Black Sails vs Da Vinci's Demons

For this installment of Showdown! I take a look at Starz’s two current original scripted programs: Black Sails and Da Vinci’s Demons.




Black Sails debuted in January of 2014 under the production of Jonathan E. Steinberg, Michael Bay, and others. Written as a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island, the show includes fictional characters from the novel as well as real life figures such as Charles Vane, Jack Rackham, Anne Bonny and Benjamin Hornigold. Black Sails centers around different pirate crews and residents of New Providence Island in the West Indies who all have different goals but most want to find the famed Spanish treasure galleon Urca de Lima. Crews are betrayed, alliances tested, and battles fought as everyone attempts to carve a living out of a harsh world.

Da Vinci’s Demons, which premiered in April of 2013, is David S. Goyer’s  fictional account of Leonardo da Vinci’s early life during the Italian Renaissance. Leonardo’s brilliance and talent gets him embroiled in the long standing feud between the Medicis of Florence and Pazzi family and Catholic Church of Rome. All the while, Leonardo and his friends are searching for the mysterious Book of Leaves which is said to be able to shape the future. Leonardo must deal with traitors, thieves, murderers, and trials of all sorts in order to accomplish his quest. At the end of the day, both are new and interesting takes on old ideas and it really comes down to each viewer’s personal preference.

Winner: Tie


Cast and Characters:

Black Sails has a large cast with many starring roles including Hannah New as Eleanor Guthrie, Toby Stephens as Captain James Flint, Luke Arnold as John Silver, Jessica Parker Kennedy as Max, Tom Hopper as William “Bones” Manderly and Zach McGowan as Captain Charles Vane. The characters are broken into into residents of the island and the different pirate crews. Sultry Captain Vane leads one crew with the clever Jack and silent-but-deadly Anne Bonny while Captain Flint commands the other crew, made up of Billy Bones, Gates, and more. Both crews have run-ins with the slippery John Silver as they attempt to locate the treasure galleon Urca de Lima. Then there is Eleanor Guthrie, the owner of the Island’s tavern and pretty much the lady in charge, as well as her right-hand-man Mr. Scott, and prostitute lover Max. I give the show props for showing deep relationships of all kinds and between all types of people. These characters are constantly scheming against each other and then working together in an intricate web of piracy.

Da Vinci’s Demons stars Tom Riley as the famous Leonardo Da Vinci as well as Laura Haddock as Lucrezia Donati, Blake Ritson as Count Girolamo Riario, Elliot Cowan as Lorenzo de’ Medici and Lara Pulver as Clarice Orsini. Leonardo Da Vinci is the clear star of the show and he’s often accompanied by his dashing best friend Zoroaster and sidekicks Nico and Vanessa. He works for the Medici family, brothers Lorenzo and Giulano, as they plot to stop the Pazzi family from taking control of Florence. Lucrezia is the lead female of the show; she’s Lorenzo’s  lover and a Pazzi spy who ends up falling in love with Da Vinci. The characters in the show are great, if not typical. They’re all well-written and play well off each other, but we’ve seen each of these types of characters before. There is nothing particularly new (with the exception of the young Da Vinci, whose mind is a wonder to explore) about these Renaissance relationships so the point here goes to the more creative Black Sails.

Winner: Black Sails


Fights and Feuds:

Starz is known for it’s realism and bloody action scenes, and neither of these shows disappoint. Black Sails gives us murderers, fist-fights, and epic sea-battles between pirate ships. The feuding isn’t always clear, however, as alliances change so swiftly in the show. As for Da Vinci’s Demons, we have a clear divide between the Medici’s and the Pazzi’s and a few scenes stick out as action-packed. We also get to see Da Vinci’s experiments and inventions in action, which provide for some great elements of both drama and comedy. While both shows give us some great action moments, Da Vinci’s Demons presents us with a less muddled feud and more brains over brawn when it comes to it’s fight scenes.

Winner: Da Vinci’s Demons


I quite enjoy watching both Black Sails and Da Vinci’s Demons. Pirate exploits and Italian geniuses are both equally fascinating and Starz’s dedication to production value and superb casting is reflected in both programs. In the end, both shows are worth watching but Da Vinic’s Demons will leave you less confused and more engaged.

Overall Winner: Da Vinci’s Demons


Production Value and Execution at the source

I like both shows but I still miss Spartacus.