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Series / Da Vinci's Demons

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"Perhaps you've heard of me."

"Genius cannot be contained."

Da Vinci's Demons is a TV series about Leonardo da Vinci's fictional early life as an artist, inventor, idealist, and a genius intellectual, which premiered on Fox and Starz networks. It was written by David S. Goyer (who collaborated with Christopher Nolan on The Dark Knight Trilogy), and it stars Tom Riley. The story is mostly realistic, drawing from historical events and showcasing real-life historical figures, but it also contains a Low Fantasy Myth Arc that involves a search for a MacGuffin called 'The Book of Leaves'. This single volume contains hidden knowledge about the universe, and one's possession of it can radically alter the political power-field. Most people are unaware of this book, and those who do know of it generally have ties to the Vatican or The Sons of Mithras, an ancient cult that is dedicated to the pursuit of the book.


Meanwhile, Da Vinci serves as the war engineer to the Medicis, making weapons for Lorenzo the Magnificent, and becomes caught up in the political intrigue surrounding Florentine nobility, which is in the middle of a conflict with Rome. The Medicis appreciate Leo's genius, but his unorthodox methods, and general nonchalant attitude, often put them in troublesome situations.

It now has a character page, which could use some love. All character tropes should be moved there.


Da Vinci's Demons contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Piero da Vinci (Leonardo's father) most of the time, and Pope Sixtus IV towards his illegitimate son Riario.
  • Absent-Minded Professor: Leonardo da Vinci, of course! He can come off especially bizarre to those around him using unorthodox methods to figure out a problem or focusing on it at the exclusion of everything else.
  • Absolute Cleavage: Male examples modeled by Leo, Zoroaster, and Giuliano.
  • Adrenaline Time: Used in the first episode, when Leonardo is sketching birds in flight.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Zoroaster is very dark, for being an Italian. He also, apparently, is of some sort of mixed ancestry.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Tom Riley had said before the series that they were going to make sure da Vinci was not constrained, including by sexuality, and that they were going to attempt to do justice to the historical da Vinci.
  • Anachronism Stew: Not as much featured as being made of it.
  • Ancient Conspiracy:
    • The Sons of Mithras are a benevolent version. In the third season, horribly averted.
    • A decidedly less benevolent one is revealed in the second season; the Labyrinth, aka The Enemies of Man.
  • Arc Words:
    • "I am a son of earth and starry heaven. I am thirsty. Please give me something to drink from the fountain of memory."
    • "Time is a river."
    • "We are the Shadows at the center of the Labyrinth, we are the Unity within the Beast, we are One. We are the Horns of the Increate."
  • Artistic License – Geography: The ships in search of the Book of Leaves sail across the Atlantic and land at some jungle apparently right next to the Andes... which are those mountains on the western side of South America.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • The second season shows Lorenzo's diplomatic mission as a failure. Whereas in history the mission was a success and led the the lifting of the interdict on Florence.
    • Lorenzo actually did have sons: three in fact. Piero who succeeded him; Giovanni who became Pope Leo X(and was consecrated by Pope Sixtus's grand-nephew,) and Giuliano who became Duke of Nemours in the Peerage of France. This makes Lorenzo's Anti-French, Anti-Church policies a tad surprising.
    • In real life, Amerigo Vespucci was born two years after Leonardo da Vinci; in the show he seems to be ten years older.
    • There are multiple ships from Italy taking trips to the New World in 1478 (and apparently much earlier) and landing in South America, fifteen years before Columbus set sail.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "As my brother fucked you in the arse, did you smile knowing you were doing the same to him?" Especially considering Lucrezia rarely gets called out on her actions, seeing as she's operating in secret.
  • Asshole Victim: The judge who had been bribed by the Pazzi family to convict Leonardo at his sodomy trial.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Da Vinci's normally got a Badass Beard, but he grows one of these while in prison.
  • The Beautiful Elite: The Medici family and associates
  • Being Tortured Makes You Evil:
    • Vlad Tepes is hopelessly insane from the tortures inflicted on him by the Turks and has devoted the rest of his life to devising the most cruel torments imaginable on anyone of Middle-Eastern persuasion who had the misfortune of being caught alive by his men. He openly admits that he is insane, but doesn't see any alternative for a person who has experienced things that he has.
    • Nico gets to "interrogate" Riario after he was tortured by him.
    • In the season 2 finale, the Labyrinth/Enemies of Man torture Riario into joining them, turning him back to the dark side after his attempt at redemption.
  • BFG: Many of Leonardo's gun designs.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Lucrezia, keeps up the act, but she ends up killing both Becci and Giuliano.
  • Black Cloak: Riario has one and is overall dressed to match his black soul.
  • Brandishment Bluff: When Riario and his men are prepared to lay siege to Florence, da Vinci is under pressure to make more weapons. He ends up building a small shrapnel grenade and firing it from a crossbow to demonstrate what the grenade balls as big as a human will do when fired from a gigantic crossbow. Except that, as we find out after Riario falls for it, the giant grenades have no gunpowder or other explosives, and the giant crossbow is a hastily-constructed sham. Leonardo was bluffing.
  • Break the Cutie: Nico throughout the first season coupled with:
  • Butt-Monkey: Nico, Giuliano
  • City of Adventure: Florence is the primary setting of this series.
  • Cliffhanger:
    • At the end of Season 1 it really looks as if the Pazzis are going to succeed in killing Leonardo, Lucrezia and all the Medicis.
    • Season 2 ends with a a massive turkish fleet about to invade Italy, and with Leonardo learning the woman onboard the flag ship is his mother, just as the fuses on the cannons he's pointing at her are running out.
  • Clock Punk: The mechanical dove in Episode 1, the elaborate projection system in Episode 5.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Thrown around frequently.
  • Corrupt Church: Historically pretty accurate. The Papacy in particular around that time was notorious for behaving in a decidedly un-Christian manner.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: Riario's influence on him has made him quite ruthless as of season two. In the season 2 finale, Nico's full name is revealed as Niccolò Machiavelli!
  • Crazy-Prepared: Leonardo
  • Creepy Monotone: Vlad speaks in a soft monotone.
  • Deadpan Snarker: There are several, but Leo and Zoroaster definitely stand out.
  • Demonic Possession: Nuns at a convent near Florence are affected by this in Episode 3. Actually staged by Lucretzia on Count Riario's orders, by poisoning the feet of the statue of Saint Anthony, which the nuns kiss as a sign of devotion, with a hallucinogenic.
  • Dirty Cop: Captain Dragonetti is something of a Renaissance equivalent.
  • Doing In the Wizard: Leonardo accomplishes this in "The Prisoner," writing off the idea of demonic possession and concluding the cause of the nuns' symptoms was a hallucinogenic fungus placed on the feet of the statue of St. Anthony.
  • Dracula: Vlad the Impaler shows up in episode 6 and is legitimately scary. And possibly supernatural.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Two examples. First after years of abuse, cruelty, and utter lack of respect at the hands of his father. Duke Alfonso exploits the tension between the Pope and him, to kill him and seize the throne. Carlo de Medici had to spent his entire life as he put it "waiting in the shadows," as he was both illegitimate and black he was deemed unfit to rule, or even have public life, and was shuttled about by his father. While his father did love him he ultimately put his reputation first, and Carlo was forced into a religious life. Carlo responded by killing Cosimo, and defecting to the Enemies of Man.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Pope Sixtus is introduced in a rather ironic and funny way. When we first see the pope, he is fully naked, in a large and opulent bath with a young boy and a knife to the boy's throat.
    • Da Vinci is first shown strapping Nico into his flying machine to try it out, showcasing one of da Vinci's best known designs, his ambition, and his recklessness.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Leonardo has these frequently.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Jacopo Saltarelli, for Leonardo. Strongly implied, if not outright stated, to have once been mutual.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Pope Sixtus IV has a very resonant baritone, borders on Badass Baritone.
  • Evil Twin: The real Pope Sixtus was replaced by his.
  • Excalibur in the Stone: Has a brief cameo in the Vatican's secret archives.
  • Fan Disservice: Most often attributable to the majority of the Male Frontal Nudity belonging to Pope Sixtus.
  • Fanservice: Plenty of attractive people wearing very little clothing, which is to be expected from Starz.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Riario, Vlad Dracula
  • Femme Fatale: Lucrezia Donati.
  • Fingore:
    • Nico suffers a hand-variation.
    • At the end of the pilot, Lucrezia is given a box that, when she opens it, is holding a finger with a ring still on it.
    • Vlad Tepes cut off The Abyssinian's hand and carved his castle into it.
    • Riario, after killing Pope Sixtus cut his finger for his Ring of the Fisherman in the finale.
  • Friends with Benefits: Leonardo and Lucrezia's relationship. Maybe.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Pope Sixtus has no issue striking his subordinates in the face or even trying to drown them completely in the buff.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Leonardo, quite frequently.
  • Guile Hero: Leo
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: Many characters have their own theme colors in their clothing that match their personality and the amount of bad they are. The Medicis are red, blue or yellow, while the opposing family Pazzi is all green. The Pope and everyone in Vatican are white and gold, while the Officers of Night and the Rome army wear all black, and so do Riario and Lupo Mercuri, because they're bad.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Vlad has a mass of lightning scars on his face.
  • Handy Cuffs: Lucrezia uses her chains to kill Bayezid II then steal the keys to escape.
  • Happily Married: Lorenzo and Clarice, despite the former's infidelity.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Dragonetti. He tried to betray the Medicis, but ultimately his loyalty is to Florence. He comes around with the Easter Plot.
  • Heroic Bastard: Leonardo. His father, a notary for the Medicis, had Leonardo with a servant woman out of wedlock, and as a result Leo has no status of legitimacy.
  • Hidden Depths: Giuliano, Nico, Rario
  • Historical Domain Character: Most characters, all of the main ones.
  • Honey Trap: Lucrezia, to Lorenzo, and possibly Leonardo
  • Hotter and Sexier: Averted with the first half of the second season.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Riario knows many of the things he's done are terrible, and that he will do terrible things in the future. But believes his actions are in service to God, and therefore necessary and just.
  • Implacable Man: Vlad Dracula.
  • Impossible Thief: Leo's theft of the Vatican's secret archives.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Leonardo, Giuliano, Lorenzo, Zoroaster, Leo's father. Especially Giuliano.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Riario most of the time, Pope Sixtus IV, Vlad Dracula
  • Knight Templar: Pope Sixtus, maybe. The various murders and tortures he endorses are presented by him as being for the glory of God and the Catholic Church.
  • Large Ham: Vlad rules this trope.
  • MacGuffin: The Book of Leaves.
  • Made of Iron:
    • Vlad Tepes.
    • Dragonetti, especially during the riots in the Season 2 premiere.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: A model in the studio; briefly, Lorenzo and his godfather, the Duke of Urbino, in a sauna. Pope Sixtus, frequently.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane:
    • A lot of things related to the series Myth Arc, including Leonardo's trances (drugs or time travel).
    • Dracula's seeming immortality and the fact that he only seems damaged by fire and being hit with a giant cross, The Spear of Destiny, and surely more to come.
    • Even The Book of Leaves itself, although we haven't seen it; does the book the characters are after legitimately hold deep, secret truths of our existence, or do they just think it does?
  • Mercy Kill: Lucrezia delivers one to Becci, who she has framed as being the traitor working for Rome. He doesn't agree about the "merciful" part and accuses her of simply tying up loose ends.
  • Missing Mom: Da Vinci's mother disappeared when he was young, and he cannot remember her face.
  • Mook Chivalry: Giuliano de Medici effectively fights three men in quick succession. Speed is a factor, but they do wait in line.
  • The Mole:
    • Lucrezia
    • Also Dragonetti, the captain of the Night Guard
  • More Dakka: The premise behind Da Vinci's pipe organ muskets.
  • Mushroom Samba: Leonardo experiences one in Episode 3, when Vanessa kisses him in gratitude, accidentally poisoning him with the same hallucinogen that she had been affected by, as there were traces still on her lips.
  • Never Found the Body: Vlad the Impaler. AKA Dracula - draw your own conclusions.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: When an offended Giuliano lets slip to the Church exactly how many of da Vinci's rotating canons they have.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Lorenzo hands out a few of these, and is on the recieving end of one from Giuliano.
  • Noodle Implements: The shopping lists that Leo gives to Zoroaster and Nico.
  • Not Quite Dead: Season 3 reveals that Vlad is in fact alive and well without a mark on him, apart from his usual lightning scars.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Twice in connection with Vlad Tepes.
      • The first time, when Leonardo realizes his sleeping drug didn't work on Vlad, and sees him in the rafters:
        Leonardo Da Vinci: ""
      • The second time when Zoroaster hits him with a heavy cross to little effect:
        Zoroaster: "Shit..." Vlad then knocks him across the room.
    • Jacopo Pazzi after Lorenzo's speech in "The Blood of Brothers".
  • Parental Substitute: Andrea Verrocchio seems to be one to Leonardo, providing both warmth and a profession, neither of which was offered to him by Piero.
  • Pedophile Priest: Pope Sixtus IV is presented as one of these.
  • Photographic Memory: Leonardo possesses this gift.
  • Plot Armor:
    • Nico is Niccolò Machiavelli; Leonardo will of course live a long life.
    • Averted by Clarice, who dies in "Modus Operandi" despite having lived well past those events in reality.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Lorenzo, when he wants to be.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Leonardo da Vinci's method and persistence in trying to become Lorenzo's war engineer. Despite being a Heroic Bastard who therefore has no status, Leo makes advances on Lucrezia, hoping to interest her enough to get a job painting her portrait. And as soon as he does, he proceeds to show an unsoliciting Lorenzo the Magnificent his designs. Da Vinci basically refuses to stop when people (especially his father) tell him to. And in the end, it works.
  • Renaissance Man: Three guesses who.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Giuliano de Medici. Also Foregone Conclusion.
  • Shadow Archetype: Leo has two in the form of Count Riario and Vlad the Impaler.
  • Sherlock Scan: Leo
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Secret Vatican Archives contain, among other things, the Ark of the Covenant. There's also a page from a magical document that changes from one language to another, at one point resembling one of the octogram symbols from Lost. The Sword in the Stone is also present.
    • Nico is a dead ringer for Verrocchio's David (not altogether surprisingly, since he's Verrocchio's model).
  • Slashed Throat: Seen in episode 1; Riario slashes the young boy's who had been bathing with Pope Sixtus, because he heard their evil plans, 2; Riario gets Captain Grunwald to chop off one of his troop members' throat (or the whole head), apparently to threaten Nico and 4; Riario and his troops question Florentines about the Bible and slash their throats if they don't know the answer.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Giuliano and Lorenzo
  • Sinister Minister: Lupo Mercuri, Pope Sixtus IV, Riario (though he only works for the church and God and technically isn't a priest), the Architect of the Labyrinth
  • Smug Snake: Riario, literally so, as he gets constantly linked to being a snake and is smugly tortures people.
  • The Sociopath: Riario, Vlad Dracula
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: Riario
  • Someone to Remember Him By:
    • A Vatican guard threatens to leave the woman he was about to rape a memory of the encounter, although she wasn't raped and was meant to be killed soon after.
    • Vanessa discovers that she is pregnant with Giuliano's child right before he dies.
  • Swallow the Key: The Jew does this to hide his key.
  • Tall, Dark, and Snarky: Leonardo, Giuliano, Lorenzo, Zoroaster, Riario
  • Tasty Gold: Lorenzo bribes a guard with a gold coin while travelling incognito to deliver a message after being thrown into a dungeon and being unwilling to reveal his true identity. After the guard has bit the coin, Lorenzo implies that he had smuggled it to the cell in his bottom.
  • Time Travel: Its possibility is implied by the visions Leonardo has and his conversations with the both the Turk and Abyssinian.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Giuliano de' Medici slowly takes his through the course of Season 1. And then he dies.
    • Clarice takes one at the start of Season 2, coupled with Mama Bear.
      Clarice Orsini: "...or I will have your titles and your testicles removed.
  • Torture Technician: Vlad Dracula, Riario at times
  • Translation Convention: Technically, they're all speaking Italian.
  • Trickster Archetype: Leo, Zoroaster
  • Two Halves Make a Plot: The keys that unlock the Vault of Heaven are this. Leonardo has one of them while Riario later reveals he has the other.
  • Unexpected Character: Was anyone expecting Vlad Dracula to turn up?
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Leonardo, Riario
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Ippolita Maria Sforza is the Queen of Naples and the First Love of Lorenzo Medici. When both are widowed after their spouses are killed a marriage between them would seem the most obvious course of action — but after season two she's never seen or mentioned again.
    • In season two Lucrezia is accompanied by a bodyguard called Quon Shan, who disappears without explanation once the Ottoman Invasion is set into motion.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Spoken almost verbatim by Riario about Lucrezia
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: The Book of Leaves is not in the Vault of Heaven; Leonardo's mother took it from there after being betrayed.


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