For the unaware, Da Vinci’s Demons is a new television series on Starz (“Where history comes to die”), in which a saucy young Da Vinci, trying to prove himself as an artist and inventor, lives his life as a human pinball amid the dangerous politics of contemporary Italy (accurate!) and solve a mystical mystery about a secret society and thre magical book that’s the key to their power (suggested by someone who didn’t understand the stakes of actual Italian politics at the time, I am guessing, because Da Vinci WISHES his problems were as clear-cut as magical keys and secret books).


I watched two episodes! I took ten screencaps, mostly of people making hilarious faces! Let’s do this.

Our protagonist and his two friends, Imperiled Plot Device and Actual Dashing Guy.

Its an earnest attempt to hit some Caravaggio light and its adorably gormless Raphael-portrait youth. Though the only thing you really notice is that Da Vinci and his fellow humanists suffered under the burden of punishing button-and-lace taxes that rendered them unable to fasten their shirts.

Da Vinci spends the first two episodes getting tied up with the Medicis by trying to paint a portrait of Lorenzo’s mistress as an inroad to building defensive weapons for Florence, mostly to see if he can. The show assumes an Amadeus-esque insufferability accompanying such genius. They also give him Da Vinci Vision, which would be of stylistic interest to anyone still insisting Elementary is ripping off BBC Sherlock, I expect, but is so cheesy it doesn’t deserve its own cap. Instead, let’s enjoy the freeze-frame that accompanied these birds. This isn’t an awkward screencap I took mid-conversation – the show chose to freeze their faces here for the duration of the extremely slow-motion bird flight.

History’s comin’ alive, you guys!

But in addition to being annoying as hell on a general basis, Da Vinci is also literally a bastard! Know how we know?

This is his dad! Every time his dad speaks to Da Vinci, sees anyone in the vicinity of Da Vinci, or speaks with anyone in any capacity about things entirely unrelated to Da Vinci, he manages a round of, “My son’s a bastard!” or whatever equivalent he can squeeze in, saving “Msunzabastard!” in case someone relevant passes him on the street. (I guess it’s aiming for Game of Thrones, but it hits somewhere around Stiff Upper Lips.)

Also a bastard, maybe? This dude!

He’s Girolamo Riario, the Pope’s nephew/spymaster/mystical subplot devotee/creepy bad guy; he’s not super into some of it, I guess, based on this face, and Blake Ritson makes him one of the more complicated characters on the show. Too bad he’s firmly ensconced in the mystical subplot, which is just uuuugh.

The guy who starts it is Al-Rahim, a mystical Turk (of course) who arranges to meet Da Vinci in a mystical graveyard he thoughtfully filled with romantic votives ahead of time, and gives Da Vinci mystical smoke (sure) to give him visions of a mystical purpose (yup).

Accurate facial expression by Alexander Siddig. (The second episode has them investigating the secrets of mystical-brotherhood member “The Jew,” too, so it’s cultural-sensitivity hour just everywhere!)

Next on the list of eyebrow-raisers, sex! Da Vindi’s sexual history is the subject of centuries of speculation; he never married (inconclusive), was said to be extremely passionate about his apprentices (inconclusive but interesting), never took a mistress (interesting) and was once arrested for sodomy (very interesting). It stands to reason that our hero is, if not exclusively gay, certainly tap-dancing his way along the Kinsey scale. Obviously this show will take the opportunity to – oh, nope!

Well, perhaps we’re introducing him as super hetero to lure people in, and the exploration will happen later when he and Actual Dashing Guy wake up in bed together casually! So long as the text is treating homosexuality with respect, I think we can – hold up:

So this is our Evil Gay Pope, and the Licentious Gay Duke gets murdered ten seconds into his part in the pilot, and that’s what we have going so far? Huh. Well, that’s. A thing.

This is Lorenzo Medici. His face pretty much sums up my feelings about all that.

Nothing can sum up my feelings on the parade of bad decisions in this cap:

Ignore our third chest of the day in the middle ground. It is nothing compared to the costume that is happening in the foreground. (I tried to get into what’s wrong, but that sheath-skirt chemiseless mess doesn’t deserve it.)

Let’s play a quick game of How Hard Is It.

Left: Da Vinci, “Portrait of a Young Woman.” Right: Joanne Whalley as Vanozza in “The Borgias.”

Faithful recreation? Nope. (Not necessary.) Close enough to evoke the era? Absolutely. Chemise: present. Difficulty level: Not super high, Da Vinci’s Demons! If you’re trying to create a fantasy Italy in which all the men are super straight and just happen to be half-undressed all the time on purpose, that’s fine, but damn, show, that dress.

In fact, if I had to pick one screencap that gets closest to my thought about this costume, and really encompasses my feelings on the show, any of the faces here would pretty much do it:

Have fun, show! Yikes.