TV Review: Medici: Masters of Florence
The Medici family gained worldwide fame (and power) in the 15th and 16th Centuries, beginning as bankers in Florence and becoming a political dynasty and royal house (Catherine de’ Medici is hands down one of my favourite royals ever thanks to Reign). The stories of intrigue and betrayal and all that power-grabbing stuff makes the Medici family pretty interesting viewing, so it makes sense that Netflix made a drama about Cosimo de’ Medici and the family’s rise to fame (or infamy). Starring Richard Madden as Cosimo, Medici: Masters of Florence is an eight-part drama following Cosimo and his family following his father’s death, and their desperate fight to maintain control of Florence.
There are so many period dramas out there that have the same level of sex and intrigue and plotting – The Tudors, The Borgias, Rome… they all throw as many naked people, treachery and blood at it as they can and hope for the best. Most of them turn out pretty well. Medici takes a slightly more tactful approach (very limited on the nudity and sex scenes, plausible plotting) and instead enriches itself with stunning costumes and settings. If you want to fall in love with Italy, you only have to watch a single episode of Medici to be hooked.
Cosimo’s father, played by Dustin Hoffman, is murdered early on in the first episode, but this soon becomes a secondary concern for Cosimo, as he finds himself trying to keep the family from falling apart and a rival family (the Albizzi family) taking the power in Florence. It’s all very War of the Roses, but super enjoyable. Madden is great – although I would question why he has been chosen to play a character who (I assume) is in their mid-forties with a fully grown son when he’s only about 30. He plays Cosimo with the right amount of tortured-spirit-meaning-to-do-good and devious businessman who has no qualms about having blood on his hands.
I probably wouldn’t watch this for any historical accuracy. But then again it isn’t as nuts as The Tudors was in taking liberties with events, so you might learn a thing or two. In a brief season, quite a lot happens, and the plots do tend to be either glaringly obvious or terribly complicated, so you’re always kept on your toes.
I can’t decide if I love or hate this series. It’s a Sunday-afternoons-with-a-cup-of-tea viewing, but if asked to wait several years between seasons (hello, Sense8), you might just lose me. Although every time I think I’m done with it, something else happens to keep me watching, so I might be being a bit too dismissive here, as it does have something compelling about it. Keep an eye on Annabel Scholey as Cosimo’s wife, Contessina, because frankly she is breathtakingly brilliant. She casually outshines anyone she is on-screen with and it’s fantastic to behold. In fact, if you do nothing else, watch because of her.