October 25, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “DaVinci’s Demons”


DAVINCI’S DEMONS:  8PM Saturday on Starz

With Power and Outlander as the new cornerstones of its brand, Starz has moved past the oddball historical fantasy-adventure DAVINCI’S DEMONS, which began its third and final season tonight.  Under series creator David S. Goyer and showrunner John Shiban (who wrote tonight’s episode), DaVinci has always had a lot going on–an evil identical twin substitute Pope!  Leonardo-designed tanks, submarines and other marvels, mixed with the supernatural!–but it’s so sunk in a web of conspiracies within mystical conspiracies and ever-shifting alliances that none of it’s been the unhinged fun it should have been.

The premiere picked up exactly where the Season 2 finale had left off, and largely revolved around DaVinci’s (Tom Riley) attempt to stop an attack by the Ottoman Empire on Naples.  The real deposed Pope (James Faulkner), now on the lam, and his cult were backing the Turks, apparently on the theory that Italy needed to be exterminated in order for it to be rebuilt.  We were supposed to believe that DaVinci’s cannon had vanquished the Turks in the opening sequence, but considering that this would have required him to have blown up his long-lost mother before she was properly introduced, it wasn’t much of a surprise when the big reveal was that behind the smoke of the supposedly burning armada, they were actually preparing a murderous counterattack.  (That attack was handled very capably on a TV budget by director Peter Hoar.)  The fact that the Turks somehow had DaVinci’s proprietary technology was supposed to be a captivating mystery, but DaVinci’s Demons is filled with so many traitors and mystical links between the consciousness of various characters that it would have been more of a shock if they didn’t have it.

Meanwhile, the B stories had supporting characters Girolamo (Blake Ritson)–once a straightforwardly hissable villain, now a cipher–Lucrezia (Laura Haddock), Clarice (Lara Pulver) and Carlo (Ray Fearson) adjusting their affiliations with one Pope or another.

DaVinci’s Demons is well-produced, but it continues to suffer from a lack of wit and star charisma that might have allowed viewers to cut through its sticky threads of conspiracy, betrayal and sheer nonsense.  Despite its ambitions and imagination, it’s never managed to be more than a wannabe Game of Thrones, and as it begins its final stanza, it seems unlikely to transcend that category.  A series about a genius doesn’t have to be as brilliant as its subject (although it would help), but it at least needs to be capable of cohesive, original thought.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."