display this week. Womp womp. 

– What's Lucrezia's motive for working with Riario?

– At first, when Da Vinci wasted Riario's men in order to demonstrate to Lorenzo how his musket worked, I was kind of horrified because he's supposed to be the good guy and that was COLD. I was relieved to see he seemed to feel bad about it after the fact. 

– Lorenzo passively calling Riario a snake with his sexed-up retelling of the Garden of Eden was masterful. 

– Man, the opening credits for this show are mesmerizing. 

– So, South America, eh? Theories?

Comments (75)
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This show is surprisingly entertaining, and I actually do enjoy the mixed modern style, despite finding it annoying in other shows like BBC's Robin Hood and Merlin. I like the occasional drawings that illustrate his thought process (in a kinda Sherlock way), and strangely it compliments my weekend viewings of The Borgias and GoT - all the different kinds of intrigue and plottingks against each other is fun. :P
Never doubt that people might learn some things in all the unexpected ways. How many viewers googled/wikied about the real Leonardo da Vinci since starting on this show? I even read up about Abraham Lincoln after watching Vampire Hunter. Just saying. Sure the show's on its own track, but it doesn't mean we might not pick up some real facts along the way.
Everyone who's nitpicking about all the wrongness of this show, just stop watching. Sorry, but it's only the second ep and if you feel so strongly about it, clearly they mean to take more liberties in the future. As it is, why are you even surprised? It's Starz, not HBO or BBC or any other network where writers might push for a more historical biopic style. It's Starz and we know that's not their focus, so why get angry about something they never claimed they were trying to do? Hell, even the name of the show should be some indication. I mean nitpicking about things like accents? Really? Should we just have all of them speak in an Italian dialect with subtitles?
As it is, historical events/people have always been bastardized, even the ones claiming to be documentaries or similar, there's usually a point of view, or specific events are highlighted. I know it's appalling but I would even question what the average person knows about Da Vinci beyond...er....he invented/painted stuff? I have a sickening feeling that a younger generation may not even know he existed. Have we become such sticklers that we can't enjoy a show for entertainment purposes?
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I am loving this series... going to visit Leonardo Da Vinci museum in Milan in two weeks... love this period work, and find the script enthralling.. just like a drama should be!
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I think I will make this a regular part of my viewing if the quality stays at this level. It's not quite what I expected it to be, and I like what they've been doing with this book of leaves or whatever it is conspiracy thing. I really do not want it to get too religion vs. anti-religion because that will just irritate and it has been done before, but for the time being, I am okay with the papacy's "involvement" with the conspiracy. But I don't want any sort of "the Pope is evil and behind the plot to keep the entire world dumb" thing, because that will not go over well with me. Plus, there's "The Borgias" if we want to watch a show about a completely conniving papacy. Keep this show on Da Vinci, his inventions, et al. Don't go too much into the religious hooplah.
-Speaking of this, I am glad. I do not miss the classic Starz over-long sex scenes, and would be more than happy if they weren't to overdo it on this show (using this episode as a good example of tasteful). This episode was finely constructed, and there were enough pretty women in loose/scanty enough clothing if you want to see that.
-I'd like to see Lucrezia revealed as another brilliant young person and then that she's working with Riario in order to gain her own access to the archives/files/library/whatever.
-I must say, I felt the same. That was pretty darn COLD. And sure, they HAD chased him the previous evening, and it kind of WAS obvious that they weren't ever going to be wishing him good cheer and health, that's still pretty brutal. But he felt bad about it, so I can chalk it up to "different times" and "good TV".
-I thought that that was hilarious and awesome. Perfectly done for a public shout-out.
-I agree. I've long been a fan of good TV credits (ever since "The West Wing" gave us one of the most perfect opening credit sequences of all time), and these absolutely match the show and furthermore add to the overall character of Da Vinci.
-I don't know, but I LOVE that they went there. Mayans!!! (I hope.)
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"The decision to make the bad guys agents of the Pope was somewhat risky in the sense that even though historically, Sixtus IV and his associates were pretty amazingly corrupt, there is the possibility of alienating those viewers who are less comfortable with rooting against the papacy, even in a fictional representation."
Really MaryAnn? Well you made me chuckle so another point for your good review then.
I watch this show but it's so uneven - I'm not used anymore to these extreme drops in quality in terms of story, pace and effects. But generally I like the freedom they took with historic facts and realism. It's kinda campy, isn't it?
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I'm always staring at Nico's chest, waiting to see a wardrobe malfunction.
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are you familiar with the history of the Church/Vatican? Quite bloody and horrific--it would make a great cable show (the inquisition--insert Mel Brooks sing--, etc)...reminds me that I need to check out The Borgias.

Great episode--thoroughly enjoyed it...especially Da Vinci's conversation with Riario at the end (free the knowledge--make it accessible to all [rather then filtered through an institution])
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MaryAnn, if you knew "Nico" was Nicolo Machiavelli, would you be less inclined to underestimate him?
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SSHH...now that you've let the cat out of the bag, all the historical accuracy complainers are gonna be like, "Machiavelli was only 8 when the Duke of Milan was assassinated."
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Yeah, honestly, I couldn't care less about historical accuracy in this story. So much of what is told is based off of speculation anyway. There are two Borgia series out there right now, with divergent story lines. This uses some of the same historical figures, but like a lot of historical fiction it's "loosely based on history". Relax and enjoy. Nitpicking is overrated.
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and for you Historical accuracy is not important in a tv Show (about a Historical character)...because??...
does it not matter how/when/who it happen, just show us the result of it?
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If I want historical accuracy, I'll watch the History Channel.

...when they're not showing The Bible, or a show where people buy/restore/resell other people's used crap.
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I'm pretty sure that is Africa and not South America, because the first Europeans explorers arrived to Africa in the 15th century which is closer to Da Vinci's period.
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Oh god with your knowledge of geography you must be American lol
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Well American is a person from America, I was borned in Mexico so ipso facto American indeen.
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let's not bash other countries and their citizens...por favor!
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It is South America! Please look at a map.

Toward the top of the continent is a horizontal strip of land (now called Panama) that is the southern most country in Central America which boarders the northern most country (now called Columbia) in the South American continent. I'm not including the islands...
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just a small correction, it is ColOmbia, not Columbia.
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my bad, but as an American do you really expect me to know how to spell:-)

edit option please
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It's definitely supposed to be South America. Interestingly, it seems that the man credited with establishing that South America was a separate land mass, Amerigo Vespucci, was the same sort of age as Leonardo, also lived in Florence during this period and worked for Lorenzo.
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God bless Vespucci-land, land that I love...
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Additionally, if you're going to complain about this show's historical accuracy, you might as well go watch Jack of All Trades, then complain "Napoleon wasn't really 2 and a half feet tall."
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The minute I saw the Jew's body on the table, I was like, "OK, circumcision joke in 3...2..."
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you have a countdown for circumcision jokes?
there are so many useless apps these days
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Useless for you, maybe...
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how many circumcisions do you watch that you need an app?
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South America? I thought it looked more like Africa, which they should've known about by then. Hrm.
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Same here...
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Definitely South America.

If you look closely at the top, you can even see the connection to Central America via modern day Panama.
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Ooooooh!! Mysteries... Spooky mysteries!!! -_-"

Just kidding! It's off to a good start, and it's beautiful.
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What is Lucrezia's motive? I assumed that the presentation of a finger at the end of episode 1 was implying quite heavily that Riario is holding someone she cares about. In this episode she describes the ring as a family heirloom.
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or she collects fingers
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First of all Leonardo knew from episode 1 that Lucretia was Lorenzo Medici's mistress before he "banged" her, a little mistake in an otherwise good review. I agree about Lorenzo's way of calling Riario a snake was masterful. This show is not a documentary on the History channel so people should calm down about the "historical mistakes" & anyways a lot of Da Vinci's works were lost so you never know.

Also if people had qualms about Pope bad guys The Borgias wouldn't be on its 3rd season. I was anticipating this show & I am loving it. Also Tom Riley is an absolute delight, great casting :)
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Not only did Leonardo know who she was, it's shown and then explicitly stated in the pilot that Leonardo used her (whether this is true or not...) to get to Lorenzo.
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P.S. The Garden of Eden adaptation was hilarious! Seriously. Welcome in our midst, you dirty little snake!
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I definitely liked the episode. I am however wondering in what direction Starz is going with this. You see - and I don't mean this in a bad way - Starz is not really "quality". The plots are ridiculous and the sex is completely gratuitous, but they know it, and they revel in it, and that makes it so wonderfully good. But now, it seems to me that they are actually trying to make it into a good show? Yes, the premise remains the same: a completely fictionalized life of Da Vinci. But other than that: there's no boob count, no body count, no WTF-count... It's just... Trying to be a good show, despite the crazy premise.
The character of Leonardo is really well thought-out, even his sidekicks seem to have much more of an oomph than you'd originally think - here's to you Nico, outstanding! - and I find myself totally intrigued with where the story is heading. Compare that to Spartacus and... I didn't really care all that much what happened. It was just entertainment, a guilty pleasure of sorts. And I thought this would be the same. But I don't know... Starz might be trying to make a change (for the better?). We'll have to see. But I'm definitely watching :-)
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Da Vinci's Demons' plot is so similar to Assassin's Creed, the writers should just add Ezio Auditore as a character. I'm just waiting for Riario to say: "By the way, we're The Templars".

I normally don't watch Starz shows, but shouldn't Lucrezia run naked like all the time?

I too liked the Garden of Eden adaptation.

Well, at least combat in Da Vinci's Demons doesn't look like weird Spartacus / 300 slow motion thing.

Thanks for review, MaryAnn! Till the next week!
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EZIOOOO!!!
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I thought it was a cross between Assassin's Creed and the Da Vinci code
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It does not matter if he was gay or not... Because your genitals are miles away from the Brain!!

(First, sorry for the grammar... is not my 1st language... or 2nd to be honest)

About the show.

What a hurtful, sloppy, and inaccurate description of one of the Greatest Genius of Human History... Lazy people are running this show.

- He was left-handed, some few notes of the consequences of being ambidextrous and the "practice of it” but he was left-handed,

- Where that ascent came from? Was it necessary? Born and grow up in ‘old Italy’ and you will end it up with a new Yorker/Yankee ascent? I do not believe it!
Shows like Doctor Who and the PHENOMENAL Sherlock, had ready proven that ascent is no longer a problem for a worldview public. Great show writers, check it out.

- Da Vinci probably learn a lot with Copernicus and Galileo, because he has a notable political skill in the matter of religion, never truly confronted by the church until his version of the Saint Supper... always under the protection of a king/lord for military purpose, this aspect of the character should be better developed.
- Do you need a secret society and meeting in a cave where the “host” disappear with all the “furniture”? For real?
Trying to force some mystery around Da Vinci into our throats to justified (or mystified) his world knows Geniuses’ is a kid joke from the writing point of view.
He was not an alien or a magic child! The only people who need that extra “magic/mystery” into their BYO to appear important are those people who had accomplished NOTHING and want to appear important anyway (my boss, some colleagues, me at 18!!...etc...)

Writers grab a couple of books, ok... just one than! Nevertheless, stop writing! Leonardo Da Vinci is probably the Human being who has more accomplishments in several fields in the History of Human kind! – read that paragraph again, really!
What make him so memorable was his lack of fear to think without boundaries that comes with people dominated by FEAR...was also why his ACCOMPLISHMENTS were out of scale for his time.
In addition, the fact that he... even aware of his High intellect, only consider himself just a “humble servo” (his words) make that character so Special and interesting.

- He was probably gay, “Does it matter Douglas?” It definitely not!
Alexander the Great was also probably gay, Einstein was probably hetero, etc, etc...

NO NEED for a hetero or gay flag here or try to make this a Matter of sex instead of Brain... buuuuut do we really need a Plot or Arc (whatever the writes call this) where Leonardo Da Vinci's been Played by a woman in bed???
Writers please, go type some Soap or an Episode from the Real Unreal Maybe Real-comefindout!- Desperate Housewives with Yankee ascent....
Again, the Plot is not well placed for this character, not because he was gay (or not) but because he is a REAL character for Christ sake and there is no base for that kind of assumption.
If you are going to tell the history of Leonardo Da Vinci, do not try to invent it for yourself, use some History base.... Otherwise, you can call “The History of one of the Greater Genius of Human Kind by me and myself and my inner self imagination and Elf’s from a cave – s01e01...”

It does not matter if he was gay or not... Because your genitals are miles away from the Brain!!

He was this Genius and a kind person for his development as human being (brain, body, inner self if you prefer) and not from which sex position he had chosen.

Amazing Human, unfortunately his memory and life is not being honoured in this particular Show at the height of his achievements.
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I think it's sad that it is not shown that Da Vinci's was gay. For once, we could have had a gay character without making a fuss, without making it the focus of of the show...
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Spoiler alert... the show is going to get into Da Vinci's bisexuality.
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Thanks, I don't want to know more about it but I'm glad this aspect of Da Vinci's life will be shown.
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Hes sexualit is irrelevant, really not important, ...forget it, will not help anyones cause or whatsoever... He was not important because of it.

We have to enlight the reasons why he was so important and not use some important Human figure to use in some selfish genital crusade..

But (among other things) seen how they treat this specific character of Human History only to make a simple "tv soup opera"
is disrespectful and sad...

Because makes Da vinci to the level of a soup like desperate housewives...

waste of material... it should be on HBO's hand, maybe.
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If his sexuality is irrelevant, with which I agree, why show him as some sort of womanizer ?
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that it's the low point of the show for me...
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Next week you can be a boob and do an ass count instead.
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It's a fun show, so I plan to keep watching. I miss Spartacus, though :(
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There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet, not 27.. I wonder if the writers just decided to make that up knowing there are only 22 to further the plot (which is weird) or they simply didn't think of researching it. Either way it's really really sloppy..
Other than that, I enjoyed the episode. This show might be completely ridiculous, but it's still fun to watch.
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Also most of what was written in that book (from what I could glimpse) was either gibberish, written backwards or seemed to be taken from the Haggadah. Maddening.
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I thought you right but you count the letters at the end as different letters you get 27
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I wasn't impressed.
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This is easily a keeper of a show. Of course the mistake some people will be going into it to as a serious Da Vinci bio-pic/show and it is surely not that. However it is laced with actual examples of his work and various tid-bits of truth that are fun for more nerdish people to notice, but not necessary to enjoy the show.

I love that show intro's are getting better. Da Vinci, Vikings, Banshee, Game of Thrones.. yay,
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Great Episode.I liked it even more than the pilot which I thought was mediocre at best
I dont think its cold of Leo gunning down Riario man since they are all corrupt killers working for so called "man of god"
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Sorry, I'm Italian and I LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL ( and I'm dying a bit) every time I watch this "sort of things" about our history. No offence.
They could not pay someone to teach pronunciation? But also for free.
Hearing "Medìci" is creepy! Lol
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Germans were the same way with pronunciation on Grimm. GIve a few episodes. You'll get used to it.
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You can't blame the show for that. That's how we pronounce it in America, from 8th grade history on. Why? Shrug. We don't pronounce a lot of borrowed words and names as they are in the original language. We pronounce them according to the rules of our own language instead. Blame history teachers or English teachers or the school system in general, but the show is blameless in this regard. To pronounce it any other way would be either heard as wrong, or misunderstood completely. Pronouncing a word or name as in the original language is generally perceived as oddly accented at best, or more likely just plain snobbish or pretentious. It would decrease viewership because the show would be considered even more unrelateable than it already is. It's already historical, full of foreigners, and genre fiction, it's making up for it with boobs and violence, but it's walking a tight line.
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I'll leave the pronunciation querelle as it is, I can also add "inaccurate" to creepy.
This said, I have to point that, no, the show is not "historical".
Or "Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter" is also "historical"?
All Leonardo's bio is rewritten, and not rewritten "filling the blanks", it is rewritten WRONG. Leonardo's mother did not die so early. Leonardo seemed not to like women at all, and so on. And so on and on and on.
Really, Medìci is the littlest of the problems, here.
The poor CGI. The costumes (I say, when Leonardo buys and gives freedom to the birds, there are on the background two 1800's Carabinieri).
Really, if to increase viewership you have to put in an un nearly unrelated well-known name, add boobs, mama's drama, fancy costumes and even drugs&magic, you have reached a new low in writing.
Leonardo's life was full of big events by itself, and had enough blanks to fill to do not need to make up anything.
Wikipedia is your friend, even if you are a big, big, big writer you can fail.
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I think you missed out on the part where this show is not trying to recreate history, it's a work of fiction. Period. That didn't become blatantly obvious with the robotic birds, or the "Book of Leaves"? Cmon now.

*wooooosh*
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Because it's "historical fiction". It's like watching Spartacus. It's based on a historical figure, but its not factual.
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why "da vinci's demons", then?
Call him Giro Ghiarlose, and call it a day.
If you cling to ral people, deal with reality.
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I thumbed this up because it was a good argument for your case but I disagree that ever show has to be a historically accurate drama. Hell history can not even decide who the Mona Lisa is based on, so it would be quite a hard task to get right. But this is not trying to be John Adams or Rome but should be seen more as a Indiana Jones/Brisco County/action-adventure thing and enjoyed for what it is.
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there's a big difference to "we can not get it right, let's do our best" and "let's make it as bad as it can be, the viewers are too dumb to notice". It is offensive.
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Didn't mean historically accurate. Historically themed. It's a fictionalized account of history. I'd even include Lost in Austen, which isn't even based on real history. It's a genre that just turns a lot of people off.
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Just to say: tobacco.
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I understand, but believe me, for an italian is... T_T
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Glad to see that a TV show such as Da Vinci's Demons make us debate about the European Renaissance and its impact on science and economy.
As a scientist, I'm glad to see a show about Da Vinci's inventions. This man was an absolute genius, he deserves to have his own show !
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Dear writer, Nico is actually Nicollò Machiavelli in his youth. Not much of a surprise he's a smart boy. :)
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Doesn't fit the timeline. It's 1477, Machiavelli would be 8.
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Don't tell that to me, tell it to the writers and showrunner.
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Also, he was never Leonardo's apprentice, but it sounds like license they would take.
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Well, that's why it's fiction, not history.
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It is a historical fact that finding or bringing back the gold from South America created economy as a speculative science and radically changed the face of the world.While we now all know about this, there is no reason to assume that it was common knowledge back then, outside from the Royal houses and certain nobility. The possibility that such legends as Eldorado , for instance, truly existed cannot be either refuted or confirmed. That it was indeed secretly absconded into the coffers of either the Vatican or the some Royal House in Europe reopened mains a fascinating notion. And then there is the Inca knowledge, especially in terms of astrology and other, that is something else. Well, it is maybe time you read again your Borges.
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It should be borne in mind that the Renaissance started well before Europeans "discovered" the Americas. It could well be argued that the new economy and resurgence of scientific study made such voyages possible in the first place, not the other way round.
Also, we DO know that El Dorado was a legend, soaked up by greedy European adventurers. Anything else crosses firmly into the area of conspiracy theories. So you either go for a fun story, or apply a reality check.
OTOH, the idea that the Chinese mapped America's coast ("1421") is much more plausible. Such maps may have found their way to Europe. Sea maps were often treated as state secrets.
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I was referring to the fictional aspect of the series. Of course you are right about both the renaissance and El Dorado; but there are also the legends of Veracocha and the Quetzalcoatl, as a white man who brought civilization to the Incas and other peoples of the continent. As you probably know there are even crosses which predate the arrival of the Spaniards to the New World. As for maps both the Chinese and especially the Ottoman cartographers were well in advance to the Europeans and since we are referred to a Turk ( and Andalousia via its Jewish and Arab philosophers), this probably the source here. Maybe even an allusion to the Piri Reis Map itself.
Anyway, I still believe we are in agreement that this poses the foundations for an interesting series.
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Judging by the artwork on the key and the time period, I say it has to do with the Inca of western South America. Just a thought.
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