I’ve decided it’s about time I do something other than moan about writing so I’ve employed myself as a reviewer, and to kick things off I’ll be reviewing the Netflix original Medici: Masters of Florence.
First things first, I’ve been wanting to watch this since I first heard about it some time last year and was super excited when it was announced that Netflix would be picking it up, but it ended up passing me by over Christmas and I’ve only just started on the series.
The background is relatively simple, set in 15th century Florence the series follows Cosimo de Medici played by Richard Madden (Game of Thrones, Romeo and Juliet) as the new head of the infamous Medici banking family following the mysterious death of his father Giovanni, played by the legendary Dustin Hoffman. It’s a political, family drama in many ways as not only do we enter the dangerous world of 15th century Italian politics but we also get an insight into the relationships between members of the Medici family.
I’m currently five episodes in and there’s plenty of intrigue and mystery and what’s really refreshing is that the plot isn’t too complex, you don’t need to have a comprehensive understanding of 15th century to follow the politics. Cosmio’s feud with Albizzi is the age old ‘new money’ vs. nobility. Simple as. What I also like about the plot is that it’s incredibly focused. I’ve watched too many good television series’ in which copious amounts of time is spent on sub-plots with secondary characters that quite frankly are of no interest to the viewer (ITV’s Victoria springs to mind.) Here the focus is entirely on the Medici family, with flashbacks providing gentle breaks from the main narrative to give is interesting clues to the background of the family and how and why things have unfolded the way they have in the present.
The plot alone is good enough for me to keep watching, and being something of a history nerd features such as the black death being used as a cliff hanger really do keep the suspense up (if anyone dares mention ‘historical inaccuracies’ you’re lecturing the wrong person, if I wanted to learn some accurate history I’d watch a documentary or read a book, unless it’s glaringly obvious I don’t care, I’m here for the entertainment) but not only is the plot strong but the cast to go with it is superb.
Richard Madden contrasts his young Cosimo and older Cosimo incredibly well, changing from an ambitious artist to cold, stoic banker. For the most part Cosimo is unemotional and calculating but touches of his younger, more caring self give him a likability which you don’t see in his father. Stuart Martin who plays Lorenzo, Cosimo’ brother is charming and and gives the character an unpredictable air that adds to the mystery of the show. I was initially unsure about Annabel Scholey’s performance as Contessina, Cosimo’s wife but from the second episode onward she quickly became one of my favourites. Scholey plays her with an equal measure of steel and vulnerability that makes the character truly engaging, I’m surprised we’ve not seen more of her before now. The supporting cast is well assembled too with Lex Shrapnel giving an outstanding performance as the unlikable Albizzi who in the hands of a lesser actor could appear cartoonishly villainous. My only gripe with the cast would be *gasp* Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of Giovanni, I get the impression that Giovanni should be the ultimate patriarch of the family, someone respected by all and feared by many but somehow it falls short for me. Maybe it’s the quasi American-Italian accent that spoils it for me, who knows?
The production value of Medici is also top-notch. Filming in Italy undoubtedly makes life easier for the cinematographer but some of the aerial shots are just beautiful, as is the depiction of Florence in general. The costuming too looks great, in particular some of the pieces seen in Venice (and there’s me thinking those in Florence looked flamboyant!) The use of colour has been interesting too, for example Cosimo’s stark black garb at his wedding contrasting with the white of Contessina’ dress and the light all around. The bright shades of crimson worn by Cosimo and Contessina during ‘Temptation’ are indication of sins about to be committed. It’s all great yet subtle nuances that really add to the enjoyment of the series.
Overall, I’ve not been disappointed so far and I’m happy to hear it’s been renewed for another season. Medici: Masters of Florence manages to successfully balance a period piece with the type of political intrigue that has become so popular in the last few years and with a tight plot, solid acting and beautiful scenery, what’s not to love?
If they ever need someone to play Jesus again (let’s face it, they will) can Richard Madden in his young Cosimo wig (I’m assuming it’s a wig) be first in line please?