The second episode of The Legends of Vox Machina takes the buildup of who each character is, what their personality is like, and how they all work together, and coalesces it into a fantastic cap for an introductory arc. The episode manages to juggle characters, narrative, and personality well, while still managing to set up the future for the crew of Vox Machina.
From Tabletop to Television
Episode two of The Legend of Vox Machina begins inside a war camp headed and run by General Krieg, a character who we have met in the previous episode. We watch as the camp gets destroyed and mauled by the modest computer graphic dragon, which our main characters —Vex’ahlia, Vax’ildan, Scanlan, Pike, Grog, Percy, and Keyleth—all fought and barely survived toward the end of the first episode. Immediately after the carnage is over, the show finally plays the animated introduction. This further hints at who the characters are, while playing an orchestral piece that helps to ground the sequence. This piece is far too similar to other fantasy theme songs to stand out on its own, especially when the company had the opportunity to create a new song or even use "Your Turn To Roll." Following the first time we see the title sequence in action, our misfit crew of protagonists head back to Emon and reveal to the council that the beast they were sent to slay was actually a dragon. In this scene, we get a few quips meant to get us chuckling, but they mostly seem to fall flat due to being lackluster before becoming quickly overshadowed by the high-pitched ringing in Vex’ahlia’s head. We get a bit more information concerning the affliction and the crew begins to formulate a plan to find and hunt down the person who they believe has been in contact with the dragon.
The party splits up and heads off to begin gathering intel. Vax’ildan and Pike find themselves in a shop (which regular fans of Critical Role are sure to be excited about) to ask the shopkeeper, Shaun Gilmore, if he has information regarding the beast they need to kill. After focusing on Vax and Pike, the show shifts to Grog and Scanlan who are in the town square looking for their target. After some suggestive comments by Scanlan, the pair find and follow their suspect before collecting the rest of the party. Breaking into General Krieg’s house, they corner their suspect before he is swiftly killed in front of the party by Krieg himself. The party then realizes that Krieg is the one working with the dragons and not Fince, who they targeted as their suspect due to his shady nature and villainous look. Krieg soon disappears and the party is left to pick up his trail, giving us a closer look at some of the smaller relationships between the characters. It isn’t until Grog begins to ogle a seductive painting of a dragon woman that the party figures out where Krieg disappeared to.
Following the trail, the party’s eyes brighten by the sight of a dragon’s hoard of gold only for the light to immediately extinguish as Krieg comes back and reveals that he is in fact a dragon that had managed to take human form. Vox Machina soon begins to fight him once again, with the outlook beginning to look very similar to their first fight with the dragon from the first episode. They soon learn to put their heads together to work as a team and fight back with a vengeance. They overtake the dragon and kill him in a brutal, rage-induced fashion. Returning to Emon, the party acquires their reward, which is the keys and deed to a keep in the city rather than the gold they expected. The crew was also named Protectors of the Realm and honorary council members for their heroic deeds—and we see some more small, interpersonal character developments. The episode ends on a big note as we see the gloomy carriage of the Briarwoods riding down a path, only to be stopped by bandits. We see Silas Briarwood step out and, with brutal and almost vampiric methods, kill the bandits and clear the path.
Rolling for Performance
The second episode gets many things right, even when it has the job of finishing the introduction to the characters. Its art design is smooth and fluid, the animation sometimes feeling childish like The Legend of Korra or Voltron: Legendary Defender while remaining adult like Castlevania. And this is due to the expertise of animation studio Production Reve who worked on Korra and Voltron. Each of the characters also manage to have their own moments in the spotlight, which gives the audience a greater understanding of the intricacies of the inner workings of this rag-tag group of adventurers.
The episode spends the majority of its time wrapping up the small two-episode arc the creative team decided was required for the audience to become acquainted with their cast of protagonists. While this works, for the most part, there is clearly a rush of material in order to properly ensure that viewers get to know the heroes, understand the story, and still have time to thread the introduction of the new arc within the 28-minute allotment. The episode is fundamentally sound and brilliantly sets up the villains for the episodes to come, but there were quite a few places in which having the episode rushed did not help. For example, the plot twist that Krieg was working with a dragon only to be saved — by the skin of its teeth — by the secondary plot twist that Krieg wasn’t working with a dragon but actually was one. The rushed arc also affects scenes, such as when Vax’ildan takes a moment to utter a few words to the bloodied coin he picks up in the first episode while everything around him is crumbling to bits, and actually deters the fear of the ticking clock that something may happen if they don’t get out soon. But overall, there are very few of these so far in the show or in the episode.
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