Florence is thrown into chaos in the wake of the Pazzi conspiracy and Leonardo da Vinci must push the limits of his mind and body to defend the city against the forces of Rome. When the dust settles, friends are buried and rivalries enflamed. While the Medicis go to unthinkable lengths to deal with new threats, da Vinci continues on his quest to find the fabled Book of Leaves and uncover the secret history of his mother. He'll come to realize that he has lethal competition in his quest -- new enemies who may be even worse than the forces of Pope Sixtus. His search will take him to faraway lands and force him to reevaluate everything he knew about the world and his own history.
If you were a big fan of the first season of 'Da Vinci's Demons', then chances are pretty good you're going to love Season 2 just as much. If however, like myself, you found yourself constantly frustrated with how over-written and needlessly complex many of these episodes can get, I'm afraid things aren't much better the second time around. For me, 'Da Vinci's Demons' remains a show with some very good actors, and it would be a whole lot better if they didn't try to do so darn much every week. This is a series that really needs to take a deep breath and stop trying to over-impress.
Season 2 gets underway with an intriguing pre-credits scene that finds Da Vinci (Tom Riley) and his nemesis Count Riario (Blake Ritson) as prisoners of the Incas in South America and seemingly about to meet their fates. However, the series then jumps back in time six months to resolve the cliffhanger that ended the first season. Florence is under attack by the Pazzis – who are under the direction of Pope Sixtus (James Faulkner) – and while Da Vinci and the city's leader Lorenzo Medici (Elliot Cowan) are in hiding, Lorenzo's wife, Clarice (Lara Pulver) is struggling to keep the Pazzis from getting access to the Medici castle.
By the time Episode 2 of this new season wraps up, however, Lorenzo has been reunited with his wife and he's charged Leonardo with a new mission: going to the New World and finding 'The Vault of Heaven', which contains the mysterious 'Book of Leaves' that was so often referred to in the prior season of this series. The bad news is that Lorenzo still has a lot of work to do to make Florence secure from outsiders, while Leo's nemesis Riario already has a head start on him heading to the New World (with a few of Leo's friends in tow).
If there's a real reason to watch Season 2, it's for the Riario character, who is forced into making an uneasy alliance/truce with Leonardo due to events that occur once both men reach The New World. While I enjoyed the character development/expansion we see for Riario and some of the other supporting cast in Season 2, I've never been a fan of the whole 'Book of Leaves' story, nor Leonardo's obsession with it (yes, he's still getting visions from the mysterious 'Turk' (Alexander Siddig) this season). Visually speaking, the show has really upped the ante this year, with some great new sets and visuals. However, the story seems just as convoluted as ever, and there are big chunks of Season 2 that I really didn't care about (again, most of them involving Leo's quest).
Another big reason not to get too excited about this Season 2 set is because of the significant downgrade in bonus materials (detailed in the 'Supplements' section below) this time around. The first season release gave fans commentary tracks for four of the eight episodes on that release. This time around, 'Da Vinci's Demons' expands its season's length to 10 episodes, yet fans don't get a single commentary track. While the featurettes included are far from 'fluff' pieces (although they are quite short), they add little value to this release and the result – despite the rather outstanding A/V quality for each episode – is a rather disappointing overall package.
Because of my reservations described above, I'm only recommending this release to die-hard fans of the series. Even for the more casual viewers that enjoyed Season 1, these are pretty much a group of episodes you'll watch once and have no real desire to sit through a second time, even down the road. Season 2 is no better or worse than Season 1, retaining most of the things I liked about the show, but also keeping most of the things I dislike about it as well.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
The second season of 'Da Vinci's Demon's finds its way to Blu-ray in packaging similar to the first season's release. The three 50GB discs are on plastic hubs inside a sturdy (and glossy) tri-fold digipack, with the only insert being ad advertisement for the first volume (which is half of the first season) of Outlander. The side of the digipack that folds inward contains a list of all the episodes for Season 2, which disc in the set they appear on, plus their writer(s) and director. A slipcover matching the front and back artwork of the digipack slides overtop.
Disc 1 of this set is front-loaded with trailers for the upcoming Season 3 of 'DaVinci's Demons', Outlander, and Season 1 of Black Sails. The main menu consists of a montage of footage from the second season, with menu selections running across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-rays in this release are Region A-locked.
The Season 2 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer of these 10 episodes look just as good as the Season 1 episodes did when they came out on Blu-ray. The episodes, like many TV dramas these days, were shot using Arri Alexa digital cameras, and come with all the benefits (and a few disadvantages) of that equipment. As is the case with almost every series I've seen shot on the Arri, outdoor scenes are simply stunning, with wonderful color, depth, and detail. Indoor sequences are a little less impressive, as the Arri always seems to suffer a bit in lower light. For the most part though, even the indoor/set stuff here looks pretty good, although some very minor crush creeps in during some of the significantly darker and/or nighttime sequences of the series.
I was able to detect no issues with aliasing, banding, or other problems that sometimes find their way into transfers. Despite some of my issues with the actual episodes, there's no doubt that this is another solid transfer that compares favorably with what viewers got on the first season release.
Anchor Bay has provided an entertaining English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track for each of the 10 epiosdes in this set. Directionally, there's a lot going on in most of the scenes, particularly the ones with a lot of action in them. The rears are used for lots of ambient sounds throughout, and there's a nice immersiveness to most of Season 2's segements. Even one's subwoofer will get some fun LFE moments during the explosions that take place within select epiosdes.
In terms of glitches, I didn't detect any noticeable ones, and the track(s) does a nice job of balancing the spoken word with all the other sounds and noises going on around it – so even in the most action-packed moments, the dialogue never becomes drowned out. The audio here fell just short of being reference-quality, but viewers/listeners are going to be very pleased with what they get.
In addition to the lossless English 5.1 track, a Dolby 2.0 Spanish track is also an option for each of the episodes (Note: The box cover actually claims the Spanish track is mono, but it is indeed in stereo). Subtitles are available on each episode in English SDH and Spanish.
Note: All of the bonus materials listed below appear on Disc 3 of this set. Please also note that each episode in this set contains an optional 'Recap' of the prior episode that can be included with one's viewing.
'Da Vinci's Demons' is a good-looking and well-acted series, but it's also one that can be needlessly dense and hard to follow at times. The best news about Season 2 is the change of locale (at least on screen, if not for the actual production crew) and trying to do something different with most of the characters we were introduced to in the first season. However, the lack of any meaningful extras on this set and the fact that this is a hard series to penetrate unless and until you've seen everything that came before makes this release one that only fans of the series are going to want to add to their collection.