Leonardo da Vinci's world comes crashing down when the city of Otranto is torn apart by an Ottoman invasion. On the battlefield, the Turks use da Vinci’s own weapons against him… the designs for which were stolen by someone he trusted. This betrayal will haunt Leo long after the battle is decided, as will the deaths of loved ones lost in the fighting. When Rome instigates a Crusade against the Turks, he seizes the opportunity to join, but his mission is complicated by a series of grisly murders that terrorize Italy and threaten the Crusade itself…
After two seasons of what can best be described as 'uneven' storytelling, 'Da Vinci's Demons' finally wraps things up in Season 3 with results that are only semi-satisfying. Much of this third year is more about soldiers and impending battles than the prior seasons have been, and while the way things conclude may not satisfy many of the loyal fans out there, at least give the showrunners credit for not tacking on a silly cliffhanger that would never be resolved.
Season 3 picks up exactly where Season 2 left off, with the Turks about to attack Otranto and Da Vinci (Tom Riley) about to fire his latest contraption against them. He's warned by his father that the lead ship he's about to fire on contains his long-lost mother, but Da Vinci realizes he has no choice but to sink the vessel (whose destruction will block the other Turk ships from advancing). Da Vinci's plan works, but it's only a temporary solution, as its soon revealed that the Turks have their own weapons to fight back...and all of them are from designs of Da Vinci's earlier work.
While the first two seasons focused primarily on Da Vinci's quest for the mysterious 'Book of Leaves', that MacGuffin (as Hitchcock termed it) plays a much smaller role this season (although it does reappear later on), while Da Vinci's internal struggle over whether his previous creations have led to his people's own destruction takes on a much larger role. Once again, as was the case in the prior season, Da Vinci spends much of Season 3 wondering if his mother is still alive, only to discover later in the season that he has a sister (Sabrina Bartlett) that he never knew about.
One of the ongoing storylines in this series has involved the reign of Pope Sixtus (James Faulkner) and his older brother (also played by Faulkner) who is the 'true' Pope (and whom Sixtus had imprisoned until his escape at the end of Season 2). As was hinted at in the prior season, Sixtus' older brother is really no less power hungry than he is. While Sixtus plans to put together a crusade against the Turks, the older brother is actually teaming up with them in the hopes of crushing his younger sibling's forces as a way of establishing power. This leaves Da Vinci and his friends in a bit of a catch 22 situation, which results in an uneasy alliance with Sixtus in order to stop the Turk army.
In perhaps the goofiest decision of Season 3, the writers and showrunners have decided to bring back the character of Prince Vlad (Paul Rhys) – who was first introduced in a Season 1 episode – to play a major role in Da Vinci's fight against the Turks. Having Da Vinci meet 'Dracula' himself made for one of the first season's better episodes, but having him return for a much bigger multi-episode arc in this final season just seems like desperation for better ratings. It doesn't help that Rhys plays the character so oddly and cartoonish that it takes viewers out of whatever sense of realism this series actually had.
When things finally do start to wrap up, not all fan favorites wind up getting a happy ending to their story. There's some loss here, but at least I'm glad to report that the final episode doesn't end in a cliffhanger, although it's open-ended enough that the characters could return if Starz ever decided to do so (unlikely, although creator David S. Goyer has stated he has an idea for a miniseries a few years down the road). But this release really isn't going to have mass appeal (the lack of any supplements all but guarantees that). It's primarily for loyal followers of the show who want to complete their collection on Blu-ray (or at least rent it to see what happens to the characters). It's a shame that a series with so much promise never amounted to more, but at least fans are treated to a somewhat-definitive end.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
The third and final season of 'Da Vinci's Demons' arrives on Blu-ray in pretty much the same packaging design as the prior two seasons. Three 50GB Blu-rays are placed on individual plastic hubs that are part of a glossy cardboard tri-fold digipack. The inside flap of the tri-fold lists this season's episodes, along with their writers and directors and which disc in the set they appear on. A slipcover with the logo for the series ever-so-slightly embossed (and artwork that matches the digipack) slides overtop. There's a sole insert that advertises Season 3 of the Starz series Black Sails. A short promo (roughly 30 seconds) for the upcoming season of 'Black Sails' is on the first disc in this set. There are no other front-loaded trailers on the remaining two discs. The main menu design also reflects prior seasons, with a montage of footage playing on the screen and menu selections horizontally along the bottom.
The Blu-rays in this release are Region A locked.
Like the prior two seasons, Season 3 of 'Da Vinci's Demons' is shot on Arri Alexa cameras. Each episode is presented here in its original television aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Once again, Anchor Bay has provided fans with a stunning video transfer that is right on par with the previous two seasons. Black levels are solid for the most part, details are deep and sharp, and colors are lush without being oversaturated. It's a shame that so many scenes in the series take place at night or in darkened passageways and caverns, as the exterior daytime shots are wonderful to behold in high def.
About the only problems I saw were some minor crush as well as a small amount of noise that creep into those darker moments mentioned above. Otherwise, there are no noticeable problems with the transfer of these episodes, including any issues involving aliasing or banding. Those who own the first two sets can rest easy knowing they'll be getting the same quality with this third season release.
The featured track for each episode here is 7.1 English Dolby TrueHD that ups the ante from the prior two seasons, which only provided 5.1 TrueHD tracks that were nevertheless pretty darn impressive in and of themselves. These episodes simply sound great, with crisp, intelligible dialgoue, a wonderful rendering of composer Bear McCreary's soundtrack, and an immersive feeling to the audio (thanks to plenty of ambient attention) in almost every scene. The tracks also provide plenty of LFE 'oomph' when required, particularly during a few of Season 3's more expansive battle sequences. It's all mixed together impressively, so one never need to worry about the explosions and such drowning out the spoken word. Prior seasons got a near-reference-quality rating from me, but the upgrade to 7.1 this season puts these tracks solidly in reference-quality territory. While the accompanying video quality is great, the audio quality is easily the best thing about this Season 3 set.
In addition to the 7.1 English lossless track, Spanish Dolby Digital mono is also an option for each episode. Subtitles are available in English SDH and Spanish.
Note: While, sadly, this is a bare-bones release from Anchor Bay, recaps are still available for each episode. They were optional menu selections in the two prior season releases, but here they're just part of the episodes themselves, meaning viewers don't have an option this time whether they want to have them at the beginning of each episode or not.
'Da Vinci's Demons' was one of those series with good actors and decent production values that could never really seem to get out of its own way and tell some straightforward good historical stories. Season Three is sadly the least appealing of the lot, even though I appreciated that it mostly dropped the whole 'Book of Leaves' quest and, overall, was slightly darker in tone than the prior seasons. Still, this is probably also the most convoluted of seasons and, for that reason, this set is something that only loyal fans of the series are going to want to bother with.