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Sunday, February 3, 2019

Medici: Masters of Florence: Season 2: At the Edge of Our Age



It was a golden age, right before Columbus's voyages to the New World - literally.   Italy was still 400 years away from becoming a unified nation.  But, in some ways, it was better.  It consisted of city states, many in their own ways as great or greater in art, philosophy, and even predictive science than any nation would ever be.  Rome was flourishing, as the capital of the powerful Papal states.  Florence was home to Botticelli, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and the greatest of them all, Leonardo da Vinci.  The superb and riveting second season of Medici features only Botticelli, who plays a significant role in  Lorenzo de' Medici's - aka Lorenzo the Magnificent - early years of power.  We'll likely see Leonardo in the third season, already in production.

Lorenzo was head of a potent banking family who, in effect, ruled the city. The Renaissance was throbbing and thriving and new ideas were bursting out all over.  The countryside and city bore signs of the glory of the Roman Empire, would didn't seem quite as ancient to Lorenzo and his contemporaries as it does to us.  But life was not easy - not for the people, whose lives Lorenzo had a sincere desire to improve, and not for Lorenzo and his family, beset by cunning enemies on all sides, and dependent on alliances with other city states like Milan and Venice and most of all, Rome and the Pope.

I enjoyed this second even more than the first, which was excellent, too, and looked at Florence when Lorenzo was a boy.   Now he's feeling and enjoying his power, though how that power and his equanimity is tested is the mainspring of this narrative.   Technology is not quite in the modern age, and Lorenzo and his contemporaries can communicate long distance only by letters delivered on horseback or riding themselves to other cities.   Weaponry is swordplay, knives, and fire, but they can do plenty of damage.

An intrinsic problem with any historical drama is that, if you know the history, you know how crucial events in the narrative turn out.  To make matters worse, you might know the outcome of crises even from watching a previous historical drama that covers the same period.  I suppose Medici 2 suffers from such problems, but they didn't bother me in the slightest.  Superb acting by Daniel Sharman as Lorenzo, Bradley James as his brother Giuliano, and Sean Bean as their chief antagonist Jacopo de' Pazzi - indeed, everyone, including actors of smaller roles, like Synnove Karlsen as Lorenz's wife Clarice, Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz as Giuliano's true love Simonetta, and Matteo Martari as Pazzi's nephew Francesco, was great - carry the story, and I was not at all surprised to see Frank Spotnitz, who produced the first season as well as The Man in the High Castle, back as one of the creators, along with Star Trek's Nicholas Meyer, who likewise always does a fine job.

Binge-able on Netflix and highly recommended.

 


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