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Series / Medici: Masters of Florence

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Like Father, Like Son

Medici: Masters of Florence is a historical TV series created by Frank Spotnitz and Nicholas Meyer in 2016.

It is a dramatization of the life of Cosimo de' Medici "the Elder" (1389-1464, played by Richard Madden), grandfather to the famous Lorenzo the Magnificent, as he ascends to family patriarch and leader of the wealthy and powerful Medici bank following the suspicious death of his father, Giovanni (played by Dustin Hoffman). Aside from intense personal drama, this highlights the turbulent period when the Medici were becoming, but not yet, kings in all but name over the late medieval / Renaissance era city-state of Florence, with the attendant intrigue and drama.

One 8-episode season has aired on Rai (the channel that produces it) in Italy, Sky1 in Germany, Zive in France and Netflix for English-speakers. A second season has been greenlit.Season 2 focused on the younger years of Lorenzo the Magnificent, and the Pazzi Conspiracy. Season 3 focused on his later life.


This series provides examples of:

  • 0% Approval Rating: The Pazzi family doesn't realise they have this in comparison to the Medicis, and especially after murdering Giuliano de Medici at Mass.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • Once again, Richard Madden finds himself pledged to marry a daughter of David Bradley except this time the marriage actually goes through, and no one dies.
    • David Bamber, once again, plays a prominent Roman politician who flees Rome due to a civil war in the city- only this time he's the Pope, not a senator.
  • Appeal to Force: When Cosimo is arrested, Lorenzo fetches an army to threaten the city and force his release.
  • Arc Words: "A man always has a choice." Arguably. It is repeated a few times, with different emphasis and is bound up in the show's themes.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: At one point Cosimo is arrested and dramatically accused of three treasons; that he attempted to make himself a despot over all Florence, that he charges interest on loans (a grave sin) and that he pollutes the city's morals by funding tacky art.
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  • Artistic License – Art: Several liberties were taken in regards of Botticelli's Venus and Mars. Giuliano models as Mars (while it is generally agreed that the original model was a drowned man fished out of the Arno), Simonetta Vespucci is live modelling for it (while, if it is indeed her portrait, it was posthumous as she was already dead by the estimated time of its creation), the painting is never used as a headboard for the bed and, more glaringly, it gets burned when the Vespucci house is looted by an angry mob after Marco's involvement in the Pazzi Conspiracy. The latter is especially puzzling since, in the next season, Venus and Mars is included in the montage of Renaissance artworks that make up the Medici's legacy to future generations.
  • Artistic License – History: The period is beautifully, lovingly displayed, but the show assumes a lot of private conversations and back-dealings we would know nothing about. Most tellingly, we have no idea how Giovanni de Medici died in real life (except that it was in February, so he wouldn't be relaxing in the vineyard and eating grapes), but his murder is central to the plot. The creators acknowledge this, not changing events that were confirmed to have happened, but not hiding the fact that the exact circumstances portrayed were little more than guesswork.
  • As You Know: Giuliano seems to be at Council meetings to explain this to the audience.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Rinaldo seems to believe that nobles rule through a combination of divine mandate and martial prowess. Certainly, he does not shy away from battle and distrusts the Medici for ruling through their wealth.
    • Jacopo de Pazzi believes much the same in Season 2.
  • Badass Bookworm: Cosimo is a banker, and wanted to be an artist, but it's still unwise to test him. Piero tries to be this, but he's not quite there yet.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Cosimo.
    • Though he's the show's hero, he's repeatedly unkind to Contessina, he has little regard for Maddalena once he tires of her.
    • Lorenzo, too, after he Took a Level in Jerkass in season three as a result of Giuliano's death and Francesco's betrayal. In fact, the show in general makes very little to sugarcoat the less savoury traits of the main characters.
  • Bittersweet Ending / "Ray of Hope" Ending: Season three ends with the death of Lorenzo and Savonarola all but in charge of Florence. However, Lorenzo dies at peace, surrounded by the love of his remaining family, and seemingly redeemed; he gets the last word with Savonarola telling him (correctly) that the beauty of the Florentine Renaissance he patroned will endure; we are told that while Piero loses his power and is ousted from Florence, Giovanni and later Giulio would go on to become popes; and finally, we are treated to a beautiful montage of many Renaissance artworks patroned by the Medici which have survived well into our times, showing that Cosimo and Lorenzo's legacy has become a pivotal part of humanity's heritage and they were ultimately right.
  • Blackmail Backfire: The surgeon who autopsies Giovanni De Medici knows the Medici wish to keep his cause of death quiet, and attempts to blackmail Cosimo in the first episode. Cosimo is willing to pay, but Marco insists such things never end with a one-time payoff, and murders the surgeon.
    • A non-murder type of this happens in Season 2.
  • Blue Blood: Much of the cast, at least technically. Contessina is a noblewoman, making Cosimo and their child such. Most of the Signoria, especially Rinaldo Albizzi.
  • Bribe Backfire: Happens to Cosimo and Lorenzo when trying to rig the papal election. The Medici are often accused of buying votes, even on the odd occasion they're innocent.
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory: Standard practice of the Medici. They are wealthy bankers, after all.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Filippo Brunelleschi has a very abrasive and self-centered personality. But he's also every bit the architectural genius he says he is.
  • Butt-Monkey: Piero can't get any respect for most of the first season, and little or nothing he tries turns out well. Makes it all the better in the end when he stands up and dictates terms to the Signoria.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Cosimo De Medici never wanted to be a banker, or a politician or to marry into nobility. He definitely never wanted to hurt or kill anyone. But for his family, he will do all these things and worse.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Andrea Pazzi.
  • Chronically Killed Actor: Sean Bean is in Season Two.
  • The Consigliere: Ugo Bencini, the administrator for the bank, can speak very frankly to the family about their decisions. made more appropriate by the revelation he was the Medici's hitman, and not just a paper-pusher
  • Corrupt Church: One of Cosimo's earliest exploits was rigging the selection of a new pope. The one needed vote he couldn't buy, he blackmailed with the Cardinal's homosexual relationship. This is what convinced Giovanni to name Cosimo his heir.
    • Averted with Pope Eugene IV, who - interestingly for a Renaissance Pope - is portrayed for the most part as a fairly straight example of a Good Shepherd, preferring the simple black habit of a Benedictine monk to Papal finery and being genuinely concerned for the physical and spiritual well-being of those around him. Cosimo in particular describes him to the Signoria as the first truly holy man he's ever met, and it leaves a deep impression on him.
  • Crisis of Faith: Cosimo spends a great deal of time almost frantically praying, for forgiveness, for answers.
  • Deal with the Devil: To save the family, Cosimo gives 40,000 florins to a bishop-general, knowing he is a butcher and blood will run in the streets of Rome. Said bishop also makes it clear that he expects the Medici to bankroll all his future military adventures, for the church and for himself. There's a long pause where you can see Cosimo understands exactly what he's agreeing to.
  • Decidedby One Vote: Season Two Episode Three ends with the Medici family two votes short for their treaty to pass. Unexpectedly, Francesco de Pazzi switches sides to the Medici vote, meaning the members tie and the Gonfalioniere breaks the tie for the Medicis.
  • The Don: The Medici aren't (technically) criminals most of the time, but Cosimo and Giovanni before him otherwise fit this trope to a T.
  • Dracoin Leather Pants: Francesco de Pazzi is very much this.
  • The Dutiful Son: Lorenzo was this in their youth, but Cosimo proved more determined and inventive.
    • Piero too.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Clarice has this with Lorenzo, after being unhappy with Lorenzo's affair with Lucrezia Donati. As Donati tells her 'pushing him out of my bed won't bring him closer to yours', Clarice sets in motion the match-up of Francesco and Novella, to bring the loyalty of Venice. This, after Lorenzo's own failed plans, seems to bring them together.
  • The Exile: Cosimo, after his arrest for treason is convicted, but has his sentence commuted to banishment through a combination of Contessina's scheming and Lorenzo's army. After a year, he returns in triumph.
    • Guglielmo is exiled after the rest of the Pazzi family murder Giuliano. Bianca chooses exile with him.
  • Failed Gambit: A variation happens in Episode 3. Jacopo intends to use Guglielmo and Bianca's elopement to expose a scandal to ruin Lorenzo's alliance with Soderini and stop the treaty going through. However, Lorenzo realises that it's not a scandal if they say they were officially bethrothed. Soderini is appeased with money.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Francesco doesn't wait to check that Lorenzo is dead. So he mistakes Lucrezia's screaming over Giuliano as a sign that the injured Lorenzo has died. Had he waited, or left a guard there, he might have succeeded in his plan.
  • Family Business: The Medici Bank, the wealthiest in all Europe with the Pope as a prominent client.
    • The Pazzi are a rival family bank.
  • Family Drama: And lots of it.
  • Feuding Families: The Medici and the Albizzi. At first it seems a simple case of old nobility objecting to jumped-up bankers, but it turns out to be born from a deeply personal grudge between Rinaldo and Cosimo (but Rinaldo still intends to put down anyone not of nobility).
    • The Medici and the Pazzi under Jacopo de Pazzi. It's unclear if Jacopo's grudge is personal or snobbery, but given that his brother intended to wed his son to Piero's daughter, it might be very specifically Jacopo's grudge.
  • Finger-Licking Poison: Giovanni is killed by grapes painted with hemlock. This was made possible because he always stopped in his morning walk and sampled the grapes of the same vine, to gauge the progress of the vineyard.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: While in exile in Venice, Cosimo sleeps with a slave girl, whom he later brings back to Florence to live in their household, much to Contessina's chagrin. Meanwhile, Contessina meets an Old Flame, with whom she flirts (mainly to obtain information for Cosimo, but also because she enjoys the attention after being spurned and abandoned by her husband). The worst she does is kiss the guy, and yet Cosimo treats their betrayals as equivalent.
    • Lorenzo presses Giuliano to make peace with Vespucci after having an affair with his wife. Giuliano at that moment notices Lorenzo's former mistress, with her husband, who we presume is unaware of their affair.
  • Happily Arranged Marriage: This is initially the way with Francesco and Novella, who was originally intended for Giuliano, but after Giuliano's lack of interest, and her obvious interest in Francesco, Clarice arranges that match up instead, as her father wants 'a son of a Florence banking family'.
  • Historical Beauty Update: See here for comparison between the real Giovanni de' Medici and Dustin Hoffman, who plays him.
    • ** Lorenzo the Magnificent, frequently described in the historical records as short and homely with a squashed nose, is portrayed here by British actor Daniel Sharman, who is over 6 feet tall and extremely attractive.
    • The real Clarice Orsini was described by her own mother-in-law as not overtly plain, but not a great beauty either. Here she's played by Synnove Karlsen, who may not be conventionally attractive, but try to find one person who won't say she's gorgeous.
    • While the real Giuliano de' Medici was reportedly quite handsome, if the portraits we have of him are accurate, he probably would've killed to look like Bradley James.Daniel Sharman as the ugly Lorenzo the Magnificent.
  • Impossible Task: saving Albizzi's life when he is imprisoned for treason, with an airtight case against him, and sternly refuses any help from his enemy, the Medici.
  • In Love with the Mark: Happens to Maddalena in Venice. First she is given to Cosimo as a gift, to spy on him. Then she falls in love and escapes her abusive former master to live with the Medici.
  • Ironic Echo: "A man always has a choice."
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Ugo found himself doing this. His first murder, that of Giovanni was understandable. He was consumed with guilt for causing the death of Lorenzo's lover and his unborn child and disgusted when Giovanni callously brushes it off. His later crimes, such as murdering the man he bought poison from and framing Marco are basically to save his own ass.
  • Knight Templar Parent: Giovanni went out of his way to ruin both his sons' relationships rather than risk their marrying beneath them.
  • Lonely at the Top: Cosimo has a great deal of trouble relating to his wife and son, and even his relationship with his brother Lorenzo is sometimes strained by his position as the family patriarch.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Francesco de Pazzi supports the Medici vote, after Jacopo disowns Guglielmo.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Francesco de Pazzi is convinced that the Medicis are making a joke of him, and returns to the Pazzi side.
  • Meet Cute: Francesco and Novella.
  • Morality Pet: Guglielmo seems to be this for Francesco.
  • The Muse: Simonetta Vespucci for Botticelli. After her death he insists he can't paint again. It doesn't last.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Piero. Cosimo hated being groomed to lead the bank and tries to shelter his son from some of the harsher truths of business and politics in Florence.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: Cosimo makes several of these.
  • One Steve Limit: Lucrezia Tornabruoni, Lorenzo's mother, and Lucrezia Donati, Lorenzo's Mistress.
  • Out-Of-Character-Alert: Carlo knows the plan but is threatened not to reveal it. So he sends Clarice a letter in Latin, as he knows that she doesn't read Latin, which alerts the Medici's suspicions of a plot against them.
  • Posthumous Character: Contessina appears in flashbacks in Season 2. As does Marco Bello.
  • The Plague: The actual Black Death comes to Florence in the third episode 'Pestilence' and upsets the whole gameboard.
  • Rags to Riches: When the story begins, the Medici are already wealthy and powerful, but not yet the masters of Florence. Giovanni really did come from humble origins, as Rinaldo attempts to rub in in the first episode.
  • The Reveal: Ugo is the one who killed Giovanni Medici. Consumed with guilt for indirectly causing the death of Lorenzo's lover and his unborn child and disgusted by Giovanni's callousness on the matter, Ugo poisoned him. Then he committed more murders and framed Marco in order to cover it up.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: The killer of Giovanni turns out to be.....Ugo. The administrator of the bank who was always in the background. Unlike most cases his motivations were hinted at before The Reveal.
  • Smug Snake: All the Pazzi family have shades of this during the assassination of Giuliano, but Salviati is definitely the prime case.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: The attitude of Rinaldo, and many nobles.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: The Medici are accused of having this attitude. Arguably this is true.
  • Ship Tease: Francesco and Lorenzo, judging from the Fan videos. The main arc of the series is the *Sunk Ship between these two.
  • Smug Snake: Rinaldo Albizzi, and to a lesser extent Andrea Pazzi.
  • These Hands Have Killed: Cosimo's reaction when a blackmailer is killed on his behalf, but not on his orders.
    • Lorenzo has this in S 02 E 01 after killing a guard, and after the slaughter at Volterra, which he couldn't stop.
  • Those Two Guys: The Cavalcanti Cousins. They appear in Episode 1, as youthful friends of Lorenzo, and then don't reappear until the finale where they help save the day.
  • Time Skip: It has been announced the second season will leap ahead to the time of Lorenzo il Magnifico, Cosimo's grandson only just born at the end of the first season.
    • A year passes between Episode 4 and 5 of Season 2.
    • Also, a year passes between episodes four and five of the first season.
  • Turn Out Like His Father: Cosimo is afraid of this, and at one point Lorenzo accuses him of being this. Ugo assures him he's not.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Contessina goes above and beyond to save Cosimo's life and commute his sentence to exile. Cosimo reacts as if she has betrayed him, forbids her to go with him, keeps her at arm's length, and even sleeps with a slave girl. Understandably, she feels unappreciated. When she angrily tells him everything she has done for him, he points out that she was merely fulfilling her duty as his wife. She counters that he hasn't done much to fulfil his duty as her husband. Coitus Ensues, but it doesn't resolve anything.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Piero wants only to prove himself to his father and join the family business. This is baffling to his father, who had to be strong-armed into the life.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: There is precious little Cosimo won't do for his family or his city. But he will feel terribly bad about it later.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Cosimo's treatment of Contessina.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Piero is so very much this. He's so cute thinking facts have anything to do with a heavily politicized trial.
    • Lorenzo in Season Two has this to a degree.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Francesco and Lorenzo were childhood friends.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Season Two never tells us what became of Maddalena, although we know her son, Carlo de Medici, joins the church.

Alternative Title(s): Medici


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