[Review] Medici: The Magnificent

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When Medici: Masters of Florence was shown on Netflix, I fell in love with the series despite all its flaws. It brought to life a family from the Italian Renaissance who I’ve long held a great amount of love for, and it did so beautifully. Yes, there were some inaccuracies however it was the sort of historical drama series where you could look past that and just enjoy the series for what it was. It wasn’t like, say, The Borgias, where the writers turn the whole history on its head just to tell what they believe is a be.

Medici: The Magnificent is the second series and this one tells the story of a young Lorenzo – a man who would later be given the sobriquet of “The Magnificent” (hence the title of the show – clever, right?) and his rise to power. In this series we see the ongoing feud between the Pazzi and the Medici, leading up to one of the biggest and bloodiest events in Medici history. We also see romance blossom and jealousy and hatred bloom.

The main antagonists of the series are the Pazzi family – a family who utterly despised the Medici. They believed that they were nobility and therefore had the right to hold power in Florence, whereas the Medici were nothing more than “jumped up wool merchants”. The jealousy and hatred would later lead to an incredibly violent confrontation. The Pazzi were headed by Jacopo de’ Pazzi, played in the show by the utter brilliant Sean Bean.

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Bean truly brings the character of Jacopo to life and from the get go I utterly despised the character. What surprised me, though, was how by the end of the series and Jacopo’s nasty end I actually felt sorry for him. He and his family had been brought up to despise the Medici and knew no different – the belief had been utterly ingrained in not only Jacopo but his nephew’s also. Bean’s characterisation of Jacopo is utterly stellar – he drips venom is his words and you can truly see the hatred in his eyes.

The Pazzi family also includes Francesco and Guglielmo, the nephews of Jacopo who have been brought up to hate the Medici also. Both brothers evidently wish to be friends with the Medici, however. Francesco and Lorenzo are shown as friends in their youth, yet Francesco is twisted and moulded by his uncle. Guglielmo is the far more affable brother – he marries Bianca de’ Medici and, in a way, unites the two families. Unfortunately for Guglielmo, it’s not enough…

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As is always the case in historical drama, we have a heck of a lot of sex and romance. Lorenzo dallies with other women as well as his wife, yet learns that it is his wife who is the one for him. Their story is truly moving and I found myself absolutely adoring Lorenzo’s long suffering wife, Clarice. In history the two held a deep respect for each other and I felt that the series showed this really very well.

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Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici were my favourite characters in the whole series. Perhaps I’m somewhat biased given my long standing love for Lorenzo the Magnificent…the only gripe I have is that Daniel Sharman, who plays Lorenzo, is far too good looking!!! Lorenzo the Magnificent was known for being rather ‘ugly’ – yet he still managed to pull in the ladies! Giuliano, however, was incredibly good looking and Bradley James really was the perfect fit for the ill fated Giuliano de’ Medici.

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The inclusion of Sandro Botticelli was brilliant – many would have forgotten the part that Boticelli played in the early lives of the Medici but the show runners did it perfectly. I was so pleased to see that they showed him and his deep-seated love for Simonetta Vespucci, the woman who became his muse and whose figure appeared in some of his most famous artworks – Primavera and the Birth of Venus being just two examples. They also included the rumoured love affair between Giuliano and Simonetta, which was also done beautifully.

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I must admit that I was somewhat worried about how the series would show the brutal events of the Pazzi Conspiracy. However I was pleasantly surprised. There were a few inaccuracies in their version of events, however. They did not show Francesco stabbing himself in the leg during his attack on Giuliano, nor did they show that one of Lorenzo’s friends sucked at the wound on his neck just in case it was poisoned. They also showed Giuliano as still being alive despite the attack, dying only after he had seen his brother – Giuliano was long dead by the time Lorenzo was escorted from the Duomo and as he left he kept asking after his brother. He did not see his brother’s corpse. Nor did he show his face at the Palazzo della Signoria during the attempted coup. Instead he went to his home on the Via Larga and appeared there to prove that he was still alive. It was only then that the people truly turned on the Pazzi and chased their supporters through already bloodstained streets. Despite the inaccuracies, the final scenes brought me to tears. Giuliano’s death was incredibly moving and both Sharman and James acted their little socks off.

It is during these last scenes, as Lorenzo deals with the loss of his brother, that we see a big change in him. In these scenes Sharman acts with his eyes, and it’s beautiful. He shows us Lorenzo’s change from head of a family to a true leader in a totally stunning manner.

I’m very very impressed with Medici season 2. Very impressed. Yes, there are some inaccuracies but not enough to make someone who knows the era beyond angry. It’s a beautiful television series, incredibly well written with an insanely talented cast. I would highly recommend this series to anyone who loves well written historical dramas, whether they know the history of the era or not. And if you don’t know the history, it’s a GREAT stepping stone to spark someone’s interest.

Timeless Season 2 – The Perfect Mix of Sci-Fi & Historical Drama

 

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I discovered NBC’s Timeless thanks to a historian friend of mine on Twitter, who told me to drop everything and watch this ‘silly yet amazing’ TV show. So off I toddled to Netflix and began watching the first episode. Safe to say I was hooked from the get go, and I binged the whole first season in a couple of days. It was the characters that hooked me first and foremost – Lucy Preston, played by the incredibly talented Abigail Spencer, is the main protagonist of the show and I think it was the characters love of history that truly drew me in. Her passion for the subject reminded me of myself in very many ways. And then there’s the character of Rufus, a bit of a nerd who’s in love with his equally as nerdy but exceptionally beautiful colleague Jiya, the is he/isn’t he bad guy Conor Mason, the hard as nails but mother like Agent Denise Christopher, the PTSD suffering Wyatt and the time bandit terrorist, Garcia Flynn (who is my absolute favourite, by the way!) In Season 1 we are introduced to the idea of time travel and the idea of Rittenhouse, an organisation who wants to change time to suit their own ends.

And that’s when we find out the apparent bad guy, Flynn, isn’t really all that bad at all. He just wants to stop Rittenhouse and get his family bad. His family who were brutally murdered by Rittenhouse sleeper agents.

Season 2 continues with this story, expanding on what was introduced in the first season. We see more of just what Rittenhouse are up to with their crazy wish to change history and we learn much more about the characters who were introduced to us. We see Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer) change from a timid historian into a strong young woman who won’t take no for an answer. We see Connor Mason (Paterson Joseph) turn into a man who stands up for what he believes in. We see Flynn (Goran Visnjic) on a redemption arc. We see Wyatt (Matt Lanter) struggle with getting what he truly wants. We see Rufus (Malcolm Barrett) actually working side by side with a man who once wanted to kill him and we see Jiya (Claudia Doumit) come to terms with something incredibly life changing. And then we see other characters (the bad ones!) sink deeper into themselves. The character of Emma (Annie Wersching) is a prime example of this. Now, I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but the character of Emma is an example of a truly well written villain. She has her good points, and she has her bad points.

In fact, every single character within this show have their good points and bad points. There is no black and white here. There’s always that grey area.

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As in season one, we see our favourite Time Team travel through time using the Lifeboat – a device developed by Mason Industries in order to travel back through time – and during their missions to stop Rittenhouse from causing chaos, they meet some of the most iconic characters from American history including Mrs Sherlock Holmes, Mary Humiston; JFK and Harriet Tubman. What struck me about the times that our heroes travelled back to wasn’t the fact that they were visiting these times, but it was the fact that they were concentrating on parts of history that people tend to just gloss over. And for me, a historian who concentrates mainly on the Italian Renaissance, I found myself garnering an interest in these eras of American History that I truly know very little about. Let’s just say I’ll be scooting about for some books on many of the eras introduced in the second season of this wonderful show.

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What I found particularly impressive about this season was that, along with the epic stories of character development and crazy time travel to stop psycho time travelling terrorists, we are introduced to topics that are very rarely brought up in any sort of programme. Ever. I was particularly taken with Agent Christopher’s  back story and how she believed that she had to marry a man in order to keep her family happy and that she couldn’t go against her faith. In the end it was a happy ending all around (again, I don’t want to spoil it fully) but we saw her embracing her sexuality and taking a stand. This was an incredibly moving piece of television and one that had many fans of the show finding their own strength to come out to their friends and families. Now tell me, how many television shows can do that? The stories that were shared on twitter after the episode was aired were just absolutely inspiring.

Racism and sexism throughout history are also topics that come up throughout the season. Not only do we see the recording of Robert Johnson’s wonderful blues album in 1936 and how people of colour back then had to deal with racism, but we are also shown the work of the suffragette movement in 1919. These subjects are dealt with in a sympathetic and completely expert manner – I truly cannot fault the writers of Timeless for any of their work on not only these episodes, but every single other episode as well.

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The cast of this show are incredibly talented and truly make you either fall in love with their characters or despise them. Yet even if you end up despising a character, there’s a part of you that either loves them or feels sorry for them. Like I said earlier, there are grey areas galore in these characters and that’s only a tiny part of what makes this show so damned good. With a diverse cast who truly live and breathe this show, there is really nothing that Timeless can do wrong. Not only does it introduce eras and people from history who aren’t so well known, but it gets people interested in history and for me that is one of the most important things that this show is doing right now. It has proven that history isn’t just about learning dates and being able to recite them by heart, but that history belongs to all of us. It’s gotten people wanting to learn more which is something I believe every historical drama should be doing – hell, history teachers even show Timeless to their classes and have spoken widely about just how much their students love the show and how it reels them in to a discipline that has long been seen as ‘one for the nerds’.

I highly recommend Timeless to anyone with even an inkling of interest in history. Even if you have no interest in it and are more of a Sci-Fi person, watch it anyway. Or just watch it even if you don’t care about either. I promise you that you will love this show.

Now all we need is for NBC to hurry up and renew this phenomenal television show. We need a season 3 after that EPIC season finale!

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