You know when you start watching a show years after it aired and the more you watch the more you start to feel like you should have known this show was going to be right down your alley before?
That was me and Medici: Masters of Florence.
Ironically, the reason I hadn’t watched it before was more or less that I just hadn’t paid enough attention. I had a vague idea what it was about and I had a vague idea whatever it was involved Frank Spotnitz, and for those of us who grew up on The X-Files, that means a lot, but I knew absolutely nothing else, and I never made an attempt to find out.
Sometimes I think about all the things I do watch because they’re marketed to me properly and I want to cry because of what I’m missing.
Thankfully I have some borderline annoying friends that wouldn’t let me off the hook, and that’s why I finally hit play in the first season of this mini-series. I would like to take this moment to thank them, because yes, as expected, I absolutely loved this. Even if, gasp, it wasn’t always historically accurate.
I only bring this up because that’s the number one criticism always lobbied at historical dramas: history wasn’t really like that! To which I always say: If you want accurate history, TV is not really the medium for you. Because yes, sometimes, the real history is interesting enough to be told as is, but there’s no way to adapt absolutely anything without taking some creative liberties, for many, many reasons, starting with the fact that we were not there.
A historical drama, or a drama – like this one – based on people who actually existed, succeeds if it leaves you asking questions, wanting to know more. There should not even be an attempt at trying to stay faithful to history, and the smarter historical dramas understand that they will never be able to do just that, and refrain from even trying.
Medici: Masters of Florence is one of the smartest historical dramas around. In many ways, it feels like a historical drama geared towards people who don’t like historical dramas. Because yes, the settings and costumes are beautiful, but the show doesn’t depend on that, the gravitas of the story doesn’t center around the time or the place.
Instead, Medici: Masters of Florence centers on the characters. And just in case that wasn’t enough, it also provides a whodunit murder mystery, just in case you weren’t interested enough.
But the series doesn’t even need all it does to keep you interested – and you can add outstanding performances from everyone, but especially Hoffman and Madden to how well the show mixes historical fact and made-for TV drama – because the combination of everything is simply the kind of binge-worthy spectacle this quarantine is especially suited for.
Amazingly, for this type of show, it also gets better and better as the season goes on. It doesn’t take long for us to fall in love with the characters, but by episode three or four, the stakes feel so much higher, and the little twists all the more earned. We don’t care about historical accuracy at that point; we just want our favorites to get some damn happiness.
Which is all you need to know. Yes, this is a historical drama, but it’s not one that requires you to like or even understand history. You might come out of this interested in knowing more, you might not, but while you watch this, you will definitely be entertained.
That I can promise.
Medici: Masters of Florence is available to stream on Netflix.