TV Review: 'Medici' Season 2 'The Magnificent'

Medici The Magnificent Jacopo de Pazzi Sean Bean Lorenzo de Medici Daniel Sharman
When viewers of "Medici" last saw the series' titular family, the story left off with its focus on their groundbreaking leader, Cosimo. Leaping forward in time, “Medici: The Magnificent” picks up with Cosimo’s eldest grandson, Lorenzo (Daniel Sharman), as a grown man.

Lorenzo’s father and Cosimo’s son, Piero, is not in the best health when the season begins. A situation, which grows more troubled during the first episode. From the outset, it is evident that Lorenzo is the rising star and eventual leader of his family, which also includes his younger brother Giuliano (Bradley James) and sister Bianca (Aurora Ruffino).

As the title hints, his qualities enchant almost everyone around him. The exception being the leader of the Pazzi family, Jacopo de’ Pazzi (Sean Bean). He longs to see the Medicis' downfall, and he goes to great lengths to achieve his goal.

“Medici: The Magnificent” has it all. A likable hero at its forefront and a terrific villain to combat him. Their blood feud providing ample teeth to “Medici.”

Between the family feud, ensuing scheming, political intrigue, sumptuous romances, off-limits love affairs, and battles for one’s soul, “Medici: The Magnificent” is an all-encompassing experience. The series' second installment is fast-paced without rushing and riveting at every turn.

There are characters to root for and romances worth cheering to see thrive. The exception being those of the star-crossed variety. Unlike many other series, that would stew over those particular plots, “Medici” does not get weighed down by them. Treating the storylines with consequence without getting distracted.

The second season offers a phenomenally absorbing overall story that enraptures throughout. There are no dull spots and with eight episodes, “Medici” builds Lorenzo up to almost superhero proportions. Something that would be hard-to-swallow, if it did not manifest with so much sincerity.

While not without his flaws, Lorenzo is showcased as brilliant, witty, kind-hearted, and courageous. Hence, it is hard to reconcile why he would carry on the romance, he does at the start of the season. Still, people are complicated and "Medici" deftly makes that point numerous times.

For the most part, though, Lorenzo is depicted as a renaissance man, who is capable of pretty much anything with a well-intentioned heart for his family as his driving force. As with any well-written character, there is an enigmatic edge to his persona.

Considering how Lorenzo is characterized, it makes Jacopo de’ Pazzi’s hatred for him and his family span from irrational to downright puzzling. One theory to understand it is to attribute it to simple jealousy.

The Medici dynasty has it all, including a young leader capable of carrying on his family’s power. Jacopo has no such person to carry on his family’s legacy. His nephews are no match for Lorenzo, and he knows it.

It is a petty thing, but as “Medici” demonstrates -- some would rather live in darkness than let a light, not belonging to them, shine.

The writing for the second installment is incredible, and with so much to work through, it is spell-binding. Be warned that it is best to save any historical research, until after you have finished watching.

There is no sense in spoiling any of the series' numerous twists and turns. All of which leads to one of the most emotionally intense finales personally watched in recent memory. It is there, you truly grasp how deeply the show's characters have come to grip you. While anticipated, the impact of the season even took this viewer by surprise.

Having leaped forward a generation, the second installment of the series feels all-together new. There is a connection provided via Medici matriarch, Contessina.

The scene-stealing Annabel Scholey reprises her role from “Masters of Florence,” furthering the connection between the seasons. Her fantastic performance as the honorable Contessina serving as yet another bright spot to "The Magnificent" as she is shown via flashbacks, imparting wisdom on Lorenzo as a kid.

The sequel season charts its own course, while also giving viewers the action and adventure that filled "Masters of Florence." In another parallel to its predecessor, "The Magnificent" is also expertly cast. Filled to the brim with a talented ensemble that brings out all the dimension and depth present in its complicated characters.

Maintaining the tradition of headlining the season with an actor who starred in “Game of Thrones,” Sean Bean takes over the reins from Richard Madden. Unlike Madden, who played the Medicis' patriarch, Bean stars as their arch rival.

Every good story needs a great villain, and Bean delivers as the devious Jacopo. Whereas Matteo Martari compellingly portrays Francesco, the Pazzi caught in between. His allegiances hovering, torn, and upended throughout the season.

Taking over as the series’ lead, Daniel Sharman is tasked with following the remarkable run of Richard Madden. Impressively, Sharman succeeds in doing just that with a breakout turn of his own, which hints at more to come.

Lorenzo is complexly written and thanks to Sharman, he is also portrayed that way. Whether swashbuckling or savvy, he shows the range that is necessary to bring it all to the screen.

The supporting cast is equally impressive. “Merlin” star Bradley James is charismatic as Lorenzo’s brother, Giuliano. Even as Giuliano does unlikable things, James gets one to take the leap in attributing his folly to rampant romanticism and not cold-hearted lust.

As “Masters of Florence” did with Contessina, “The Magnificent” gives viewers another virtuous woman caught in the Medici family’s endless intrigue. Synnøve Karlsen portrays the devout Clarice with grace and dignity. Meanwhile, Alessandra Mastronardi also impresses as Lorenzo's initial love interest, Lucrezia.

What “Medici” creators Nicholas Meyer and Frank Spotnitz have created is an indelible follow-up to its original installment. “The Magnificent” is not only all the things mentioned above. It is thought-provoking, going beyond the realm of sheer entertainment value.

"Medici" is a series on the level of every prestige period drama around. A winner with no end in sight and a fascinating family that can carry a series, indefinitely. Another season cannot arrive soon enough.

Rating: 10/10

“Medici: Masters of Florence” and “Medici: The Magnificent” are currently streaming on Netflix.

[Featured Image by Rai 1]